To live the life you desire, you must unburden yourself. We’re all carrying around shame, regret and negativity for the past. The only way to have a bright future is to move past your negative feelings.
Do you know what mindfulness is? It’s paying attention to your thoughts, and being aware of what you’re thinking. And then it’s thinking about what you’re thinking.
Are you in control of your thoughts? Are you in charge of your thinking? Or is someone (or something) else controlling the direction of your thinking? Who’s really in charge?
If you’ve never asked yourself those questions, I guarantee it’s not you 100% of the time.
Researchers have found we process around 70,000 thoughts a day- that’s a lot. When a thought comes up, we have options. We can dismiss them, obsess over them, or take them to their logical conclusion- you think you’d like something to eat, so you eat something.
A thought can make your day- you remember your best friend is coming in town soon, and they can cause you to drop everything- you forgot you left the oven on. Our thoughts can sometimes feel like someone pulled the pin on a grenade and casually tossed it into our heads.
As powerful as our thoughts are, most of us don’t spend much time thinking about them. The reality is, our attention and headspace are extremely valuable. Along with money and time, I believe attention to be one of the three most important assets we have. The better we can get at cultivating and maximizing it we can be, the happier and more successful we’ll be.
It’s my goal to help you to do exactly that.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Your mind is a dangerous place
- The undeniable power of negative emotions
- Unburdening yourself
- Habits of the mind
Let’s get started.
Your mind is a dangerous place
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Your brain is a three pound universe that processes 70,000 thoughts each day using 100 billion neurons that connect at more than 500 trillion points through synapses that travel 300 miles/hour.”
The National Science Foundation has found that 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of them are repetitive. We keep thinking about the same bad shit over and over and over again. In doing so, we’re keeping ourselves stuck. We’re fucking ourselves over. And over. And over.
Is there any value to this? Perhaps it’s something that’s been hardwired into us as a survival mechanism so we don’t fall into the same trap over and over again. But that doesn’t make sense or work, because we’re constantly making the same mistakes. Regardless of the reasons why it’s happening, once aware, we’re able to begin changing our thought patterns.
We’re in love with our problems.
We advocate and argue for them. Our culture has decided to start celebrating victimhood. What a stupid idea. Why on Earth would you want to build your entire identity around the worst thing to ever happen to you? Without outside incentive, I don’t think anyone would. Yet, here we are.
Your brain is already feeding you with negative thoughts- the last thing you should be doing is consciously identifying yourself with your problems. You’re far better served to address them, and move on from them. You’ve gotta let them go.
The undeniable power of negative emotions
I love reflecting back on great experiences. Flipping through family photos, remembering past successes, and being proud of things I worked hard to accomplish. It’s great. But it’s not sticky. What is sticky is the bad stuff.
Negative memories and emotions are like a wet blanket; they’re heavy and suffocating. They can turn our brains into spooky houses haunted by the ghosts of bad experiences that terrorize our nights.
Some of the main ghosts are:
How do you experience those? How often? Which do you struggle with the most?
I struggle with anger, frustration and overwhelm the most. And I certainly have bouts with each of them.
We just start paying attention and trying to minimize the impact these negative emotions have on us. We must unburden ourselves.
The current state of your thinking, like everyone else’s, is probably negative. That’s ok, but it’s important to start working to shift it towards the positive. So, how do you do it?
We must forgive ourselves
We all need to throw a pity party once in a while. Poor me, wha, wha wha. Fine. Enjoy your party. Then clean up and move on.
We must muster the courage to interrogate reality. We’ve got to stop carrying the weight of regret, failure, sadness, resentment and judgment.
To do this, you must think back on all the experiences that have created these negative emotions. If a resolution is possible, you must pursue it. If you need to make amends, make them. If there is nothing to be done, make peace with the experience and move on. Do whatever you must do in order to absolve yourself.
We must forgive others
“If you sit by the river long enough, you’ll see the body of your enemy float by.” That’s an ancient proverb advocating for patience over revenge. It means, what goes around comes around and, in the long run, God will take care of it so you don’t have to.
If there’s a conversation to be had, or a peace to be made, make it happen. If not, let it go.
There’s no future in carrying these burdens any further than you have to. In fact, they’re stopping you from fully pursuing the life you want. They’re taking resources away from your most important work.
Habits of the mind
You can train your brain. Right now, it’s doing what it’s always done. Serving you up the same shitty negative thoughts. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can begin to train your brain to stop being so negative.
You have a choice.
You can choose happiness or contentment, or you can choose the opposite. With every thought that comes up, you can let it direct your mind, or you can brush it aside and reframe it how you want. We spend so much time thinking about what we don’t want. The next time you catch yourself thinking about something you don’t want, immediately switch your thinking to exactly what you do want.
This is the value of mindfulness. It’s paying attention to your thoughts as they arise, and actively choosing what to do with them. Just because your brain serves up a thought doesn’t mean you need to do anything with it. You can simply brush it aside and shift your thinking to what you want.
You’re in control. It’s up to you where you direct your attention. Choose wisely.
In The Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to, “Forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us.” To live the lives we want, we must put that into practice. We must unburden ourselves by forgiving ourselves and others.
Kick the ghosts out. Get a good night’s sleep.
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