Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Learning how to control my thoughts has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Our minds are constantly busy. Something as simple as brushing your teeth can turn into a full on conversation with your Thought Monster. What is the Thought Monster? It’s what I like to call my racing negative thoughts. I have worked really hard over the past 2 years to really defeat this negative habit. Lets face it, this is HARD! I want more than anything for you to stop your negative thoughts and gain clarity over your mind.
Imagine going into work on Monday and you run into Bob at the coffee counter and you say “Hi Bob! How was your weekend?” He looks over at you and can barely muster a smile then turns and walks away without saying a word. The old you instantly reacts to this strange interaction with thoughts of he hates me, he thinks I’m annoying, he hates me so much he can't even talk to me. I want to tell you something and it might seem a little harsh, but hear me out. You have no right to assume what Bob is thinking of you or about you. You are probably ready to click off this page, but I ask that you stay. Once I understood someone else’s thoughts were none of my business I literally quit worrying about it. It was like an explosion went off in my brain and a bunch of tiny Thought Monsters got blown into pieces.
Let’s reverse this scenario and assume someone is trying to guess your thoughts and getting them completely wrong. Your best friend and you have plans to meet up for coffee. You aren’t feeling well and instead of cancelling on your friend you decide to go anyways. Your friend is excited telling you all about the date she had last night. You smile at her and tell her that's great, but she knows you very well. She can tell something is going on and instead of asking if you are ok she starts trying to figure out what you are thinking. She is coming up with every negative thing in the book and by the time your coffee cups are empty she is starting to feel angry and resentful that she met up with you in the first place. Y’all say your goodbyes and thirty minutes later she sends you a text that catches you off guard. She asks “Why didn’t you care about my date? Is there something wrong with the guy I went out with? Are you jealous I went out with him?” You are so shocked by her questions you call her because none of what she said is true. “Why do you think I would think those things?” you ask her. “You didn’t seem to care at all!” she says. That’s when you tell her you are very happy for her, you just aren't feeling very well and apologize for not being up front with how you were feeling and then she apologizes for assuming you thought the worst.
I know that was a long example but I hope it brought some clarity to what I am talking about. Do you see how easy it is to assume what others are thinking? Do you also see just how wrong your assumptions can be? This happens each and everyday to most people. It still happens to me, but when I start doing it I catch myself and start questioning the authenticity of my thoughts. You have to ask yourself if there are any facts to backup your thoughts? The latter sentence is very important and I want you to remember it. If you have to, write it down on a sticky note and post it somewhere you will see frequently.
I've given you an example and now it's time to break this down into some actual tools and steps. The experts estimate that adults have roughly 60,000-80,000 thoughts per day! That's an average 2,500-3,000 thoughts per hour. With a few more Google searches I found that roughly 85% of our thoughts are NEGATIVE and 95% are the same repetitive thoughts. If you look up how to have happier thoughts you’ll find what I found and they all pretty much say the same thing- BREATHE WITH INTENTION. Yes, breathing with intention is good. It’s great when you are meditating, great when you are winding down and yes even when you are going through something difficult. Focusing on your breath lowers your heart rate which then allows you to slow the mind and focus on your thoughts and actions. With your new found focus you are ready to dissect your thoughts. Let's go through another scenario and lay out the steps to start dissecting your thought process and see how we can change it for the better.
Your spouse comes home from work and throws their keys on the counter. Normally they place them in the bowl by the door. This small act gives you a hint that something might be upsetting them. You say hi and come in for a hug, they stop you and say they aren’t in the mood. This instantly makes you feel bad. Your brain kicks into overdrive. Why wouldn’t they want to hug you? You can tell they had a rough day but not wanting to hug you hurts you and that's when your Thought Monster creeps in.
Steps to squash the THOUGHT MONSTER in this scenario
Does my spouse like to be hugged when they are upset?
Do they really not want to hug me or do they just need a minute to themselves to cool down?
They aren’t angry with me, they had a bad day at work. Just because they don’t want to hug me doesn’t mean they don’t love me. Why don’t I go over and acknowledge their bad day and ask what I could do to help make them feel better.
Ask your spouse how they’re day went and ask them if they want to talk about what is upsetting them.
Assuming it's about you is selfish and takes away from their feelings. By acknowledging their feelings you are allowing them to open up to you and it shows them that you care and want to put them first.
Going through these questions when your spouse is noticeably angry will help you learn the valuable process of breaking down your negative thoughts and help you to define true thoughts from made up thoughts.
We’ve gone over the negative aspects of assumptions now lets do a deep dive into our personal negative thoughts. If 85% of our daily thoughts are negative how many of those negative thoughts are about you personally? I don’t want to look up the number because it’s probably pretty scary. Before I gained control of my A.N.T.S. (automatic negative thoughts) I could safely say that every other thought was about how I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough. The thoughts plagued my mind constantly and it was destroying my life.
When I began my recovery journey from Binge Eating Disorder I had to ask myself what beautiful was to me. As a little girl I was never told I wasn’t beautiful. It wasn’t until I got older that I started realizing I didn’t look like the women on TV or on the magazines in the check out line. So to me this meant I wasn’t beautiful. Read that again. Nobody actually said I wasn’t beautiful. I fabricated a story that I wasn’t beautiful all because of a photo I saw in a check out line. We are going to see beautiful people everyday. When we start comparing our beauty to theirs, we are opening the door to the THOUGHT MONSTER. The comparison trap is most relished by the thought monster. Close the comparison trap and keep the thought monster in their cage. When you see a beautiful person walking down the street I want you to say aloud even if it’s a whisper “Wow they are really beautiful.” Do not add anything else to the sentence! If you do this every time you see a beautiful person, after a week or so you will notice that comparison is no longer a part of your thought process. The quickest way to start feeling bad about yourself is to start comparing your looks and life to someone else’s. From this day forward I want you to make a promise to yourself. Take a moment to grab your journal and open it to today's date (whatever day you are reading this) and I want you to write:
Today I promise from this day forward I will no longer compare any aspect of myself or my life to anyone else’s. Who I am is a gift to the world.
How do you feel after writing that? Do you feel empowered? Do you feel at peace with your mind? I know I do. I feel more calm as I write this.
If I compared myself to all the other writers in the world I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it. Writing is probably my biggest passion, but it also causes me great fear. For years I allowed my thoughts to hold me back from pursuing my dream of writing. I once heard that to be a great writer doesn’t mean I have to have great grammar skills, it just means I have to write and never stop writing. I can always find an editor, if I want. I don’t have an editor or anyone to proofread before I hit publish. I just know that I have to keep putting out what’s in my head. There will always be someone who doesn’t like my writing and they may even leave mean comments, but remember their thoughts of me are none of my business and when they’re none of my business they CAN’T HURT ME.
There will be many days where you feel like your mind is constantly throwing one negative thought after another, but I want you to take a second and question the thought and look for its truth. Here are some of the questions I use daily with my thoughts- Why do I think that? Is there any truth to my thought? Has someone ever said that about me? Do I really think…? (fill in the blank) Does my spouse show me and tell me they love me? - Life is not easy and there are plenty of things that are out of our control, like traffic, weather and Chick-Fil-A being closed on Sunday’s. Let's take control of our thoughts and start living a life that is more fulfilling and loving each and every day.
DARE TO DREAM BIG AND SHINE BRIGHT!
P.S. I have some really great podcast's linked on my blog that are really helpful, be sure to check them out.