How To Avoid Spiraling Into Negative Thinking
It’s raining in Los Angeles today. I usually prefer the sun. I opened my eyes this morning and took note of how I was feeling physically and emotionally. Everything felt pretty even.
But then, as I listened to the pitter patter of raindrops falling on my kitchen window, I reached for a coffee mug. My hand landed on a beautiful gift from my ex, a mug I’ve rarely drank out of in the eight months since he left. As I pulled it toward me I felt a sense of clarity and gratitude.
Most of the time, when it comes to my ex, I have to work on gratitude. But this time it just washed over me. It was a brief moment. My mind didn’t linger on him. It was a simple moment of feeling love and contentment for everything that has come before, everything that is right now, and everything that is working its way to me.
So I’m feeling pretty good today. Yesterday, on the other hand, I didn’t feel as connected. It wasn’t a bad day by any means. But it wasn’t a day where the gratitude was just flowing in. It just felt a little more challenging.
We want to feel good. There’s no doubt. And we should do what we can do get there. But part of the human experience is not feeling good, and it’s so important that we allow for that.
Yesterday I just wasn’t feelin’ it. That’s ok. I don’t have to feel great every single day. It’s not realistic. It’s not human. It’s not how we grow. But, as you’ll notice in your own experience, when we don’t feel good we make a huge problem of it.
We begin to nitpick the people around us. We focus on the areas of our lives where we think something is missing. We tell ourselves stories about not being good enough or things never going our way.
The things we’d let pass right through us on our good days we make mountains out of on our bad days.
This act alone is enough to throw us into a negative spiral.
On days like this I practice acceptance. I allow myself to feel however I need to feel. I don’t shame myself. I don’t make a big problem out of not feeling good. I simply allow myself to be human.
I tend to be someone who is super connected or as one of my mentors likes to say, “You’re used to being a high flying disk.” So when I don’t feel tapped in it feels awful because the way I’m used to feeling is so good. For a long time I would panic when I felt this way because it felt like something was really wrong.
With a strong commitment to a mindfulness practice I have learned to allow myself to ebb and flow through life. When I don’t feel tapped in I simply don’t make a huge problem out of it. I don’t try to control my experience.
The irony is that the more we try to make ourselves feel better we actually create more pain. When you don’t accept what is you create suffering. It’s pretty simple and pretty damn profound. Instead of fighting how you feel just surrender to it.
There’s a little caveat here, though. The mind is insidious, and it will trick you into thought patterns that don’t serve you. For example, yesterday I noticed I felt kind of off. The underlying fear is that something is wrong simply because I don’t feel great.
So my mind hunts for the reason something is wrong. At any given time I could find myself partly down a thought stream that was actually making me feel much worse than I was feeling.
Our minds are trying to solve the problem but maybe there's actually no problem to be solved.
That’s the caveat. We make problems out of things that aren’t problems. We have plenty of problems in our lives — real things to figure out. Don’t create ones that don’t already exist.
When you notice your mind is taking you down a thought stream that isn’t serving you just drop it. Yes, you can actually do that. It takes practice, but you can. You don’t need to be a victim of your mind.
When you do find that you’ve been thinking about something that’s validating a problem check in with yourself immediately and notice how you feel. I bet you’ll notice you feel even worse than before. This is the proof you need to use your will power to drop the thought.
When you drop your thought move into your body. Feel your muscles relax. Yesterday I did this when I released each thought and noticed that my shoulders were hunched each time. It was as if my body was working to protect me from the dangers my mind was creating. I let them fall. I took some deep breaths. I reminded myself that everything is ok exactly as it is.
I went home and did a little Breathwork. I let out some tears. I didn’t attach them to anyone or anything. I released my mind and simply continued to show up for myself.
I am committed to healing but I also don't need to build problems to solve.
Yesterday there was really no problem, and today I feel great. There will be another day when I fall off my high flying disk. I have a Paulo Coehlo quote written on a chalkboard in my kitchen. It reads:
“No matter how you are feeling, get up every morning and prepare to let your light shine forth.”
Some days your light might be shining bright and other days it might be dim. Your job is to keep showing up and to keep allowing yourself to shine no matter how bright.