Make May Mindfulness Month!

Make mindfulness part of your daily routine.

Negative thoughts are a part of our everyday life. Did you know that 80% of repetitive thoughts are negative!?! No wonder we find ourselves spending a lot of time sitting in self-judgment feeling bad about ourselves and the world around us. Research shows that 95% of all our thoughts are repetitive. If 80% of these thoughts are reminding us that we are not good enough, that we need to be on constant alert for the next bad event to happen, we are not living the best life we could.

The amazing fact about our brains is that they are trainable.

It’s our “monkey mind,” or mid brain which controls emotions and needs for basic survival. It focuses on the negative and keeps us prepared for fight or flight from dangerous situations. This part of the brain tells us we are not good enough or we are not capable of success. The ability to protect ourselves is paramount to our survival, but we no longer need to be constant subjects to our more animalistic drives. They tend to push us to the brink of anxiety and depression with the repetitive focus on survival. We can use our more developed brains to change thinking patterns to focus on what is going well in our lives. 

We are creatures of habit as well as great multitaskers. When we find ourselves doing multiple tasks at once, we can feel grumpy, stressed and use our mid brains more than the rational part of our brain as we spin on autopilot going about our days. It’s time to quiet the space around us so we can utilize the more human or rational brain and destress.

Mindfulness, or being focused on the present moment can seem like an obvious behavior to the human brain, but it gets lost in the shuffle as we work on multiple activities throughout the day.  The next time you feel overwhelmed, stop to think, “What am I thinking about.” It’s likely not what is actually going on in the present moment, but rather a dizzying array of thoughts about what you have been doing and what lies ahead that feels overwhelming. Try the following tips to reroute what you are thinking and quiet the noise around and within you.

5 Simple Tips for Mindfulness.

  1. Focus on pleasure, not the pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, it is possible to focus on the positive. Stop and think about what feels good on a given day. What part of your body is working well? If this does not help, try standing or sitting while you’re take a deep breath and roll your shoulders, allowing our body to feel a bit more relaxed.
  2. Turn away from your computer, iPad, phone, tablet, etc. Turn the bright lights and noise off around you, close your eyes and breath. This helps reset your brain and stop the flow of restless and negative thoughts.
  3. Be a single tasker at work. Studies show that multitasking is very ineffective for achieving goals and we easily get lost in thoughts and daydream. This, in turn leads to being unproductive while we think we are being productive by doing many things at once. Keep a time journal to help you schedule your tasks one at a time and notice how much you accomplish in a block of time allowing yourself to take responsibilities one task at a time.
  4. Set Reminders. Every time your phone rings, stop and take a breath and look around you to be mindful of the moment. Set alarms on your phone so you remember to stop, breath and be mindful throughout your day.
  5. Get up and move! If you are at home or working at an office, stand up and walk around every 90 minutes to allow yourself time to breath and break the monotony of the day and the potential for overwhelming negative thoughts.

Negative thinking is natural,

as we have learned from our more primitive brain. Allow yourself to acknowledge your negative thoughts. When one pops in your head, try to observe it and let it go. Fighting it will make it more stressful for you. Let your brain know the thought is there. Then allow yourself to replace it with a positive thought or take a deep breath and let it go. With time and practice, you can control the negativity in your head and free yourself from the nagging voice in your head telling you things are not okay or that you are not good enough. 

If you feel you have tried many of the techniques listed here or other ways to cope with stress, and you find yourself overwhelmed with racing, negative thoughts for days and weeks at a time, it may be time to talk to a therapist. If you feel ready to talk, please call us at 217-203-2008, or email us here.