This post is focused on making choices about the thoughts you think and the behaviors you act upon. The catalyst for all of this practice has been closely tied to Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life.
For the last few months I have been working on really making conscious decisions about what thoughts I allow in and what thoughts I move on from. I have found a lot of relief in this and I am enjoying the results quite a bit. Sometimes I notice resistance to acceptance of my Self because my ego is having a hard time letting go of critical self-talk. That’s just another red flag telling me that I can make a choice.
Some benefits I have reaped from this practice include much less of shitty cringe-reel memories, less judgment of others, and more patience with myself.
I have a choice about the thoughts I think and I am noticing new ways in which I can make choices about my behavior. I have become more observant of how emotions play a giant role in decision-making. For everyone. So, thinking about choosing my behavior is directly tied to the energetic state of my thinking and feelings.
There are a few things you can do to recognize your power in each moment. I’ll go into it in further detail. First, here’s a quick run-down:
you do not have to repress your thoughts
when they are too strong to let go easily, that’s okay
approach your thoughts with compassion
name the feelings that come up
say, “sit with me, have tea”
release these thoughts with compassion, they no longer serve you
replace these thoughts with a positive affirmation or mantra
take racing thoughts as a signal to slow down
“hey, your brain is whirling, let’s go take a break”
work through your thoughts and feelings
think about your values
“what would my authentic Self do in this situation?”
Practicing this shit just gives me more security in my life. At first, I was confused because sometimes saying things like, “I’m not going to think that right now,” sort of feels like pushing my thoughts away in a negative way.
having compassion for thoughts
I realized that when I am able to compassionately release thoughts, I have a stronger feeling of empowerment. I lovingly say, “this is not a thought that serves me.” It’s awesome. This is exactly what I do when I feel depressed, I approach it with as much compassion as I can. I have not previously followed through with the practice of doing this with my thoughts. It’s really hard. Depression is one big thing I can focus on. My thinking gets all over the place.
So, to get to a place of compassion with each of those thoughts, I imagine sitting with a whirlpool-looking thing and drinking tea. I allow all of my unproductive thought patterns to exist in that whirlpool. When one jumps out specifically, I replace it with a positive affirmation and I let it float away. The whirlpool slows down the more I let go.
I do the same thing with my feelings. I name the feeling. I breathe into it. I release it when I exhale. Sometimes I take ten breaths. Sometimes I take one. I release the emotion. I watch the whirlpool slow down.
replace negative thoughts with affirmations
The biggest thing I have noticed with this practice is how quickly my affirmations replace my negative thoughts. “I’m a shitty person” is interrupted by “I approve of my Self.” This is constant and comforting. Sometimes the negative thought breaks through the affirmation and that sucks.
When that happens, I slow down my breathing so that I can pay specific attention to my breath. I was taught that when I feel consumed by a thought, I can say, “I am currently having the thought that ________.” This creates a great separation between Self and thought. I get to choose what thoughts influence my behavior and my future.
Much of our critical self-talk is leftover from the way we learned to talk to our Selves as children. If you have a looping phrase, such as, “you are incapable of living up to expectations,” get in touch with the age you were when you really picked that up as a belief about your Self. If your inner seventeen-year-old was fucking up and feeling like a huge failure, think about how you can heal that part of your Self.
What does that seventeen-year-old need to hear now in order to begin shedding that belief? Come up with a phrase or a mantra that you can use to instantly replace that repetitive phrase.
As soon as I feel my heart beginning to race, I know what to do. I have harnessed my ability to catch racing thoughts over years of practice. I started by noticing as soon as I could. Maybe you’re in a shit storm of negative thinking for like three hours before you remember to separate yourself from those thoughts. That’s a start.
The tricky part is actually choosing to pay attention to those red flags. I’ve found that I have a harder time doing it when my inner-child is emotionally distressed and I’m not paying attention to that suffering. Just like meditation, I non-judgmentally remind my Self to come back to breath, even if I can’t always follow-through with it. The power is in the moment of awareness.
Improving the ability to take a rest at these red flags takes consistency. It was a change that I was able to commit to because I became really observant of my thoughts when I was trying to adjust my negative self-talk. If you have a hard time catching your racing thoughts or making changes to them, simply start by observing them. I learned that from reading Kristin Neff.
focus on values
Choosing thoughts gives me the space I need to breathe and reflect on my values.
Values are life-changing and they were a huge part of what I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I did not pay much attention to the section where we learned about values because I thought it was sort of lame for some reason. It didn’t sound as fun. I didn’t start consciously acting according to values until about three years ago.
What ultimately really inspired me to focus on values was the dedication my sister-in-law shows to this practice. It blows me away. I was hooked when I saw her consult her values so naturally and clearly. My values have been a driving force in all of my decisions ever since. So, I highly suggest thinking about what your values are and how they will dictate your behavior.
what would you do?
I’ve been digging on the idea of allowing my Self to come forward in the most authentic and kind way. I can only be the person I am meant to be by acting according to that person’s behavior. When I don’t know what to do, I try to pause and ask, “f I were following all of my values and considering my inner-child, what would I do in this situation?”
I feel inspired when I imagine what my life would be like if I were truly living according to my purpose at all times. I will never be perfect. That is not the goal for me. The goal is to learn the lesson in every moment and move from there. I learned that mostly from Pema Chodron.
I am absolutely convinced (at this point) that kindness is the key to the universe.
I come back to kindness and I breathe. This one is hard. I can be a real asshole. This occurs frequently when I am feeling misunderstood, when people are being rude, when I am disconnected from my inner child, or when I am late to something I meant to be on time to.
When I can be kind and breathe, I am better able to move through my unproductive thoughts relatively quickly. This is all about taking a pause to choose my thoughts. How can I feel this and adjust my thinking so that I can better reflect my Self?
If you don’t know what to do, be kind. Maybe that means staying silent, maybe that means speaking up. The goal is to decide what your next action will be before you act upon it. See what it feels like to focus on kindness for your Self and others.
allow the quiet
I struggle with letting my mind settle down when my thoughts are racing. I tend to have the desire to go from crisis to solution without taking a step back. Sometimes I think I know exactly what needs to happen in any given situation. Even if I feel like I am doing the absolute best thing, if I haven’t taken at least a moment to pause, I don’t feel as confident in my decision.
Mindfulness is magical for times such as these.
I allow the quiet by choosing to do something mindful and quiet. I sew, play with buttons, cuddle with my dogs, organize my books. Sometimes it’s tough to sit with shitty thoughts quietly, even if that quiet is an important part of the process. So, try doing a quiet mindfulness activity and then transition your focus to your new thought patterns and behaviors.
feel the change
I don’t know if taking this approach to your thoughts and behaviors will help you. It has given me new insight. I have not found just one way to master self-compassion and emotion regulation. I have found a shit ton of ways to master self-compassion and emotion regulation. I love exploring all of the different avenues we can take to uncover unconditional love for our Selves.
I see unproductive thoughts and I feel empowered when I can acknowledge them, release them, and choose to think differently. Each new thing I learn informs the practice I have been cultivating for the last six years. I see so many avenues to healing and there are so many I want to explore.
By truly implementing new practices, I am able to see what works for me at my current stage of development. Four years ago I read You Can Heal Your Life, and it never made a giant impact on me until I read it again three months ago. I now realize I wasn’t ready to take full responsibility for my thoughts. Now, I’m growing in that direction on a new level that feels meaningful and impactful.