My previous posts (“Time to Wake Up” and “Identifying Habitual Thought Patterns”) addressed the subject of negative thinking and how it can set us up for failure at what we want to be, do, or have in life. It can keep attracting the same bad situations and adversely affect how we act and react to the world around us. We explored a number of common negative thoughts, so that we could identify the areas in which we seem to have the most trouble. In this way, we are “waking up” spiritually and mentally, by recognizing the numerous negative thoughts we have on a daily basis. If you did not see this list, please read my last post, “Identifying Habitual Thought Patterns” or listen to the audio version: https://anchor.fm/edlspirituality/episodes/IDENTIFYING-HABITUAL-THOUGHT-PATTERNS-e1svc1s
This post will explore in simple steps how to begin to change your circumstances for the better, and how to cooperate with our Creator to bring more joy, peace and abundance into your life.
Turning Negative Thoughts Around
Once we’ve identified some of our negative thought patterns, how do we turn things around? Most negativity is an expression of what we hate, fear, and want to avoid — in other words, all the things we DON’T want! Thoughts are energy, and because “like attracts like,” constantly dwelling on what we don’t want will keep bringing what we don’t want into our lives. The subconscious mind accepts everything you tell it, whether good or bad, positive or negative. For instance, if you keep thinking, “I don’t want to be poor,” “I hate being poor,” “I have no money and no prospects,” or “I need to get out of debt,” you are still focusing on poverty and debt, and probably fearing it, which is subconsciously setting you up to fall prey to more circumstances, people, and bad decisions that will keep you poor and in debt! The negative energy you are emitting will draw those negative circumstances and people to you.
To bring about change, we need to focus on what we love and yearn for, rather than what we don’t love and don’t want. Think of it this way: Supposing you went with a group of friends to an all-you-can-eat buffet. You go down the buffet table, looking at all the varieties of food, and every time you see a food that you dislike and would never want to eat, you add it to your plate. By the time you get to the end of the buffet, your dish is filled with food you can’t stand. You pay for it and go sit at the table with your friends. You sit there, not eating, feeling hungry and miserable, while your friends are heartily eating and enjoying their food.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Who the heck would do that?” Well, we do exactly that every time we waste our valuable energy by thinking and talking about what we DON’T want out of life! The friends who are enjoying their meal represent the people who focus their thoughts and energies on the things they truly want and to which they aspire — the people who love their lives and feel happy and satisfied. Meanwhile, you look on and wonder why you are so miserable. Would it help you to resent and envy them because they are enjoying their food and you’re not? No, because you chose the food yourself!
This life is a precious treasure — God’s gift to you. Your power to co-create with God the kind of life you truly want is part of this gift. Why would you waste it on things you don’t want? Why would you expend your precious time and energy perpetuating a life that is unsatisfying to you?
Remember, a random negative thought or two will not bring a host of bad things upon you. There is a time delay between our thoughts and their consequences, and positive thoughts are a great deal stronger than negative ones. That’s the good news. The bad news, though, is that sustained or habitual negative thoughts, especially when accompanied by strong emotion, will eventually attract negative things into your life. Like the food you chose at the buffet, the currency of your thoughts and feelings is capable of bringing both good and bad things to you. It’s a matter of which ones you choose.
As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute; if there is any excellence, and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Because we have tens of thousands of thoughts a day, it is impossible to monitor each one. But an easy way to identify your predominant thoughts is to tune into your feelings, because your feelings are the result of your thoughts. Are you feeling negative emotions, such as boredom, irritability, disappointment, anger, worry, depression, hatred, envy, guilt or fear? Or are you feeling positive emotions like love, gratitude, joy, excitement, enthusiasm, hope, satisfaction?
Don’t feel guilty or afraid because you are experiencing a negative emotion or thinking a negative thought, as that is just adding more negativity! We don’t want to deny our negative emotions and pretend they don’t exist, because they often serve to point out areas in our lives that need our attention. Also, it’s natural to feel negative emotions at particular crisis points in our lives, i.e., loss of a job, end of a relationship, death of a loved one, etc. If this is the case, you must allow yourself to experience the emotions, and seek help if necessary. We’re also not talking here about serious mental or emotional illnesses, for which one needs to be under medical supervision, but rather the typical thoughts and emotions that most of us experience on a regular basis. However, even if you are going through a life crisis or suffering from a mental illness, you can still apply these principles in addition to any other help you may be receiving.
Self-awareness is the key
Once you are aware of why you are feeling a particular way, you can understand what your emotions are telling you and what changes you can make to improve your circumstances. This then allows you to achieve mastery of your conscious thoughts. One way to do this is to practice a simple form of meditation. Don’t let the word “meditation” scare you. I don’t mean that you need to sit in Lotus Position for two hours every day and chant “Om” (although this is perfectly fine if you want to do it)! The objective is simply to quiet your conscious mind for a while. You need only a few minutes, and the following practice is very simple and will become even easier with time:
- Set a timer for 10 minutes. Sit comfortably in a quiet room. Turn off all electronic devices and ask to not be disturbed. Begin to focus on your breathing and/or picture a blank movie screen in your mind.
- As you sit there, thoughts will naturally bubble up. Just “watch” the thoughts. Don’t get involved with them; just witness them, and then turn your mind gently but firmly back to your breathing or to the blank movie screen.
- If the thought that comes up is negative, acknowledge that you had a negative thought. Do not try to resist it, because resistance means you are focused on it with powerful emotion, which only will make it stronger. Just release it without judgement or guilt.
- Continue this way until the timer goes off.
Make an effort to do this every day, or at least several times a week. You will find that you feel more relaxed and focused after this, and may want to do it for longer periods. Eventually you will reach a point where the intruding thoughts will decrease, and you will experience longer periods of peace as your mind lets go of its constant chatter.
How to Deal with Persistent Negative Thoughts
If you are feeling particularly sad, angry, depressed or fearful, and these same thoughts stubbornly keep recurring, you can use the following, more in-depth exercise to get to the root of your feelings and release them:
- As in the previous exercise, sit in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, with all electronic devices turned off or in another room. Focus on your breathing until you become more relaxed.
- Ask yourself why you are feeling unhappy, and express the reason out loud, i.e., “I am afraid that I won’t find another job,” or “I’m sad and lonely because my love life is terrible right now,” or “I’m depressed because I’m not feeling well.”
- Once you have identified the emotion and its cause, don’t try to resist it or force it to go away. “Fighting” an emotion — like “fighting” an illness — usually doesn’t work, since it involves negative emotions like anger, resentment or resistance, which actually can attract more negativity to you and make the condition worse.
- Face the negative emotion and ask it what it might be trying to teach you. Let it speak to you, without forcing it or censoring it. Learn from what it is telling you. For instance, if you are depressed because you’re sick, the reason you might hear when you ask this question is that your life was out of balance. You were stressed, rushing around, not taking time to relax, not eating and sleeping right. The illness was your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take better care of it, to bring your life into a better balance of mind, body and spirit.
- Now, ask yourself if there are actionable steps you can take at the present time to help ease this negative emotion. Just writing down some small actions you can implement right away is a very effective way to ease the tension and stress you’re feeling. You can follow-up after your meditation session by doing some research for additional ideas. Eventually, you can build upon these small successes, until you begin to see a measurable improvement in your situation and your mood.
- From now on, reframe your fears and negative statements into positive affirmations. For example, “I have a career that pays well and is personally fulfilling to me;” “I have many positive, loving, and uplifting relationships in my life;” “I feel healthy and whole in body, mind and spirit.” In other words, you are stating what you love and aspire to, rather than focusing on what the less-than-ideal situation might be at the current moment.
- At the end of your meditation session, thank your subconscious mind for giving you the reasons and the suggestions. Tell it that you will heed the lesson, and that you no longer need to experience the negative emotions. You can picture yourself letting go of the emotion in any way you like: i.e., blowing it away like dandelion fluff, releasing it as a balloon, or watching it wash away like sand in an ocean wave. Once you learn the lessons that your negative emotion is trying to teach you, it will no longer have a strong hold on you. You will be able to release it and move on.
Once again, do not worry or become anxious about having negative thoughts, as this will attract more negative thoughts to you. We all have numerous negative thoughts occurring throughout each day, but they become a problem only when we dwell upon them and repeat them often or infuse them with strong emotion. Instead, say to yourself, “All my negative thoughts are weak, while my positive thoughts are very powerful!”
Simply by having read this post and the last one, you have become much more aware of any negative thought patterns you have. Congratulations! From now on, you will not be on “automatic pilot,” reacting in the same old way to everything that happens in your life. You now will be aware of your reactions (your thoughts) in each situation and can take action on them! Now you are in the driver’s seat of your mind, rather than a helpless and clueless passenger!
The simple forms of meditation practice given here are an excellent way to become more observant of your thoughts and feelings in order to learn to control them. Meditation has tremendous benefits for mind, body and spirit. There are many excellent books, blogs, and videos about meditation if you would like to explore this practice in more depth.
In the words of Charles Haanel, New Thought author who lived from 1866 to 1949: “Be careful of your moods and feelings, for there is an unbroken connection between your feelings and your visible world.”
Next time: How to deal with challenges to staying positive.
[…] last two posts focused on becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings, and releasing the negative to focus on the positive, so that we can discover our heart’s true yearnings. In this post, I want to talk about something […]