In my mid 20s, I spent a lot of my time inside my head, with my thoughts. And at the worst of times, I had a consistent case of negative self talk.
As a result, I was easily stressed from the expectations that I had put upon myself in regards to study, career and meeting society's definition of success. I was emotionally reactive, especially when it came to relationships, repeating familiar patterns. At that time, I guess I didn't really know who I was. I wished that I could somehow put a stop to this negative self talk that had wedged its way into my head and taken over my self esteem.
However, I knew how I wanted to feel. I wanted to experience and appreciate life fully, seeing things in technicolor rather than through a greyscale lens. I wanted clarity around my identity so that I could live my life authentically. I wanted to live in flow rather than feeling the need to control a situation or hold onto expectations. And, I wanted to feel peace so that I could go about my day without stress or fear.
For the last 2 years, I have been working towards this. For me, the journey started with developing a greater sense of awareness and acceptance.
It can be so easy for us to live life in autopilot, with a blurred vision of each moment and future projecting to the next thing. By simply bringing awareness to the flow of our thoughts, emotions and reactions, it can help us gain a deeper understanding around who we are, reduce the tendency for us to propagate negative self talk, and offer lightness and clarity.
Here are the steps I went through to bring about greater awareness into my day.
Step 1 - Observe & Acknowledge
Every time you observe a thought, acknowledge its presence. Observation doesn't mean joining in on the conversations inside our head. It just means taking a step back and looking in from the outside, like a spectator without judgement. With a childlike curiosity, take notice of the emotions that may arise. You may find that your body will also react to these emotions. As an example, fear for me feels like a dull ache in the pit of my stomach.
Step 2 - Go through the motions
Allow yourself to experience the feeling that you get from your thought. Many of us have a tendency to deny ourselves this. Instead, we suppress our emotions and bottle them up over time. Know that the feeling or thought is only temporary and it will pass with time. Know that in this moment, you are just where you need to be.
Step 3 - Accept & Let it Go
Letting your thought go is probably the most difficult step. We hold onto thoughts that no longer serve us or we set expectations about how we should be thinking instead. And particularly with negative thoughts, we have a tendency to put them on repeat in our heads. This weighs us down and over time it can drown out the positive thoughts which can bring us joy.
For me, I let go of thoughts with acceptance. By sitting with the thought, I accept that this moment is what it is, letting go of trying to control it. When I do this, I notice a lightness as if I am no longer burdened but it will be different for everyone - you will find what works best for you.
Here is a free printable that you Pin to your Pinterest board or print out to keep as a reminder.
Overall, I have found this to be such a simple to use technique for living more mindfully day to day. Gradually, it has helped me immensely to put a stop my negative self talk. It has also made it much easier to handle stressful, highly emotional situations and as a result I am a much calmer person than I used to be.
It has helped me gain a better understanding and acceptance about myself. And, I have found that it helps me slip more easily into a meditative state which I will write about in future.