One of the most challenging elements of emotional regulation is the ability to manage thoughts, especially those negative or stressful thoughts we seem to ruminate over. As if we are replaying a scene from a movie over and over, when we ruminate we get stuck in the same narration and the same episode of our life replays itself over and over again. Not only does rumination become exhausting, we, in turn, continue to feel stuck in depression or anxiety, lack clarity, and energy and feel disempowered.
So how do you have a conversation with your thoughts?
How do you coach yourself happy?
How do you move from rumination to revelation?
The first essential step is to become aware of your thoughts, which may sound strange, as you may be fully aware of the incessant dialogue which replays itself over and over in your head. Yet many of us are unaware of the thousands of thoughts we have a day. Thought travels faster than the speed of light, so in order to manage our thoughts, we have to catch our thoughts.
If you wanted to see a shooting star, you would find somewhere quiet, on a clear night to lie down outside. You would lie in silence observing the sky in hope to be still enough to catch the magic. Let’s apply this same idea to our thoughts.
If/when you are feeling low or anxious, stop and observe your feelings. Find yourself a quiet space where you can reflect. As you focus on your feelings, begin to notice what your thoughts were before you felt what you feel- try to catch the thoughts.
Once you are aware of the thoughts get them out of your head by writing them down. This helps you disassociate or separate your judgment from your thoughts and observe them objectively.
Now when you read those thoughts back, ask yourself, how can I see that differently? By asking yourself how you can reframe your thoughts, you break the habit of cognitive rumination and begin a process of cognitive reappraisal- the ability to view your thoughts in a new way.
Now write down your new meanings and notice how this refreshed perspective reveals better, more empowered feelings within.
You will then begin to feel calmer, centred and activate the brain centres which enable you to become less problem focused and more solutions focused. This, in turn, turns your stuckness into action, your confusion into clarity and your exhaustion into enthusiasm. You can live your life with a greater sense of happiness and inner resilience.
Here’s a quick summary so that you can hack your thoughts quickly:
- Stop/pause your thinking
- Reflect on ruminating thoughts (briefly) – write them down
- Reframe, refresh and reappraise your perspective
- Notice clarity and energy
- Return to the joy and gratitude you have for your life
And now observe the magic of life shoot past you…