• Susan Otim-Neal

The Noise In Your Head

We all have negative voices in our head. Some of us experience voices that are subtle, passive, and that can deceive us into thinking they are protecting us and keeping us safe. Others experience voices that are much more aggressive, and downright mean. Sometimes we are aware of their words and influence. Most of the time, we are oblivious to their destructive messages, and they impact our beliefs, sense of self, motivation, and happiness. One of the best ways to counter the impact of the negative inner voices in your head is to practice mindfulness. To be more mindful means to be more aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions in the present moment.

The problem with not being mindful of our thoughts is that we treat our thoughts as if they are real. We just simply accept whatever comes into our mind as fact without questioning it. And we have these thoughts so often that we believe them as truth. In reality, a thought is not a fact. A thought is just a thought. And when they are destructive (which they mostly are), they can have very negative ramifications. You may have, at some point, experienced one of the following thoughts: “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m fat,” or even “she’s so stupid.” If we think these, and any other damaging thoughts long enough, our mind will accept it as truth. Positive or negative, we begin looking for, or only paying attention to evidence that supports our thinking. When you begin paying attention to your thoughts through mindfulness, with gentle curiosity and no judgment, you can observe your thinking more objectively. To strengthen your mindfulness, try this activity.

Find a place where you can sit quietly for 5 minutes, following the rise and fall of your breath. Notice your thoughts coming and going, one thought after the other. Continue following your breath. Select a negative thought, assess it for truth, then either accept or reframe it more positively. This is a powerful exercise. Imagine catching even a fraction of your negative thoughts, assessing them for truth (which most aren’t), and reframing them in a more positive and truthful way.

After completing this brief exercise, you probably realize how little attention we all pay to our thoughts, yet how extremely powerful they are. Learning to notice your thoughts can lead you to better manage them, and reframe them to work for you, instead of against you.

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