Changing Thoughts

Changing Thoughts

A simple meditation for reframing unhelpful thinking behaviour. By Jill Lawson

Imagine this: It's three o'clock in the morning, and you have yet to fall asleep. You've been tossing and turning since you came to bed. Your body is tense, and your jaw aches from clenching your teeth. The worst part is your mind keeps racing. Fear, doubt, and worry govern every thought. You are wide awake when you are supposed to be asleep.

Stress can have deadly consequences, especially when it robs us of sleep. While it's tough to avoid every external stressor in life, our internal landscape doesn't have to suffer. It is possible to live a stress-free existence while navigating a stress-filled world. The secret is all in our thoughts.

Now imagine this: You are called into a meeting with your boss and unsure why. You immediately think you are in trouble, will get fired, or will get a demotion. Soon, our heart races, and physical tension increases. You endure another sleepless night.

Whatever the stressful scenario, this meditation will help you reframe your mind and avoid losing sleep when faced with a stressful event.

Do it now
First, it's essential to recognise the flow of events that typically occur relative to a stressful situation.

In the above example, the boss's call created a trigger that awakened the fear of failure creating unfavourable consequences. Triggers promote reactive thoughts that are typically negative and self-defeating. We can't always remove or avoid the cause, but we can soften the blow by adjusting our thoughts once triggered. Eventually, our thoughts will disarm the trigger so we can stay peaceful and calm.

Try this: Think of something you've lost sleep over. Pay attention to the first three thoughts that come to mind. Study these thoughts for a few deep breaths. Next, start replacing each thought with a positive, more constructive thought. Make sure the new thoughts uplift your internal dialog. For example, if you immediately think you are a failure after the boss's call, understand that this is just a reactive thought triggered by your fear of failure and is not the truth. Perhaps you can change your internal script to say failure is not a horrible, demoralising dead-end; it is a perfect launching point for growth. This thought change will help diffuse the fear of failure trigger.

Practice adjusting the thoughts that follow your triggers and soon notice how you can be free of the dangerous consequences of stress. By changing your thoughts, you can change your life and get back to having a good night's sleep.

Jill Lawson is a writer and yoga teacher enjoying life on the island of Maui in Hawaii (jilllawson.net)

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