Tame your intrusive thoughts

“The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much. It wants to draw your attention in completely.” – E.Tolle

Thoughts are those subjective pictures, sounds and words — and the beliefs, associations, interpretations, opinions and meanings that pass through our mind or hold our attention. Thoughts arise of their own accord and everyday we experience thousands of thoughts and they are the background noise of our inner mental landscape. Whether positive or negative these thoughts clutter your minds, just like your house gets cluttered when you have too many possessions. Unfortunately clearing your mental clutter isn’t as simple as eliminating a possession. You cant throw away a thought. Your thoughts have a way of popping back up as you turn them down especially the disturbing ones.

When unwanted thoughts get your conscious attention, they manifest as moods, emotions, desires, impulses and influence your behaviour. Most of them are unhelpful that are intrusive, involuntary and negative in nature. Such random and problematic intrusive thoughts interfere with your clear thinking, distort your reality, control your moods or limit your potential self.

Being controlled by unpleasant or intrusive thoughts which pop into your mind can result in thought disturbances that are hard to manage. According to a research, most people are mind wavering 47% of their day. Mind wavering can be largely attributed to thought disturbances. However, struggling with, arguing with, trying to drown out or push away such unhelpful thoughts only amplifies them and you may find it difficult to get past such thoughts.

Why are some thoughts intrusive?

Some of our thoughts take the form of fear of the future, or negative memories of the past, or inappropriate that are unhelpful and unpleasant. They seem to appear out of almost no where and cause a great deal of anxiety. Intrusive thoughts are reinforced when you get entangled with them creating doubts about your decisions or your identity or safety. If not managed well, they can cause much distress and they may even lead to certain obsessive behaviours and can negatively impact your well-being.

Are intrusive thoughts normal?

You cannot will yourself not to think any such thoughts or to keep them out of your mind. Eventually thoughts like that drift back into your mind and rise to the surface. Having such thoughts is absolutely normal and many experience unwanted thoughts on a daily basis, but fixating or believing in them or getting controlled by them leads to problems and may cause unhealthy or dysfunctional behaviours. Because of the content of such thoughts is mostly alien or unacceptable and is at odds with who you are, they make you anxious. One of the common myth is that having such thoughts mean that you unconsciously want to do the things that come into your mind. This is not true and in fact trying to fight or avoiding them only ends up in reinforcing them. Knowing how to deal with invasive thoughts can be the key to prevent them from negatively impacting your normal functioning.

How to tame your intrusive thoughts…

Do you ever worry with your thoughts of such intrusive or obsessive nature? You would have noticed that the harder you try to suppress or to distract or substitute such thoughts, the more you tend to get caught up in them. Learning to deal with them effectively can reduce your fearful and negative reaction towards them but also reduces your over sensitivity towards such thoughts. Here is how you can tame your intrusive thoughts.

Accept your intrusive thoughts

Many of us avoid them because we are afraid of negative, fearful, unpleasant, disgusting thoughts; afraid of mental impulses. We tend to avoid intrusive thoughts because we don’t know how to deal with them. An emotional reaction to how you think just keeps them alive. This means that they will appear over and over until you do actually deal with them. Treating them real or avoiding them or trying to change your behaviour based on such thoughts only leads to a compulsive behaviour. You should learn the fact that sometimes the content of such thoughts is meaningless and irrelevant.

Instead of reacting to them as though they are real, Accept them and tell yourself the truth that they have no intrinsic reality and you aren’t purposefully thinking the thought and it doesn’t represent you. Accepting them stops you to react negatively to intrusive thoughts.

Practice ‘cognitive diffusion’

You have a choice in how you choose to respond to intrusive thoughts. This is possible when you are able to identify intrusive thought patterns that end up creating negative emotions or feelings. Here are certain patterns to help you recognise your unhelpful thoughts.

• Thoughts of imagined future or expecting bad things lead you to what-if scenarios causing fear, anxiety and worry.

• Focusing on your weaknesses or perceived flaws results in thoughts of not being good enough. Such patterns often increase your negative self-talk and self-criticism.

• Dwelling on your bad choices and wrong actions leads to thoughts of worthlessness and ruminating over your past mistakes creates thoughts of shame and guilt.

• Habit of lamenting in your sorrows and problems makes you fixate in thoughts based on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. This leads to frustration and wishing things were different.

Stepping back from your repetitive and unhelpful intrusive thoughts, by recognising and identifying them is the process of cognitive diffusion. When you are fused with your thoughts, you tend to believe and take them seriously as you buy into them, obey them and play them out. But by learning to see the thoughts simply as they are — as thoughts and not reality, you can step back into cognitive diffusion. You can hold on to them lightly and do not take your thoughts seriously. You only listen to them if you find them helpful or valuable. Being aware of unhelpful thought patterns when they arise will help you to not to get entangled in and they lose their power to generate unpleasant emotions.

Label your intrusive thoughts

In order not to get stuck in some of your negative thought patterns, it is important to name your thought. When an unhelpful thought pattern arises, simply labelling it mentally can reduce your reaction.

Intrusive thoughts are mostly repetitive and involve certain story lines. When an unhelpful thought comes up with a story line, try to label and let it go without giving much attention to it. It’s just a thought and not reality. Try and open your awareness to yourself and world around. As soon as you name your thought, you step back from being caught up in it and you stop being drawn into the negativity it creates. When you are mentally labelling your thoughts as ‘anxious’ or ‘fearful’ or ‘worrisome’, make sure you do so with compassion and not with aggression or frustration. This helps you to reflect on them with a positive perspective and respond to them peacefully.

Develop present moment awareness

Another effective way to deal with your intrusive thoughts is to bring back your awareness to the present moment. Paying attention to your present moment can get you out of your excessive unhelpful thinking and can ease you out of the internal noise so created. Bringing all your attention to your senses can calm your mind and grounds you in the present moment. In this way, little to no room is left in your attention for all that unwanted and unhelpful thoughts that are intrusive in nature. Being mindful of the present moment brings you back from mind wandering when you get lost in your old habits, beliefs, and negative reaction patterns. Through mindfulness, you build your capacity to change the contents of your thoughts to ‘present’ rather than about a remembered past or anticipated future.

Question your intrusive thoughts

As human beings, we have an inherent negativity bias, with our mental chatter being skewed more towards the negative rather than positive. So despite everything, certain intrusive thoughts can continue to have grip on you. In such cases, you can test reality of your thoughts by asking some helpful questions like ‘Am I creating negative interpretations?’ ‘Is my thought helpful?’ ‘What is the evidence for and against my thinking?’ ‘What is the best part of this situation or person?’ ‘Am I filtering out the positive and dwelling on the negative?’ This way, you can focus on constructive thoughts or actions and can try and find a positive. Doing a goal-directed thinking can also help you see things in a different perspective.

Conclusion

We cannot consistently think only positive thoughts because you cannot control your thoughts but only your response to them. In fact, despite all the efforts, intrusive thoughts float through your mind and rise to the surface. It is absolutely normal for you to experience unhelpful, or unpleasant thoughts from time to time. Even though they make you anxious and uncomfortable, there is no quick fix method to control or quite your thoughts in any lasting way. But by practicing above mentioned strategies, you can, however, tame them and redirect your attention towards positive by not letting them control or giving into them. With a little practice and persistence, you can untangle yourself from unhelpful intrusive thought patterns and can change your focus to more meaningful.

“You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.”

Develop a positive self-perception

“A strong positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success” – Dr. Joyce brothers

No matter how intelligent, attractive, or talented you may be — to the degree you doubt your worthiness you tend to sabotage your efforts in achieving your goals. Your sense of self-worth is related to your perception of yourself. Your self-perception depends on knowing who you are, what you are like, and what you are capable of. Self-perception goes beyond positive self-esteem, and also involves your shortcomings, problem areas and shapes your life by creating tendencies. Like for instance, If you feel worthy and deserving, you tend to make productive choices and if you feel unworthy and undeserving, you tend to make destructive or limiting choices. When you do your self-assessment with your perceived worth, you have self-perception problems because your emotions or misconceptions lead you to false choices and sometimes to wrong conclusions. Adjusting your self-perception can improve your circumstances by changing the choices you make and the actions you take.

Self-perception problems takes many forms, such as engaging in self discriminating behaviour or undermining your health, success, or lowering your self-esteem. The moment we recognise the degree to which our problems are self-imposed, we begin to solve these problems by taking responsibility for the choices and actions that caused it. One of the most important measure you can take is to become aware of how your self-perception or self-image has shaped your existence and how you can transcend it. We each have the ability to achieve greatness. But sometimes this requires reframing your self-messaging to recognise your potential.

“You must have a positive self perception in order to transcend anything.” – Steve Maraboli

What is self-perception?

Self-perception is the personal view, or mental picture that we have of ourselves. It describes the characteristics of self, including how we think and feel, based on our physical appearance, intelligence, talents and performance. These characteristics form an internal dictionary of our strengths and weaknesses. Based on these, we tend to assign labels to our personal self and form conclusions about our image like for instance, I am intelligent…therefore I am…, or I am a failure.. therefore I believe I cannot…It is through these conclusions, our self-perception becomes either positive or negative.

How is self-perception developed?

Self-perception is mostly a product of our experiences. Factors like religion,culture, environment, friends and peers have a major influence on our self-perception. Our experience with others and world around add to our perception. Relationships and family influence what we think and feel about ourselves. The perception of our self may be a real or distorted view of who we really are. Based on this view, we develop either positive or negative self-perception. We continually take into and evaluate ourselves based on our appearance, relationship, and performance.

We all begin our life with a complete, natural sense of worth, but as we grow, we serve as our own judge, or get heavily influenced by others’ opinions and start to validate or negate how we perceive ourselves. As a result, we constantly strive to live up to societal expectations and compare ourselves to others. When we fail to measure up, we give rise to doubt, pessimism thereby eventually discouraging ourselves and end up in self-sabotaging our own efforts and talents. If your self-perception depends on external factors, it results in negative self-worth.

On the other hand, if your self-perception is based on your personal perspective, and not on societal expectations, you will have a more positive self-perception.

Importance of self-perception

Self-perception is important because how we perceive ourselves affects how we feel and think about ourselves and how we interact with others and the world around us. A positive self-perception boosts our physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. On the other hand, having wrong self-perception leads to low self-worth and you end up focusing more on your faults, weaknesses, failure and imperfections. This results in constant self-criticism and your imperfections blown out of proportion. With a positive perception, you recognise your strengths and full potential while being realistic about your limitations.

How can you develop an accurate perception of yourself

Self-perception is not permanent and keeps changing according to our experiences. Our perceptions of ourselves will never be that perfect. However many times, we fail to perceive ourselves accurately and as a result we fail at reaching our full potential and decreases our satisfaction and ability to function in certain areas of our life. If you don’t think you can go after your dreams, passions, or you’re worried you can’t change your negative behaviour, or simply you lack confidence, the problem might not be your situation, but just your perception of yourself. You can learn to develop a more positive and accurate view of yourself by challenging the distortions of your thinking. Here is how you can develop a more positive perception of yourself.

Rely on your self-awareness

First step in fixing your perception of yourself is to identify how you see yourself. Develop an awareness of who you are and your strengths and weaknesses. Answering certain questions like what defines your true self and how you see yourself will reveal a realistic perspective and you can get to know your strengths and also gives you an opportunity to work on your weaknesses. Acceptance of your weaknesses or flaws is an important step to work on them over time. Relying on your own awareness and not being influenced by others’ opinion not only gives you a greater sense of control over yourself but also a realistic view of your abilities.

Confront your thinking distortions

Your perception of yourself is primarily based on your personal feelings, emotions, and perspectives. To get an understanding of your thinking distortion’s, notice your critical voice, unhelpful thoughts and limiting beliefs. Notice your inner dialogue. Are your thoughts mostly critical or encouraging?Are your thoughts helpful or unhelpful when things go wrong? How do your thoughts tends to distort your reality? How do you label yourself? Are your labels helpful or unhelpful in achieving your goals? Are your thoughts rational? What assumptions do you tend to make about yourself? Working through these will help you confront your unhelpful, distorted thoughts, beliefs and incorrect assumptions. If you notice that you are overly critical of yourself and your thoughts are unhelpful and negative, then it’s important to work through these areas in order to overcome your negative self-perception.

Focus on positive attitudes

You don’t need to be perfect, in fact if you can learn from your mistakes and failures, and view them as learning experience, you can shift your perception from negative to positive. If you can stop judging your mistakes so harshly, you can stop yourself from falling into self-defeating cycles and from negatively engaging in negative behaviours. By focusing on your strengths, you can review your mistakes and embrace challenges to perceive yourself as more able and competent.

Don’t Rely on external validation

Allowing others to define you will allow others to shape your attitudes, perception and opinions. If you depend on external validation, you are always comparing and trying to live up to expectations of others. You alone can change your self-perception to positive based on your own representation of yourself and not on others definition of you. This can happen by accepting who you are and taking responsibility of your thoughts and choices. This enables you to have an optimistic outlook and more confidence in yourself and in your own ability.

Stop self-criticism

The desire to be perfect creates anxiety and sometimes leads to self-criticism. When you indulge in self-criticism, your inner-critic takes over thereby creating a negative perception of yourself. However constructive criticism can be helpful providing optimism and motivation. But if your self-talk is making you feel helpless and hurting your confidence, then instead of criticising yourself, choose to give yourself a honest feedback that will provide you an opportunity to improve and will help you build a positive self-image.

Follow your passions

Finally, define your personal goals and objectives. What are your strengths? What goals are you passionate about achieving? How can you live with more meaning and purpose? Following your passions and purpose will replace the negative beliefs you carry about yourself. You can add all the positive layers to form a definite and a positive image of yourself. Take credit for your accomplishments and strengthen your worthiness despite others opinion.

Conclusion

By perceiving yourself valuable, you can create your own definition of who you are. A positive self-perception is all about how you see yourself without external influences and embracing your true self. Overcoming negative self-perception requires conscious effort and consistency. Follow the above mentioned suggestions to develop a positive and a more accurate view of yourself. Acknowledge your strengths and live with innate self-worth.

What we perceive about ourselves is greatly a reflection of how we will end up living our lives.” – Stephen Richards

Related Links

https://sscascades.org/2018/08/10/harness-the-power-of-what-is/

https://sscascades.org/2018/05/23/practice-self-appreciation/

Reframe your limiting beliefs

Most of the times, we are open about our physical health, but how often do we seriously consider our mental well-being?

Many of us lead busy, often hectic lives, so it is easy to experience certain levels of stress and anxiety that have an adverse impact on our thoughts, efficiency, emotional well-being and overall health.

Thinking is basically a mental process; which helps one define, organise, plan, learn, reflect and create experiences. In-fact human beings think at the rate of 1300 to 1800 words per minute according to a study. This explains why our mind wanders even when we are listening to others. One’s mind has all kinds of fleeting thoughts passing at any particular time. Day to day stressors add on to the kind of thoughts we have and are also one of the reason of we having unpleasant and irrational thoughts that don’t serve us any purpose.

Thoughts on their own will not affect one’s destiny, but if one spends time dwelling upon the unpleasant thoughts, surely then they impact one’s life in every kind of way. The prolonged periods of unpleasant mental state can be detrimental to your mental health and hinder you from performing to your maximum potential. So a lot depends on your ability to think correctly in certain stressful situations and unexpected life situations. Correct thinking is only possible if done so consciously and on purpose. Most of the times it is your beliefs that influence how you think. When you hold on to certain beliefs that don’t serve your interest or values, they give rise to unpleasantness which in turn hurts your ability to be rational, happy and successful.

Your beliefs shape your thoughts

Your beliefs have an impact on how you think, feel and act most of the time. The emotions we feel and the behaviours that arise from emotions are due to the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, people and environment around. Our beliefs shape our interpretations and how we evaluate certain situations and occasionally, due to certain limited beliefs we hold of ourselves, our thoughts can be distorted, biased, or negative thereby giving rise to irrational thought patterns and negative moods.

Because of such irrational thought patterns, we interpret the facts through a distorted perspective and create the impression that imaginary scenarios represent actual facts. If you hold onto negative beliefs, you tend to worry about things that are unlikely to happen. Such biased thinking affects your communication with others, your emotional/ mental well-being as well as your perceptions. Inability to perceive reality accurately leads to errors in your thinking and causes cognitive bias. These biases make you think in a very exaggerated and irrational ways, causing fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Because one’s thinking is so firmly associated with one’s beliefs, it’s not easy to change one’s thinking pattern unless you put in the required work to reframe your limited beliefs.

So, how do you deal with your irrational thinking?

Our minds constantly create narratives as they are pattern making machines. We always like to process facts through our minds and build association that seem to have a logic or rationale behind them. In doing so, we become victims of certain beliefs that aren’t logical, rational, or accurate representation of facts. This is one of the reason why we think in an exaggerated and irrational way about ourselves at times by giving into our negative beliefs. In some ways, our brains get wired to make these errors every now and then making ‘distorted’ or ‘faulty’ thinking patterns.

It is possible to modify your irrational thought patterns by being able to recognise what you are perceiving, assuming, and expecting. Being aware of your irrational thoughts and learning to reframe or restructure them with rational thoughts can be helpful especially when you are in situations that cause anxiety or depression or stress. It is important to learn that situations are not always the cause of our irrational thinking, but it is the way we perceive and interpret the situations. Interpreting the relevant facts of the situation effectively to come to rational conclusions can help in eliminating some of your false assumptions about yourself.

By restructuring your thoughts and reframing the way you interpret a situation, you can deal with your irrational thoughts and slowly make progress towards rational thoughts that are more empowering.

How to reframe your irrational thoughts and limiting beliefs ?

The essential idea behind reframing is that a point of view depends on the frame it is viewed in. When the frame is shifted, the meaning changes and thinking and behaviour change along with it. Cognitive restructuring or reframing helps in observing, identifying and modifying irrational thoughts to rational thoughts and negative mental patterns to positive ones. By reframing, you can think constructively and can practice accurate thinking. You can reframe your limited beliefs to new beliefs that better serves you and your goals. Constructive reframing also helps in overcoming certain mood disorders, anxiety, stress or depression. It is about reorganising thoughts, ideas, awarenesses into correct perspective and putting them into practice. Here are some ways to practice cognitive reframing of your limited beliefs.

Familiarise yourself with cognitive errors

When you learn to familiarise yourself with certain errors in your thinking and cognitive biases, you can challenge your limiting beliefs and eliminate negative thoughts. Here are some examples of cognitive errors which leads to irrational thinking.

• Downplaying the importance of a positive thought or emotion or event thereby magnifying the negatives like “useless”, “ failure”, or “inadequate.”

• Drawing conclusions when there is little or no evidence or on the basis of perceptions and not on real facts.

• “Making mountain of a molehill” Blowing things out of proportion.

• Using words like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everyone’, ‘all’, ‘nobody’, etc.,

• Emotional reasoning – concluding that your emotional reaction proves something true, regardless of the observed facts.

Perfectionism – Thinking that you always have to be perfect, sating “should”, or “ must.”

• Thinking there are only two possibilities, when there may be other alternatives you haven’t considered.

Overgeneralisation – making conclusions based on a single event.

• Attributing personal responsibility for events which aren’t under your control.

• Thinking in extremes like “black-and-white” or “all-or-nothing thinking” (all good or all bad with no middle ground)

Practice noticing when you have these distortions in your thinking and ask yourself what other ways you could think. By being aware of these errors and reframing them can help you overcome your limited beliefs.

Challenge your irrational thoughts

Identify the thoughts that are of wrong perceptions and assumptions. Sometimes emotions make it difficult for you to think logically. The beliefs that we hold change how we manage our day-to-day experiences. Examine what are your negative beliefs and which emotions are involved and question how valid they really are. By questioning your negative beliefs and looking for alternatives, you can replace thoughts led by fear with realistic and positive thoughts. Replace obstructive and limiting thoughts with positive and empowering thoughts.

Track the accuracy of a thought

Analyse what the pros and cons of your limiting thoughts and beliefs. Evaluate the evidence for or against your irrational thought. Examine the validity of irrational thoughts and beliefs by asking critical thinking questions like what’s the worst possible and what’s the best possible thing of that thought. Once you narrow down to your irrational belief, you can think of a way to reframe it into more accurate and positive belief. Do not make up super unrealistic beliefs, instead find more positive way to frame a belief without deluding the facts of the situation.

Apply alternative views

There are always multiple perspectives to any given situation or circumstance. When you restructure your beliefs, you can look at the same facts through a new perspective and interpret in a way that can keep you motivated. By changing your perspective, you can make out your previous thinking errors and can transform them into rational thoughts. This way, you can discover the best way to view a situation so that it brings out your best possible self.

Avoid using extreme language

Often while expressing a negative belief or thought, we use exaggerated words like “never”, or “always”, or “very” and we end up identifying with negativity in ourselves too strongly. Instead, you can replace them with “sometimes”, or “at times”, or a “little”. This way you can downplay the negativity by how you speak about these negative traits by describing them in less intense ways. This way you can leave more room for positivity, improvement, and change. Reframe the way you describe your experiences and memories.

Develop mindful awareness

Simple meditation practice can develop your awareness of negative and irrational thoughts. Focusing your attention on your breath allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind. Whenever you notice any irrational thought popping, gently bring your attention back to experiencing the sensation of your breathing. Meditation is a great way to train yourself to be mindful of irrational thoughts and beliefs.

Finally, set your own direction and evaluate your progress. There are many ways to reframe any particular situation. And the way you would want to reframe a situation depends on your current goals, values, decisions and choices you make.

Conclusion

Cognitive reframing of your negative beliefs is extremely effective if used properly and consistently. It can help you overcome your limiting beliefs to become happy and successful. Reframing your limiting beliefs takes time and effort to master, but once mastered, you can keep repeating this positive thinking pattern for better results that add value to your goals. Take time to learn how to change your thinking for better and go beyond your limited beliefs and preconceived assumptions. Always remember constructive thinking is a process, one gets better with practice and experience.

Improve your resilience quotient

What helps you persevere is your resilience and commitment.” -Roy. T. Bennett

We all undergo changes when we are exposed to stress or experience difficult and uncertain situations. Stress we experience affects us psychologically as well as physically. We all feel grief, sadness and range of other emotions after adversity or loss. They make us wonder which path to take, what decision to make, and at times they can be crippling if we are not resilient enough. Your thinking influences the way you show up and evaluate these situations. To work through the emotions and effects of stress in stressful events that you encounter, you need to keep yourself emotionally and mentally strong in such circumstances.

Resilience is the capacity to adapt yourself successfully in the face of uncertain and difficult situations. It is the ability to move through challenges and to adapt in order to create positive outcomes by responding effectively to stressful situations. Being resilient doesn’t mean going through life without experiencing stress and pain, but it is the ability to harness your internal capacity to manage these life events as you process through them. By learning to be emotionally resilient, you can keep from negative emotions such as fear, or anxiety, or anger, or frustration that arise in such situations. Contrary to people’s belief, resilience is not an ability that you are born with. It can be learnt and built at any stage in your life. You can build resilience through better thinking and self-management skills.

What lowers your Resilience?

All of us experience times when we feel emotionally overwhelmed in certain situations and during such times, some of us allow our feelings to control our actions or we let negative emotions cloud our vision. This often makes us regret the things we say or do and wish we had been more resilient or had been able to keep our actions or words in check. Whereas some people deal with seemingly difficult situations more easily than others. Here are certain things that lower your resilience quotient.

• Inability to manage your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

• Excessive self-blame, regret and guilt.

• Non-willingness to face your fears.

• Giving into instant gratification instead of thinking long-term.

• Blaming your problems on external circumstances

• Focusing on things that are beyond your control.

• Inability to acknowledge your choices and taking responsibility.

• Inability to own your mistakes and to learn from them.

• Clinging to hatred, anger and resentment.

• Unwillingness to step out of your comfort zone.

To make yourself mentally strong in the face of obstacles, a lot depends on your confidence in your abilities to handle challenges and the way you evaluate these situations and events in your life.

So, how do you improve your Resilience quotient?

You can learn to habitually assess things from a different perspective by staying focused on your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. We all feel anxious when we are going through big life changes. To avoid negative emotions during such changes, you must prioritise self-care and celebrate your successes, no matter how small they are. Thoughts of self-doubt and self-criticism lower your resilience. On the contrary, every thought of self-appreciation can create more positive mental experiences. You can see yourself resilient and purposeful rather than as victim. There is little these stressors can do to you if you maintain good emotional and mental state by being aware of your emotional and psychological limitations.

Building resilience is an important part of growth and change. There are several ways to cultivate resilience. Here are some to raise your resilience quotient.

Flexibility

“ The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.” – Robert Jordan

In stressful situations, ego, fixed beliefs and expectations are some of the things that make us resist the change. It is often wiser to practice acceptance and acknowledge that such situations are demanding a course change. The only way forward is to go with the flow and adjust your attitude. Be flexible in your thinking and look for alternative solutions to the challenges you are faced with. A shift in your perspective can help you see the situation from a new point of view.

Being okay with discomfort

When we are going through uncertain events or situations, most of us feel insecure and unsure of ourselves. Difficulties take us out of our comfort zones making us uncomfortable. By facing your fears and by allowing discomfort amid uncertain circumstances, you can grow and become more emotionally resilient. Accepting despite the discomfort you feel, you can function relatively under pressure, cope better, and can bounce back from hard times. Learning to think and act from outside your comfort zones raises your resilience quotient and you can shrug off the harmful impacts of stress.

Self-compassion

In difficult moments, it’s essential to practice self-compassion. Maintain your self-confidence rather being controlled by your self-critical voice which triggers discontentment and prompts you to be defensive and avoidant. Instead, by being self-compassionate, you can come up with coping strategies and begin to view your mistakes with understanding and patience. You are more likely to take responsibility for your part and focus on being compassionate towards the fears held by your inner critic. You can come up with constructive counters to your most destructive self-criticism and deeply held fears.

Optimism

Develop a generally positive outlook when you experience challenges in your life. With a realistic and optimistic attitude, things turn out a little better than you might have presumed. Going through difficulties with a positive perspective, rather than giving into negativity of your past or people in your life makes you more open-minded, positive and resilient. Learn to view negative emotions that distress you in a positive light. By recognising uncertainty as an opportunity for growth, you can easily move through the obstacles. Acknowledge your strengths and maintain a positive view of yourself.

Challenge mindset

Many of us fear failure and avoid making certain choices in order to overcome challenges. As a result, we prevent ourselves from becoming more resilient. Treating failure like challenge helps you build challenge mindset. Reflecting on past challenges that you have overcome and other things you have been successful at, you can help raise your resilience quotient. By ruminating about what could go wrong builds your fear for failure. On the other hand, if you shift your mindset to view situations that you could fail at as a challenge, then you are more likely to think you are capable of handling difficult situations. You can learn to avoid overestimating the probability of negative outcomes and learn to view challenging situations not as a threat but as challenging and something to learn from.

Being futuristic

The ability to think about future where you will no longer be feeling so bad about whatever you are struggling with helps you get through difficult experiences. It can reduce the intensity of negative emotions you are probably experiencing. When you are midst of a stressful situation, ask yourself as to how will you feel about the particular event in a year from now. Broaden your vision from future perspective and estimate how they might unfold into the future. This way you can build your resilience in the present moment.

Breaking your negative thought patterns

We come to believe that thinking about our hardships over and over again will help us solve them. When bad things happen, many of us get caught up in our negative thought patterns, instead of taking actions we need to move forward. When we believe the worst will come true, we set ourselves up for unnecessary stress and poor resilience. Break your negative thought patterns by focusing on something else or try to do something else that uses both your mind and body. Meditation or exercise are few methods to break your negative patterns.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness and practising deep and slow breathing can help you take charge of your negative emotions and improve your response to emotional situations. When you observe negative thoughts, focusing on your breath allows you to become distracted from The automaticity of the feelings-thought-action cycle and bringing your attention back to your present moment. Being mindful positively affects thought patterns underlying anxiety, stress, depression and irritability. By accepting and letting go of these emotions, you will allow negativity to fade away often sooner than when you actually fight against them.

Finally,

cultivate meaning and believe in your self to be resilient. Meaning and purposefulness gives you motivational framework to lean into and provides a positive perspective to remain open to life’s many experiences.

Conclusion

It is always important to remember that difficult situations make you more stronger and resilient. It’s what your mind makes of a situation and not the situation itself. So don’t waste energy wishing things were different or trying to change others people when going through stressful or difficult situations. Instead stay focused on managing yourself by keeping in mind the above strategies and make most of those situations by turning down your overly negative responses.

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” – Gever Fulley

How to get your thoughts working for you

The decisions and choices we make determine the direction we take in our lives, and we do so by our thoughts. Thoughts if aligned with our goals and with what we want to achieve can take us forward—and, obviously, this is the direction most of us want to take. But many times, we go in the opposite direction because of various negative factors. We must be able to Identify and get these thoughts working for us,

Instead of they moving us away from our goals and shifting our direction. With conscious effort, we can correct their alignment by making them more harmonious with our desires and get these thoughts work for us and not against.

Your thoughts have huge influence on the choices you make.

We are all engaged in a continuous internal dialogue in which the meaning and emotional associations of one thought triggers the next, without we being consciously aware of the process. We launch our desires in the form of a thought and they are an important part of our inner wisdom. A thought held long enough and repeated enough becomes a belief. We shape our lives by the choices made around these beliefs and build our identity without even realising it. Every choice you’ve made – the big or small ones – have lead you to this moment in your life. We contribute towards the creation of every condition in our lives with our internal thought process influencing us. But when we get involved in negative emotions and feelings, we begin to compare, criticise, form opinions, and we fall out of tune, and tend to make wrong choices thereby making them work against to what we want to achieve.

Your thoughts have consequences

Everything that has or had not happened in your life is because of the choices you have made so far and your thoughts play a major role. Our mind has a tendency to dwell on the past or stress about the future and can often cause us more confusion and stress leading to negative and stressful thoughts. When your mind is untrained, it can lead you to a negative path based on past memories and perceptions. More negative thoughts, more are the chances of making bad choices and this can further sabotage your efforts of creating the life you would dream of. It is simple fact that positive thoughts lead to better choices and thus to a positive life. Negativity leads to limited and wrong choices,

You are the creator of your thoughts

You are the only person who is in charge of your thoughts. You get to have whatever you choose to think. So rather than trying to stop thinking, it is important to train yourself to a habit of thinking the sort of thoughts you want which help you make better choices. By changing your thoughts you can change your reality. According to science, our brain is highly flexible and have the ability to reset its circuit through what we choose to focus our thoughts on. You have the power to use your thoughts to rewire your brain to positive pathways.

Why is it important to get your thoughts working for you

We say we want to be happy, but we make choices that bring us the opposite. It’s your choices that create your experiences.

“ your mind is a tool you can choose to use any way you wish.”

If you believe that you can change a thought, then your choice of this thought will make it true for you.

Your thoughts are shaped by your memories, your goals, your desires, your beliefs that makes you who you are. But your thoughts can’t always be trusted as some of them might be created by your negativity of emotions and feelings. For instance, you might want things to be, rather than accepting whatever might happen when you put forth your best effort. You get frustrated because you are attached to how you want them to be, rather than accepting them as they are. You might choose to procrastinate, as you are attached to things being easy and comfortable rather than accepting that to do something, you have to push into discomfort and so on.

Acquiring a positive mental attitude can:

Free you from your negative self

By making positive choices you precisely free yourself from all the negativity inhabiting your mind. Negative thoughts and choices prevent you from making a step forward because they make you feel incapable of doing something. You surrender to them each time and never consider going against them. This makes you take poor and limited choices. With positive thinking, you can liberate yourself from negativity rooted inside you.

Open up different possibilities

Negativity compels you to behave in a specified manner and you tend to restrict yourself from taking action as you are frightened of certain outcome. Hence, you cannot go beyond that outcome and cannot increase your possibilities. Your mind gets conditioned to see the bleak side of thing. By making your thoughts positive, you can see different possibilities and resolve a situation in the best possible manner.

Help in self-empowerment

Positive thinking empowers you by identifying your unique skill set and talents which otherwise you would have never explored due to your negative thoughts and choices. Positive thinking boosts your confidence to find out what you are good at and helps you make good choices. You can refine your raw talents and make them help you to achieve your goals.

How to get your thoughts working for you

“ you are what you are and you are where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You change what you are and you change where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” – Zig Ziglar

A positive thought process can help you focus on the positive and productive by shutting out the negative and unrewarding. Choose your thoughts to take yourself from where you are to where you want to be. Acknowledge and transform your negative thoughts and get them aligned with your goals and not against.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to reinforce your positive thoughts and choices.

Stop blaming

Stop blaming your past, or people for how your life is. Nobody has a perfect life and many have lived through bad phases. You cannot change your past, however you can choose to change how you feel about it and how you allow it to affect you. Don’t choose to hang on to your old story as your excuse for how awful your life is right now. You don’t have to blame yourself for negative experiences. Let go of all guilt, blame and do not hate yourself for having negative thoughts. Learn from these experiences and use them to build you up to take you towards your goals.

Challenge your negative thoughts

Identify your negative thoughts and challenge as to how realistic your current concerns are and their logic. Test the illogical thoughts. Analyse how likely each of those thing is to actually happen and how you would deal with the problem if it were to occur. You need to keep reinforcing positive thoughts. This will open up your possibilities. “When the negative weeds grow, pluck them out as quickly as you can.”

At the same time do not punish yourself for making negative choices, you’ll find it difficult to let them go and move on to more positive choices.

Avoid being delusional

Your life is a result of the choices you make. If you don’t like your life, it is time to start making better choices.”

If you don’t like the choices that have gotten you up to this point, face the truth and identify what isn’t working in your life. Take a step back and figure out why. Do not delude yourself that things are going to get better to make you happy. Don’t fall victim to fake hope syndrome by setting unrealistic expectations and making frequent attempts to change them.

Practice positive mental diet

When you feed your mind with positive affirmations, information, conversations, books and thoughts, you develop a more positive attitude and can make positive choices. ‘Good-in, Good-out.’ When you make a clear decision to eliminate negativity, you can choose to make positive choices that make you more capable and competent. A positive mind keepe the thoughts in sync with your goals, plans and dreams.

Stop complaining

If you want something different from what you have right now, then you have to do something different from what you’re doing. If you want others to treat you differently, start yourself treating differently. Stop complaining and start taking responsibility for the way things are in your life. If you want different outcomes, make different choices. Desires and goals can produce anxiety, stress, and competitiveness and you need to recognise those that do. you can choose to rearrange your thoughts to make the situation better instead of wasting time in complaining.

Practice positive self-talk

Just because you say you want something different or better, your inner being is not going to go along with you. What you believe about yourself and your worthiness or ability to have what you want is important. It is important to build self-worth and value in yourself because when you feel not good enough, you choose ways to keep yourself miserable, choose to procrastinate, and might opt for unhealthy food choicesnand habits. Positive self-talk is programming yourself to change. Using positive affirmations and positive statements to control your inner dialoguelets you make better choices.

Practice mindfulness

In mindfulness, you will essentially be looking at your own thoughts and can assess them. Be persistent in giving yourself few quite moments each day to reflect on your process of change. Become aware of negative thoughts and nurture the willingness to let go of them.

Nourish and affirm your intentions to keep you on track and enable you to meet your goals.

Finally, take full responsibility for where you are currently in life. If you’re not happy with what you have today and make a choice right now to make a change in your life by changing the way you think in order to make your thoughts work for you. Recognise the power of the freedom of will which allows you to change anything that you do not agree with.

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.” —Stephen Covey

Harness the power of ‘what is’

“We need to focus on the present moment, the only one we can really live in, to be truly effective.”

Ability to manage our attention is an important determinant of our success. But we are continuously bombarded by external events in our daily life and experience various distractions and information overload all the time. Most of us never go beyond a narrow, personalised sense of self that is conditioned by past and an anticipated future which is far from present. As a result, our ability to pay attention at will comes under control by external factors and by our past conditioning. We constantly attach thoughts and feelings to external factors, events from past and imaginary future. Because of this, the world around and people in particular come to be perceived as threatening. We begin to judge and the need to compete and dominate arises. Our perceptions and interpretations change and we take actions based on anger, despair, fear and frustration. The actions thus taken generate an automated cycle of negative behaviour where we tend to react to everything automatically without any present moment awareness and attention.

Performing right actions comes down to making right choices and this requires the ability to pay attention to the present moment. Giving full attention to whatever the moment present is possible only through complete acceptance, because you cannot give your full attention to something at the same time resist it.

Importance of acceptance

Accepting yourself unconditionally fosters your efforts to attain your highest potential and encourages you to live up to the highest in you. The non-evaluative observation of ‘what is’ without distortion through mindful acceptance and attention allows you to break the automatic response to the external events by disrupting the unconscious progression of thoughts and emotions. You can bring peace by connecting to your true self. This helps in promoting physical and emotional well-being by removing stress and inner conflict.

Acceptance means positive action

To some people, acceptance may have negative connotations, implying defeat, giving up, lethargy and so on. They might think by always accepting the way things are, they are not going to make any efforts to improve them. True acceptance does not mean to passively put up with whatever situation you find yourself in and to do nothing about it. Nor does it mean to cease initiating positive action. Accepting the present moment unconditionally is to let go inner resistance to ‘what is’. Inner resistance is to say ‘no’ to ‘what is’ through mental judgment and emotional negativity. Acceptance of what is does not mean that you cannot take action and change the situation. You don’t need to accept undesirable life situation, but just narrow your attention to the present moment without mentally labelling it in any way. Action with no resistance, no judgment, and no emotional negativity results in positive action and is far more effective than negative action, which arises out of anger, despair or frustration.

If you find your life situation unsatisfactory or even intolerable, it is only through acceptance that you can break the unconscious resistance pattern that perpetuates the situation. Acceptance is the starting point. Unless there is complete acceptance, we will never develop the willingness to change ourselves. This is true for every experience, addiction and weakness. Accepting your true self and of ‘what is’, you can begin to take action, initiate change or achieve goals.

Practice accepting ‘what is’

Focusing on the present moment through conscious acceptance allows you to improve your attention by breaking the automatic feeling-thought-action cycle. Acceptance allows you to take wiser decisions and enables you to cultivate a more balanced relationships. Here is how you can practice acceptance.

• Do not be concerned with the fruit of your action. Give attention to the ‘doing’ than the result that you want to achieve and in time you will be freed from what now seems impossible.

• Accumulation of past in your psyche reinforces false sense of ‘self’ by denying the present moment. You don’t need the past moment, refer to it only when it is relevant to present.

• Don’t be a ‘habitual waiter’, waiting to achieve your goals — with every kind of waiting, you reduce the present moment to a means to an end leading to non fulfilment and dissatisfaction. Strive to achieve your goals but don’t use them to substitute for the feeling of being, whole and complete.

• Watch your thoughts as well as your reactions in various situations. Notice how often your attention is in the past or future. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future when they are not needed.

• Practice meditation to rediscover your unconditional self. Notice your breathing patterns and observe your thoughts and emotions. Accepting your situation through being mindful helps you gain focus and clarity about what triggers certain feelings and emotions.

• Practice focusing your attention in the present moment while eating, drinking, working and while communicating. This reduces stress and anxiety, as well as increases your emotional intelligence. Giving your complete attention to what you do results in empowered action.

• Avoid labelling every perception and experience. When you mentally name or label a situation in some way as undesirable or bad, you tend to personalise the resentment which in turn brings a reactive “me.” Break this habit by practicing “not naming.” Don’t name an experience as “bad” and instead bring an inner “yes” to it.

• When you are unhappy, stay totally with what is. Do not unconsciously designate your deficient sense of self through being ‘right’ and making something ‘wrong’. This leads to reactivity and creates conflict between your external circumstances at that moment. Instead of complaining about the circumstances, accept. This will allow you to make peace and you will be able to turn to present.

• Patiently work with your difficulties. Acceptance builds trust into the current situation and you can focus on underlying opportunities.

Conclusion

Notice how total are you in what you do or in your daily activities.

Watch how it feels like when you don’t want to be where you are — the traffic, work place, the people you are with, dealing with the countless things that make up your daily life — accept the ‘isness’ of the moments in your life. Whatever your life situation is,

practice completely accepting it as it is — where you are, who you are with, or what you are doing. This improves your full attention to the moment and your doing becomes more effective, fulfilling and joyful.

“Pause and remember— When you fight reality, you will lose every time. Once you accept the situation for what it truly is, not what you want it to be, you are then free to move forward.” — Jenni Young