The simple fact is that we are almost always thinking. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing as thought is necessary for so many practical elements of living, but like any habit there can be advantages and disadvantages.
The thoughts we think are like internal conversations, and watching our thoughts is like looking into a window to get a clearer picture of the nature of our relationship with ourselves. By becoming more aware of and examining our thinking patterns it can quickly become clear whether they are supportive and uplifting or whether they are condescending and critical.
In my own life it has been common for my inner voice to be quite critical, and my mind’s default response has often been to judge me. In my thoughts I would often berate myself, and over time this pattern contributed to me feeling that no matter what I did it wasn't good enough. It feels like a mental tape that plays so often you end up believing it to be true. What a crazy thing it was to realize that I was my own biggest bully!
Over time I began to realize that this pattern of thinking is a type of automatic programming within myself. This outdated mental tape seemed to run on the assumption that if I am hard on myself it will inspire me to do and to be better. I had to realize for myself that this simply wasn't true; that being so hard on myself wasn't serving me in any way. In fact, the feelings of unworthiness perpetuated by these thinking patterns made me less likely to succeed, negatively affecting my self-esteem and making life less enjoyable in general.
There are several practices that have helped me to shift my thinking patterns to be more loving and supportive that I would like to share with you. Since using them I have begun to experience much more love and compassion for myself, and I now notice that my thoughts are more supportive, and help rather than hinder me in creating a more enjoyable experience of life.
The Power of Affirmation
The premise of using an affirmation practice is simple: we can override negative thinking patterns by consciously adding and focusing on positive patterns instead. So for example I may become aware that I have a thinking pattern of: “I’m not good enough." With affirmation I can counter that belief with a positive alternative and repeat it on a regular (ideally daily) basis.
This is a sort of general-purpose affirmation that I have personally used and received great benefit from:
“I love who I am,
I am grateful for my mind,
I welcome my emotions,
I listen to and love my body,
I love who I am.”
We can create any type of affirmation that fits what we are wanting to experience more of in life. If I want to experience more gratitude I might use an affirmation of "I am grateful for all the blessings in my life"and perhaps list off a few things you I am grateful for each day. Whatever you would like to use affirmation for and whichever affirmation you choose it is important to say it with feeling and emotion. Even if it doesn’t feel like you believe it when you say it, say it like you believe it. Over time you will!
Repetition over time is the key, as some of these old thinking patterns may have been playing in our minds for years and take some time to overwrite. I can tell you firsthand that it is truly possible to re-write thinking patterns and beliefs to work for us rather than against us, and life can change for the better as a result.
The Power of Meditation
The other practice that I use and have benefited from in helping to shift my thinking patterns is meditation. Meditation is particularly useful on the mental level, allowing us to be more aware of the types of thoughts we are thinking, to slow thoughts down by learning to experience the present moment more fully, and to begin to consciously choose thinking patterns that serve us to a greater degree.
I have created a page that talks about meditation and how it works that you can find here if you are interested.