By Bruce Craig, Resident in Counseling
In the last couple of blog articles, we have covered how to begin tuning in to our mental process to begin noticing moment-to-moment what our mind is up to. As we tune into this process, it is likely you will notice some negative self-talk. These negative thoughts that tell us we are not good enough, not smart enough, not worthy of love or whatever else they might say have always been there if we noticed them or not. Even if you had not noticed them or how prevalent they might have been they were still leading to difficult emotions and undermining your self-confidence and self-esteem.
It is important that we understand that Mindfulness is an objective process of noticing, like I said in the first article, “Thoughts are not facts, but thoughts lead to feelings”.
The most accepted definition of Mindfulness to date is:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Jon Kabat-Zinn).
This means we are intentionally noticing our thoughts in the present moment and not judging our self for them. Your brain is doing what it believes is best for you and sometimes tries to help you avoid failure in some ways by undercutting your confidence. Rationally we know this is not effective for us to lead our best life, but our automatic processes are often not based in rationale.
Following this practice, I encourage you to notice the thought objectively, meaning you don’t internalize it or take it as true. Once we are able to do this we can evaluate if it is useful or not. When you are operating from an objective, rational space mentally you will often be able to immediately recognize that it is not true, rational or useful. At that point you have the power to acknowledge your brain for having the thought because it likely makes sense for what your brain was trying to protect you from, but you say to yourself “this is not useful”.
Take Time To Refocus
Once you have acknowledged your mind for the thought and said it is not useful you can then refocus your consciousness back to the present moment. This refocus can be to a task at hand in the moment, a guided meditation or simply to your breath.
This process works just as effectively even when the thought is true. Maybe you try to accomplish something but have difficulties and don’t do so well. Often there are underlying circumstances that we don’t give our allowances for. This is where we can use self-compassion and a good way to bring this in for ourselves is to imagine what you would tell your child or any loved one if they were in the same situation.
Often if we are unable to perform well, we tell ourselves that we suck and should give up but if a loved one had difficulty, we would recognize circumstances and encourage them by pointing these things out. “You just had a bad day at it”, or “You didn’t get much sleep last night”. With practice we can use this same compassion in ourselves to argue our negative thoughts and alleviate some of the difficult emotions they bring.
About Bruce Craig:
Bruce is a resident in counseling providing counseling services at our Fredericksburg location. Bruce is a recent graduate from Eastern Mennonite University with a MA in Counseling, following a B.S. in Social Psychology from Park University.
Bruce completed a rigorous internship working with individuals, couples, families and groups. Bruce also finds Mindfulness to be useful in helping clients be in the present moment. For clients who are receptive to it, he teaches them ways of controlling their thoughts instead of becoming anxious about things that might happen or focusing on aspects they cannot change.
He is currently in a course to become certified in the use of Mindfulness in therapy but already has experience and success applying Mindfulness with clients. Bruce provides a warm, empathetic, and non-judgmental space for all people to bring whatever issues they need to work through. To learn more about Bruce, visit here.