We have thousands of thoughts per day and often ponder some of the same things over and over again. Have you ever taken the time to notice what messages, thoughts, or stories run through? Consider trying to observe the top 5 or 10 things that occupy your mind on a regular basis. Today, after you read this, watch your inner dialogue, and jot down what you notice. Tomorrow morning, as you get ready for your day, remind yourself to look at what floats through and write it down. Take a few days to really notice the pattern….and be honest with yourself. After you complete your list…ask yourself a few things:
Are you surprised by what you’ve discovered? Are your thoughts generally productive? How do they help you? How do they get in the way?
What relationship do your thoughts have with your feeling states? For example, do your thoughts change throughout the day? When you’re tired, hungry, rushed…how does this affect your thoughts? Can you detect when your thoughts steer or influence your mood, or the other way around, when your mood has an affect on your thinking?
There is a value in learning to observe your thoughts and it’s also useful to take breaks from them. Thoughts are the normal state of affairs for the mind. In other words, we are almost always having thoughts, but there are various ways to take a holiday from the internal dialogue. Here are two:
- Affirmations – The point here is to have a way to replace random thoughts with something more directive and supportive such as: I Am Okay; or I Accept Who I Am; or I Am Here. It’s best if you create an affirmation suited to your own needs; the trick is keeping it helpful and simple. Then if you find yourself wanting a break from thoughts, slowly repeat that affirmation over and over.
- Body Scan – My personal favorite. This is an exercise that can be done sitting or standing. When first learning this exercise, it’s best to do alone. After you learn the ropes you can do this anywhere. To get started, bring your awareness to the bottom of your feet. Notice how they feel, really feel them. Can you feel a certain temperature? Pressure? Soreness? Anything you feel is worthy of observation. No judgment. No trying to change what’s there. Don’t even interpret what you feel…just feel it. Now move up through both of your feet…noticing what you feel. Then your ankles, then your calves. Do this process slowly through your entire body. This can be done in small parts or large regions. When you reach the top of your head you can finish or continue scanning back down your body. When you decide to end, go back to whatever you were doing before, but try to keep your awareness in this feeling place rather than returning to your thoughts. Some call focusing one’s attention in this way: being in a state of mindfulness.
This is about getting more conscious about what influences our lives, our choices, how we show up in the world. In the game of life, awareness rules. Some nifty tools aren’t bad either.