By Dave Wine, President & CEO
I’ve written on this key area before but it is so important. One of the greatest learnings (and one I have to keep re-learning!) is that our stories about us and others are not facts about life! Another way to say that is our thoughts are not facts! Our brains are wired to create thoughts! Thousands a day! And most of these thoughts are perceptions and feelings, not factual statements about what is really occurring in our life. That is why we can be in a good mood and ten minutes later we notice that we are not joyful any longer – the culprit? Probably something that has entered our thoughts that might even be years and years old! Something we read, something someone said, someone walking by, something that happened that felt like a lot like something else that happened, a certain smell and so on might have triggered a long ago memory, reminded us of something unpleasant, caused us to think differently. That is really why mindfulness is so important – when we take time to notice we can sort through what is real and what is not real – what is factual and what is not.
The key is to put space between our thoughts and our reactions. Thoughts will come – again thousands of them in a day. Our skill in noticing those thoughts and giving space between them and our feelings/reactions are what will allow us to find the ‘truth’ in our thoughts. Especially when we find ourselves struggling with negative thoughts/feelings, ask yourself these questions:
Is it true? It might be but just asking this question provides that space we need before we react.
Is it absolutely true? This question adds additional space. This means, is it 100% true what I’m thinking? Is there another way to look at this?
How does thinking this thought make me feel? We are so good at creating stories and headlines about things. Note what thinking this thought makes you feel like – such as sad, angry, jealous, hurt, fearful, etc.
What would it be like if I let this thought/belief go? Imagine that thought leaving you and your body/mind. How would it change how you feel?
The bottom line is thoughts aren’t facts – a few are, but even they are usually subject to interpretation and perception, but most are not and are made up by our minds thinking in the past or fearing the future. They are not usually related to what is NOW! So giving ourselves some space with the questions above provides that opportunity to investigate our thoughts and feelings and leaves us in much more control of our emotions (and therefore, our lives) than we might have thought possible.