You are going about your business when something triggers the memory of a situation or a person. You feel some bad feelings around the tummy. You want to stop thinking about it, but it keeps coming back like a buzzing fly on a hot summer day. Sounds familiar?
Negative thoughts and the resulting emotions are pretty common. However, they can become a problem if you do not identify and stop them in their tracks early enough. Left unchecked, they can be expressed through harmful actions and affect others around you.
Our first reaction to negative thoughts is the desire to kill, exterminate, squash them like most things we find repulsive in our society. Is such a thing possible when it comes to thoughts? In order to stay clear of them, we tend to busy ourselves with work or indulge ourselves with addictions such as alcohol, tobacco, or gambling. These strategies can work for a while, but they are only suppressants of thoughts that just want some TLC.
Emotions are the compass of how we are dealing with our innermost issues. Thoughts are the form we give to such emotions. Just like children, they pop around to say hi every now and then. If you are not there, they will keep coming back until you acknowledge them, and then they will go happily on their way. Emotions and thoughts occur in the present moment. When your mind is busy with work or trapped in an addiction, you are not there, so they will keep coming back.
So what can you do to be there? We are taught to pay attention to what is going on around us. We rarely spend time looking inwards. When we were kids, how often your parents or teachers asked you about how you were feeling in any given situation? Did your family talk about emotions, or was something swept under the carpet?
Luckily, schools, companies, and health care institutions have finally come to realize the role emotions play in our lives and how they can impact our thought patterns. Some offer emotional support with psychotherapy sessions, Emotional Intelligence classes, Yoga, Laughter Yoga, Family Constellations, and Taichi.
So now that you care enough about your emotions and thoughts, these are some habits that can help you be more aware of your state of mind and catch the tailwind of negative thoughts.
1. Start Meditating-Start or finish your day with a few minutes’ meditations
If you never practiced it, start with one minute and increase it gradually to 15 or 20. Sit in a quiet room with comfortable clothes and pay attention to the sound of your breath or the fan, the flick of a candle, or a flower. Every time your attention strays, just notice it and, without judgment, focus again. Make sure you do not have any expectations about the meditation session. Be easy on yourself.
2. Enjoy nature
Nature has this incredible power to bring you to the present moment. Spend some time in a park, on the beach appreciating the sun, the wind, the sounds, and the smells around you. Spend more time with your pet and observe how peaceful it is. Try to incorporate such quality.
3. Have healthy diet-If good thoughts are the healthy food of the mind, what are the healthy foods of the brain?
There is a scientifically proven connection between a healthy diet and happiness. When you are not having negative thoughts, you are thinking of positive or neutral ones. So why not optimize the later through your diet? Incorporate foods such as Brazil nuts, salmon, and spinach in your everyday menu.
4. Pay attention to your conversation-My parents used to say “birds of a feather flock together”
Like a lot of sayings, there is truth in it. The same way that a magnet can only attract another magnet and a lion does not hang out with giraffes, we can only hang out with people like ourselves. Again, nature teaches us some precious lessons. Your conversations attract people of the same mindset. If you tend to complain about your job and life in general, you will attract individuals that support this trait. Start to pay attention to what kind of things you say and try to change your discourse if you do not like it. This can change the kind of people that get drawn to you.
With a bit of practice, you can learn to embrace your thoughts rather than eliminate them altogether. We can be gentle to ourselves in this discovery process and eventually impact our environment. As Gandhi said “we must be the change we want to see in the world.” Instead of expecting others to change to make us happy, we can learn to process negative emotions and thoughts more efficiently. This way, we create more space for joy in our lives.