Updated: Sep 15, 2022
A simple and effective way to cultivate a more calm and peaceful life is to take the time to notice the thoughts that lead to our feelings. Our brains are always thinking even if we are not tuned into our thoughts. These thoughts lead to feelings whether we acknowledge them or not. Thoughts are not facts so often we are living in feelings of high emotion based on things our brain has conjured up that we likely haven’t even validated.
In order to break this difficult cycle, we can begin a practice of noticing. We start by turning back into our gut reaction and noticing, as early as possible, and while we are in our rational mind that we are feeling something. Try to label what you are feeling such as, “I am feeling anxious.” Next, go to your mind and identify the thought that is leading to the feeling.
Acknowledge your mind for having the thought because your mind is likely trying to help you in some way. Notice if the thought is actually useful to you in this present moment. Often the thought is not something that can be or needs to be dealt with at the moment and this simple acknowledgment will make your brain feel heard and help you to let the thought pass.
This practice of noticing will become more automated over time and keep these difficult emotions from adding up and attacking us all at once. Repeat this process as often as possible in your daily life but remember that you are human and will forget at times. We all react in ways we later regret but it is this intention and effort to do better that is important and we need to learn to accept our shortcomings as learning opportunities.
In future articles, we will discuss how to implement other aspects of Mindfulness such as Self-Compassion, but this piece of noticing is the foundation that will allow us to see negative thought processes that need to be worked with.
Bruce A. Craig