Peace of mind:
******** Change your thoughts and you change your world. Norman Vincent Peale ********
Peace of mind comes from learning to separate yourself from your thoughts. Psychologists call this cognitive defusion and it is an effective way to reduce anxiety.
How cognitive behavioral therapy works
The basic premise of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is that our thoughts create the way we feel and our feelings then influence our behaviour. If we learn to challenge our thoughts and not accept them as real, we begin to enjoy more peace of mind. Have you ever become so worked up through your thinking? Our thoughts are powerful and they have the ability to make us feel overwhelmed and completely anxious.
The irony is that we can be perfectly safe in the real world but our thoughts make us feel as if we are in imminent danger. Our negative thinking activates our stress response in the brain and we go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Peace of mind comes from dismissing our thoughts and getting our focus back into the room or onto our surroundings.
You can’t stop the thoughts
There is a well-known saying in the therapy world, ” You can’t control who knocks at the door but you can control how long you would like to entertain them for”. Think of your thoughts in this way. We can’t stop them coming and we have approximately 80 000 thoughts per day! Only 10% of our thoughts are useful and constructive – the rest are made up of our fears and insecurities. We are ‘wired’ to stay safe but our minds work overtime to detect threat and this creates unnecessary anxiety. Our brain doesn’t know the difference between a threat alert for a raging fire or a toaster
Our thoughts create sadness, fear, anger, and other unhelpful feelings but the goods news is that YOU are the creator of your thoughts.
Put your thoughts into perspective
It’s important to remember that thoughts are not an accurate representation of reality. They are based on our fears and insecurities and they interfere with our peace of mind.
Below, so I have included a YouTube video with a brilliant exercise from acceptance and commitment therapy. This exercise is something that I do regularly with my clients and it is a way to see your thoughts as separate from you. It’s a visualisation technique to help you practice allowing the thoughts to pass by without paying too much attention to them.
Leaves on a stream – Cognitive Defusion technique to ease anxiety
Become a better ‘Thought manager’
Sometimes our thoughts are ‘sticky’. By this, I mean that our negative thoughts stay in our minds and go round and round causing us distress. Unfortunately, anxiety is a part of life and therapy will never eradicate anxiety forever. What therapy will do is help you to engage less with your negative thoughts.
Mindfulness is a wonderful way to escape our constant nagging worries. I do this often when I am overthinking – I force myself to focus on my surroundings. My surroundings are real whereas my thoughts aren’t.
Most of our worry comes from the uncertainty of the future or regrets from the past. Hypothetical worry is focused on things that we have little control over and is, therefore, a waste of mental energy. Peace of mind improves when you set goals and live according to your values. There is no point in worrying about what might happen in the future because it hasn’t happened yet and it may never happen.
Instead, focus on real worry that is happening now and that you have the ability to do something about. An example of real worry would be your car breaking down or losing your car keys when you need to drive somewhere in a hurry. It’s happening now and you can do something to fix it.
Hypothetical worry on the other hand often starts with these two words, “What if?”. Practice dismissing your what-if thoughts. If possible, problem solve, action what you can, and then let the worry go. For example, you might catch yourself worrying about travelling abroad in the future. You might think – “What if I get ill overseas?”.
Practical steps that you could take would be to obtain travel insurance, but because you aren’t ill and you might never be ill, there is nothing more you can do at this stage. So once you have booked your travel insurance let the worry go.
Your thoughts will constantly be trying to frighten you or tell you that things aren’t possible. Think of your negative thoughts and self-criticism as coming from an ‘inner bully’. Imagine being stuck in a locked room with a bully telling you that things will never work, you are not good enough and there’s no point in trying. You would be happy when the door was finally unlocked and you could get away from the bully. We can’t get away from our inner bully but we can dismiss the messages and look for alternatives that do not support any negative messages. (There is more often more than not, evidence that would prove our inner bully wrong anyway).
Let the thoughts come and go quietly like leaves on a stream, and you will find that your peace of mind improves.
Anxiety is here to stay but these tactics can help you live a more fulfilled and calmer life.
******** Your thoughts aren’t facts ********