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We Are Not Our Thoughts

Your brightest future may hinge on two daily abilities. And here's why.

Courtesy Image of Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/-wWRHIUklxM

“If you want to know your past — look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future — look into your present actions,” 

– Chines Proverb

Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past.

We live in the age of distraction, We’re always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.

But, the way you think about yourself turns into your reality. If you draw inaccurate conclusions about who you are and what you’re capable of doing, you’ll limit your potential.

Most of us don’t undertake our thoughts in awareness. Rather, our thoughts control us.

What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave. So if you think you’re a failure, you’ll feel like a failure. Then, you’ll act like a failure, which reinforces your belief that you must be a failure.Your beliefs get reinforced.

Infact once you draw a conclusion about yourself, you’re likely to do two things; look for evidence that reinforces your belief and discount anything that runs contrary to your belief.

Someone who develops the belief that he’s a failure, for example, will view each mistake as proof that he’s not good enough.

Consider for a minute that it might not be your lack of talent or lack of skills that are holding you back. Instead, it might be your beliefs that keep you from performing at your peak.

Creating a more positive outlook can lead to better outcomes. That’s not to say positive thoughts have magical powers. But optimistic thoughts lead to productive behavior, which increases your chances of a successful outcome.

Infact the good news is, you can change how you think.

You can alter your perception and change your life through these two abilities and starting using them daily:

1. Feel your breath every morning and start to practice Mindfulness

In order to feel more in control of our minds and our lives, to find the sense of balance that eludes us, we need to step out of this current, to pause, and, as Kabat-Zinn puts it, to “rest in stillness — to stop doing and focus on just being.”

We need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment — also called mindfulness — is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present.

This meditation focuses on the breath, not because there is anything special about it, but because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it as an anchor to the present moment. Throughout the practice you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds — wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath.

“When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts;   you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging  them.”

Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.

It can reduce stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease.

Mindfulness boosts your awareness of how you interpret and react to what’s happening in your mind. It increases the gap between emotional impulse and action. Focusing on the present reboots your mind so you can respond thoughtfully rather than automatically.

So to avoid worrying about the future, focus on the present (savoring).

Often, we’re so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy, what’s happening right now. We sip coffee and think, “This is not as good as what I had last week.” We eat a cookie and think, “I hope I don’t run out of cookies.”

But as Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” The hallmark of depression and anxiety is catastrophizing — worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and might not happen at all. Worry, by its very nature, means thinking about the future — and if you hoist yourself into awareness of the present moment, worrying melts away.

If you press your focus into the now, rumination ceases. Savoring forces you into the present, so you can’t worry about things that aren’t there and you are not be afraid of the future.

2. Contemplate death on a deeper level a little every day to get comfortable with uncertainty

It’s no surprise as the mind is notorious for exaggerating situations more than they appear. Known in psychology as catastrophizing, it refers to the inherent bias to perceive events within a negative context.

So, how can you embrace the unexpected without being overcome by the accompanying emotions?

To embrace uncertainty requires a change in perspective. You must yield to the intrinsic forces of life, not oppose them. However uncomfortable, you lean in to your fears and insecurities but do not run away from them.

Therefore, inhabit your body when anxiety arises and then choose a time to examine the cause of the anxiety. Uncertainty exists in our lives. Don’t retreat from it but expose yourself to it a little each time.

Have you experienced similar anxiety in the past?

If so, are you repeating these feelings instead of dealing with them?

Fear is a confronting emotion, yet we gain the self-assurance when we embrace it as a useful emotion.

You can turn down the volume on fear by being exposed to it a little each every day.

Get comfortable with uncertainty helps you to re-evaluate the past and make new choices in light of what transpires. It presents opportunities to create a compelling future based on new information.

“Sometimes our most challenging plans emerge embracing the unknown.”

So, don’t forget to live in the present moment and at the same time to move toward the unfamiliar. It will help you to plan a better future.

Originally published at medium.com

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