Don’t believe everything you hear, even from your inner voice.
The truth is that everyone holds their own truth and reality. Everyone sees the world in unique ways, and everyone has a unique set of thoughts, perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and so on. Everything we read is based on someone else’s truth, and we must question things and consider how they apply or do not apply to our own truth. Question and examine everything to some degree. I’m not saying you won’t believe anything you hear (even from yourself), but I am saying it is important to be thoughtful, curious, critical, and analytical.
At times, something will speak to us in a profound way and will be what we need to hear and know at that moment because it is congruent with who we are and the path we are on. Other times, we will be presented with information that at first may seem relevant and true for us, when really it is not (though it may be true for someone else).
And regarding listening to your inner voice: sometimes our ego is our voice, acting as an all-knowing ass hole, trying to make us feel and act from a place of insecurity. Pay attention to what your true inner voice is telling you, but remain open and critical. We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, what we feel, how we relate to others, what we are good at and what we struggle with…
You have the choice to do what you wish with the things you hear, from within or without, through your thoughts. You have the power to write your own story, day after day, through self-awareness and a willingness to be curious and critical when you need to be. When you seek answers, be open to the messages around you but also look within. Only you create your truth and reality.
Sitting in my pajamas at 3:30 in the afternoon (and I am ashamed to admit I had not yet brushed my teeth - but you’ve done it too, be honest), I realized that I really had not accomplished nearly as much as I had planned to. Is this because I am lazy or unmotivated or depressed or don’t give a shit? No. That’s not my personality. Part of the reason is that I am under the weather (but really this is just another excuse, because it’s not like I’m on my death bed). The real reason is that I allowed myself to be so distracted ALL DAY. And this is a struggle all the time! We are faced with so many distractions on a daily basis, it’s amazing any of us accomplish anything anymore. I for one get distracted by an insane number of things (this is not an exhaustive list): social media, TV, my PHONE, the dogs, thoughts about what I should or should not be doing/what I think others expect me to be doing, housework, laundry, food, loud noises outside, my toes which are in desperate need of a pedicure, did I mention my phone?, and many many more things. Do I find some of these things inspiring/valuable/necessary? Sure. But do I struggle to limit the amount of time I allow these things to distract me from what I really want to be doing? YES. We complain all the time (don’t pretend you don’t) that we don’t have the TIME to work out, grocery shop, spend more time with loved ones, clean the house, write that book or finish that side project we’ve been working on, fill in the blank. Truthfully, we do have the time for many of the things we want to do, or can work to make the time. So what gets in the way? Distraction. I recently asked my mother, “how did you do it?! How in the world did you raise two children, work full time, keep the house clean, have dinner on the table every night, and hold a marriage together AND have a social life?!” Her simple answer was, “things were different then, we weren’t as distracted.” Light bulb moment. Today I felt the need to acknowledge this obvious struggle in all of our lives, partly because it is speaking loudly to me right now and I personally need to hear it, and partly because I talk to so many friends and colleagues and clients who have the same struggle. We never feel there is enough time. My intention for the month of October is already related to turning inward and grounding myself and doing the things that I need in order to feel stable and secure in the world, so this additional intention aligns quite nicely. I will be focusing on (and posting about) these intentions including minimizing distraction. Hopefully I’ll come up with some helpful tips, and if not, at least I planted a seed for you and gave you an opportunity to reflect on the ways you are distracted in life. What are those things that get in the way of you doing the things you want to do, accomplishing those tasks you want to accomplish, building those meaningful relationships, being a healthier person, or just being a generally relaxed and joyful person? And how can you reduce or eliminate those distractions? Are they meaningful and valuable to you? Are they helpful and do they provide something for you? Do they matter? Are you engaging those distractions intentionally or are you avoiding the things that allow you to be you and be happy? I’d love to hear your thoughts however you’ll like to share them, so leave a comment or message anytime. Happy reflecting! :)
Let’s face it. Difficult things are going to happen. Life can never be perfect, and struggle is inevitable. In reality, struggle is necessary so that we can improve! The important thing is how we deal with the struggle. This is known as COPING. There are many different meanings to the word coping, also knows as managing. I like to say this is how we manage the shit in our lives.
The first idea I’d like to present related to coping is: Responding vs. Reacting. These two terms have slightly different meanings from a psychological standpoint. A reaction is considered to be something more emotional and automatic, done without thinking. A response comes from more of a thoughtful and conscious place, where we are engaging in an internal dialogue and using our critical thinking skills. Some situations (such as crossing a street and almost getting hit by a car) require an automatic reaction that we don’t think about. Our brains are designed to react to dangerous situations or stimuli so that we can protect ourselves and be safe. But that’s not really what we’re addressing here. For the purposes of this conversation, our goal is to learn how to respond instead of react.
Part of our ability to respond is first being aware of how we respond to stressors (everyone is different).
Secondly, we want to make sure our responses are helpful for us and are in-line with who we are and what we need. A key to the responding process is being intentional and mindful, and listening to yourself and your body (a form of self-care!). You always have a choice in how you respond to situations and other people, and you always have a choice in how to cope with a situation.
Part of coping means admitting to yourself (and others, if necessary) when you’ve screwed up or when you’ve failed. Accept the fact here and now that failure is a part of life. It’s a part of being human. You will fail. And you will pick yourself up and learn from it and keep on going. The more you are able to accept this fact, the more you’ll move forward. It is when we are unwilling to acknowledge our mistakes that we continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
Before I wrap up this post I’m going to throw out another term which is EXTREMELY relevant to managing and coping: RESILIENCY, which is essentially our ability to "bounce back” from a difficult situation. This involves our ability to RESPOND (not avoid or react), utilize whatever coping strategies necessary to manage our emotions and the situation (coping and self-care), make sense of what we can with the situation (learn), change the things we have control over, and then LET GO. Yes, we must learn how to LET GO of situations once we’ve dealt with them (for additional thoughts on letting go, click here). It’s possible that similar situations will come up again, and I say bring it on! You’ll know how to RESPOND and deal with it, because you already have!
If you're looking for additional support in learning coping strategies, click here to schedule an introductory session with me.
First let’s break down some definitions…
What is a thought? Google says: an idea or opinion produced by thinking or occurring suddenly in the mind; the action or process of thinking; "mental activity" The weird thing about thoughts, is that they are always occurring without us having to think about them. The key here is that we may have things just pop into our head, but we do have full ability to change our thoughts.
What is perception? Google says: the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses; a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression. Now, perceptions are also tricky to comprehend. The first part of the definition, the part of perception that involves our senses (sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch), isn't necessarily something we can easily change. Our brains and bodies are sort of wired to "perceive" things in a certain way, which is different than how others perceive or experience these things. For example, I know people who HATE chocolate. I think this is madness, because I absolutely LOVE chocolate. Some people are sensitive to certain smells, others dislike certain textures either with food or clothing or other things. While this is important in understanding perception, I'd like to focus on the cognitive or mental part of perception - the part about how we regard, understand, or interpret things - the mental impression. THIS is the part that a can be altered. Our perceptions are essentially a collection of thoughts that we combine in order to form an opinion/interpretation/feeling about something. Our perceptions are based on both our "way of thinking" as well as our past experiences. We as humans have a tendency to perceive things in a way which confirms what we believe and what we think we already know. My challenge to you is to first become aware of how you are perceiving situations, and then challenge your own perceptions.
Now for the happiness piece: so much of our mental health depends upon our thoughts. I'd like to share some of my favorite quotes by Marcus Aurelius. He said:
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”
I would like to propose to you that mental health is about empowerment in many ways. The more we feel we are in control of our emotional responses, as well as our thoughts and perceptions, the more content and at peace we will be.
There is a modality used in therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or “CBT.” This is typically a highly structured form of therapy focused on correcting unhelpful thoughts, and connecting thoughts, feelings, and actions. The idea behind the theory is that our thoughts inform our emotions and behaviors. When we have the ability to examine our thoughts, we can assess whether or not they are accurate or helpful. If we determine that our thoughts are not accurate or helpful, we can work to correct and shift these thoughts. The moral of the story here is that our thoughts are very powerful - what we think, we create.
Two examples of just how powerful our thoughts are:
1) The Self-fulfilling Prophecy: simply put, our beliefs about ourselves influence our actions toward others; this impacts others’ beliefs about us, which in turn causes others’ actions toward us to reinforce (increase the likelihood something with occur) our beliefs about ourselves, and it’s a vicious cycle. Read that again. Our beliefs about ourselves influence our actions toward others; this impacts others’ beliefs about us, which in turn causes others’ actions toward us to reinforce our beliefs about ourselves. A hypothetical example: If believe that people don’t really want to hang out with me, I may often flake out on plans and avoid social situations. If I do this, others may believe I am not interested in spending time with them, so they will likely stop inviting me to events, which reinforces the belief I have about myself that people don’t really want to hang out with me.
2) Manifesting: so I can’t really explain this from an energetic or physics standpoint, this isn’t my area of expertise. If you’re curious about this, google "Law of Attraction." My take on manifesting (your ability to make something happen or draw something to you), is that if you are hyper-focused on something that you want, and you can believe that it is possible for you to have it, you can then start to create the feeling or experience of what that thing might bring to you, and you will then do whatever it takes to make it happen. Your thoughts truly create your reality!
To summarize, our thoughts in many ways are directly related to our level of happiness, contentment, and enjoyment in life. Our thoughts inform our emotions, and ultimately our actions. Remember that you do have the ability to examine and change your thoughts, which means you have power when it comes to your happiness!