Do you feel trapped in the vicious cycle of thought and behaviour patterns? Are your thoughts controlling your life?
It’s really not uncommon, and very easy to get sucked into.
Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. Crazy huh?
And these thoughts pop in and fly by most of the time. Leaving little impression on the conscious mind.
It’s our mind processing information, repeating words, experiences, scenarios⸺we can’t control them. They happen whether we like it or not.
The issue we face is trying to work out which are worth thinking, and which are not.
We’re affected by the outside world. The events and experiences in our lives, shape our beliefs and our values. We make judgements based on those beliefs and values. These shape our thoughts, our emotions and our behaviours.
So the external world, deeply affects our internal world.
When it comes to anxiety and negative self-talk, this cycle can definitely get out of hand. For example, the ‘external event’ in our life could be a personal experience from years past, that leads to a certain belief. That belief triggers a negative emotion (it could also trigger a physical reaction e.g. heart palpitations), this then changes our behaviour which is externalised and affects our external world. And thus the cycle continues.
So how do you break the cycle?
The first thing you do is accept that thoughts can’t be controlled, but that we can control which thoughts we choose to believe.
This is particularly necessary when a negative thought becomes repetitive.
In my article Changing Habits, I speak about how if we repeat a thought or action enough, it becomes a habit because that’s considered ‘efficient’ by the brain.
You have the ability to identify whether a thought is negative or not. It could be something as simple as “I’m such a dickhead” after making a silly mistake.
Thoughts like these are untrue and unhelpful.
When you try and observe those thoughts that are most dominant, and negative, you can begin to analyze why you think that.
What is it that makes you think that? What past experience encouraged that thought? Did your silly mistake really warrant you to call yourself a dickhead?
Chances are, probably not.
To break that initial habit of linking thought to belief and then emotion, I find it helpful to use a ‘stop’ word when I notice myself with a negative thought, or if I find myself getting wrapped up in an emotion that’s getting out of hand.
A ‘stop’ word can be in any language, and it would even be a short phrase. Some I’ve used in the past have been:
Whatever it is you choose, the more you use it, the more automatic it will become. It will stop your thought pattern and give you the opportunity to pause and reflect on the thought. Allowing you to break the first stage of the cycle.
Have you tried these techniques before? Or maybe you have some of your own?
I’d love to hear how you’re getting on. Sharing helps us all to learn and grow.
Peace & Punk