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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Okay, Brain, Your Mine Now

  If you're like me you get stories in your head about people, situations and alternate realities.  In fact, if you're a human being (if you are not this is truly amazing) you probably do this a lot.  I have stories in my head about what friends, family and co-workers think about me.  I have stories in my head about social and professional situations where I imagine unfavorable or worst-case scenarios.  I even have stories in my head about what life would be like if I was unemployed, incapacitated, or left alone in the world.  The brain, even mine, is a powerful, imaginative machine, but there are times that it generates conspiracy theories and some pretty discouraging forecasts . . . or just seems to mess with us.

    In the blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree, in the post How to Stop Worrying, the author reminds us that our thoughts are not reality.  "Just because we think it, doesn't make it true."  These thoughts distract us from the here-and-now.  We drift off into thoughts and theories that undermine our real life situation instead of paying attention to the world around us and being present - being mindful.  My real life situation isn't perfect, but I do love my life - all of it - so why would I allow myself to entertain these negative, unreal thoughts?  Eric, the blog post author, provides a list of strategies to help you stop worrying and start being mindful:
  1. You are not your thoughts. Sometimes they’re downright ridiculous. Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.
  2. Observe, don’t judge. Acknowledge the thoughts, but let them float by. Don’t wrestle with them.
  3. Don’t distract, immerse. Do not check your email for the 400th time. Take in the world around you. Turn to your senses. That’s real. Your thoughts and the stories you tell yourself about the world aren’t.
  4. Note or label intrusive thoughts. Yeah, the thoughts fight back. Acknowledge them. Give the intrusive ones a funny name.
  5. Return to the senses. Really pay attention to the world around you.
    As the author points out, being mindful takes effort and practice, but it's a fairly simple and easy to remember list, so it's doable.  

    I'd like to add one more step.  Avoid picking and choosing which thoughts to let go.  What good will it do me to work on some negative thoughts and misconceptions, and not be willing to set myself free from all of them?   You and I need to recognize when that thought is not beneficial to us and/or those around us, and apply one or more of the above tactics to stop worrying and be mindful.  Ready?  Here we go . . . 

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