Thursday, September 17, 2009

Overcoming Negative Emotions

One of the many lessons I have learned in my life, and continue to learn, is that my thoughts create my emotions, and my emotions create my behaviors, and then it circles back around. Once this cycle begins it seems almost impossible to stop. If my thoughts are positive in nature, the results can help me live my best life. However, if they are negative thoughts, what follows are negative feelings, followed by negative behaviors. Through this pattern I have come to realize that I must look at my negativity as an opportunity to grow and development. I have developed a series of steps that help me acknowledge when this pattern of negativity is beginning, as well as how to disrupt the pattern and ultimately stop it from continuing any further.

The first step is to create more awareness as to what thoughts I am actually thinking when I am thinking them. I use a technique called quieting the mind. To quiet the mind I meditate in order to cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness basically means awareness, and I have found that the more I practice meditation, the more mindful or aware I become of the constant barrage of negative thoughts that flow through my mind. This awareness has allowed me to realize that not all of my thoughts are rational, or are they necessarily based in reality. Therefore, because of my awareness, a red flag appears each time I think something negative about myself, my situation, or even an idea that I might have. When this flag goes up I am instantly able to reassess the thought and see where it might have originated and if it still holds any truth for me. Many times the thought is something I learned as a child, or was told as a child by significant others in my life, but it is not what I beli! eve as an adult. Then with this knowledge I am able to challenge it and eventually erase it.

The second technique is called listening to the heart. Listening to the heart involves paying attention to the actual feelings I am feeling in any given situation. I have learned that my feelings provide very valuable information as to what my values are, what my true beliefs are, what situations or people drain my energy, and what boundaries I need to create and enforce in order to protect myself. Many times my negative thoughts instantly create a negative feeling of being frustrated, irritated, angry, jealous, and afraid. Since these thoughts and feelings happen almost simultaneously, I have learned that not only do I need to pay more attention to the actual thought that triggers the negative emotions, I also need to pay more attention to the emotion itself. The first thing I do is identify what feeling I am experiencing. I then allow myself the room to experience that feeling, which provides me with the opportunity to work through the feeling and get past it. Through! this process I am also able to connect the feeling to a deeper meaning for me, realizing that whatever I am angry or frustrated about in that moment, is not the real issue. The real issue is much deeper. This provides a much broader perspective from which to view my feelings, which makes them less overwhelming.

The bottom line is that the more awareness I create around what actually fuels my emotions and ultimately my behaviors, the more control I have over how I respond to various situations and stressors. Learning that the more conscious I am, the better decisions and choices I will make, which will lead to a happier, more balanced, and more meaningful life. Making these connections is imperative in disrupting and stopping the negative patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

It might be useful for you in your own life to look at some your behaviors that you might view as negative. They can be behaviors of trying to control or manipulate those around you, or over eating, over spending, working too much, drinking too much, being judgmental towards others, or a combination of some or all of these. We all have behaviors that we engage in that do not lift us up to be our best selves. If we learn to analyze what feelings might be driving those behaviors, and then what thoughts are driving those feelings, it becomes possible to stop and interrupt this pattern. We can then choose new patterns that are more positive and that will help us create our best life from the inside out.

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