Be careful how you talk to yourself because you are listening.
It took me sometime to understand what was meant by this statement, just like a lot of things in life, I was unsure of the meaning behind it. That was until I dug deeper into human psychology and began to discover the incredible power our mind has in driving our daily attitudes and behaviour. Without us consciously knowing it, our mind is always listening and responding to our inner voice. For this reason, the way we train our mind and communicate with ourselves internally is of utmost importance.
From the dawn of our human history, our survival was dependant on our ability to avoid danger. To keep us alive, our brain programmed itself to have a primary goal of keeping us safe from risks and to be fearful of possible threats. This has meant we have naturally evolved to have a negative bias that makes us more sensitive to information that our brain deems risky. As a result we naturally overestimate threats and our capacity to deal with them, whilst underestimating opportunities and our ability to take advantage of them. This is all well and good in keeping us alive, but having this built-in sensitivity to possible risk means that same negative mindset bias is also present in every sphere of our lives.
This sophisticated natural defence system has seen the human race evolve to where we are today, but the negative bias is a drain on our quality of life and happiness in today’s modern world. Nowadays, we are generally removed from day to day threats of significant and unpredictable nature, but our brain remains a protective and negatively oiled machine. We still become fearful and anxious whenever there is a feeling of risk or unease deep within, despite the fact these risks are of a very different nature to the life threatening experiences back in ancient times. Once we understand why our brains have become so protective and that the feeling of unease stems from our thoughts, we can start to rewire our mind and set ourselves free.
We process approximately 50-70,000 thoughts every day. These thoughts are shaped from our perceptions of the experiences we have had throughout our life and by our outlook on what we see in the future. Our thoughts create our moods and our emotions, and as a result play a huge role in allowing us to live happily with a smile on our face. The problem is, with our mind set up to protect us, it is not always naturally focusing on the positive messages that directly serve the feeling of happiness.
We all have the choice between seeing life with a healthy attitude that thinks positively and sees opportunities around us, or a destructive attitude that engages with the inner critic (or negative bias) focusing on the difficult aspects of life and what may happen in the future. This inner critic is powerful and can easily take over our mind leading to negative thinking of a repetitive nature that permanently eats away at us. When we believe and hold onto negative thoughts we are filled with dread and anxiety and shut down the possibilities for us to love and feel joy and happiness. For example when we worry about things such as our own capabilities or what other people think, we paralyse the positive actions we have within and we become trapped living inside a prison within our own head. This will prevent us from fully living and expressing ourselves.
Left unattended and untrained, our mind can easily be overrun by unnecessary and paranoid thoughts. If we want to set our mind free we must loosen the grip our thoughts have on us and undo the beliefs that had us treating our thoughts as facts. We can’t control every thought that enters into our heads and we don’t have the power to control external events. However we do have the power to control how our mind perceives our thoughts and events and it is that perception that shapes our attitude to life and our daily behaviour.
Once we learn to perceive things in a way that serves us positively our entire world can change. Our thoughts do not define us and we do not have to pay attention to them if they do not serve us positively. When we become conscious that thoughts are just thoughts that naturally come and go, we can choose which ones we pay attention to.
Let’s start forgiving ourselves for the mistakes that we have made and focus on what we can do from here. We are all going to experience failure, rejection and disappointment (at least I hope we do, otherwise we aren’t truly living), we can either wallow in self pity by holding onto the negativity, or take the positive learnings and grow better prepared for tomorrow. This applies to all areas of our lives in which we feel we didn’t achieve what we wanted or maybe underperformed in some way. When we change how we relate to our life experiences and the mistakes we have made, we give ourselves the freedom to go about our life without anxiety and depression and with an irreplaceable bundle of excitement and joy.
It is hard to stay positive at times and it’s perfectly normal that at times we feel down, the important thing is we do not dwell too long on a negative state but return to a positive frequency. All I ask is that we are mindful of the present moment, let our negative thoughts pass by without over analysis and instead we choose to focus on the positive ones. When we are fully aware of what it is we are doing in that moment, we resist negativity because the brain simply can’t think about problems and be engaged in the present moment at the same time. With conscious practice, mindfulness can become a natural way of thinking and we can stop over analysing problems.
Let’s look to adopt an attitude that is curious about our future, accepting of our past experiences and loving to the person we are and the people around us. In doing so we give positive meaning and direction to our life without succumbing to the inner voice that prevents us from living free and without hope of achieving our goals.
In simple terms, if we think or focus our minds on something positive or nice we will feel good. If we think or focus on something negative or bad it is just the opposite, we are poisoning our happiness and our mood will suffer. Learn to set your mind free from limiting beliefs and negativity and the rest will follow.