How many times a day do you tell yourself what you should be doing?
Or what you should not be doing? Or should not be thinking? Or should not be feeling?
This is just one of the ways we often speak to ourselves, whether spoken out loud or not.
Our internal conversation with ourselves is, more often than not, unkind, judgmental, rude or pushy. We would never speak like that to a friend or colleague.
It’s often also full of fear and negativity.
Whether conscious or subconscious we may believe this helps us get things done. But does it serve us?
Think now about something you “should” be doing. Or all the things you “should” be doing!
Did you notice how that made you feel, physically and emotionally?
It’s possible you’re so used to thinking this way, you didn’t notice anything different.
What I observe in myself and my clients is that this type of thinking is accompanied by excess tension, tightening and contraction – a narrowing both physically and mentally. This kind of thinking causes STRESS.
Now try thinking this, in exactly the words it is written.
“I am free to choose.”
Don’t concentrate on the thought. Think of it as a whisper to yourself about a delightful secret. If you don’t quite believe it, see if you can be open to the possibility.
This is an example of a different way of thinking – the type of thinking I encourage my clients to explore and use.
Did you notice how your body responded? Did you have an emotional response?
You may have had a big response – a big breath, a letting-go of tension, a feeling of relief, perhaps?
Or you may have experience something subtler.
It can take a while to become aware of ourselves in this way, so don’t worry if you didn’t notice anything, or if you can’t quite put your finger on what did change.
We often behave and feel as if we don’t have choice. That we are not free.
I believe, however, that we usually DO have a choice, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Of course, there are consequences to making certain choices, but still, we have choices. If we can remind ourselves that freedom and choice are possibilities, reality even, we will likely feel better about what we are doing. It’s empowering and freeing.
What we think, and the way we think it IS important.
The truth is, a single thought can change our whole attitude, physical and mental, in a split second.
In the words of William James,
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
This means that self-care can happen in a moment – the moment it takes to choose one thought over another.
We can learn that it’s not the situation itself that is the problem – it’s our response to it.
This has long helped me in how I operate in my work and in my life in general.
With everything that’s happening in the world right now, as well as my own long to-do list and personal concerns, I have found this ability to be invaluable to me – providing me with moments of self-care, moments of ease and stress relief whenever I remember to pay attention. It’s a practice, that’s for sure, and one I can, and must, come back to over and over again.
So, YES, it is possible transform stress into ease with a single thought.
This idea is central to what I teach. I specifically teach my clients to direct their attention and thinking in a way that inspires expansiveness, release of tension, freedom of movement and being, possibility and choice. In fact, the participants in my EASY Self-Care Program received a carefully crafted and sequenced “Thought for the Day” each weekday for 12 weeks as a key component of the course.
Self-care really can be quick and easy – just the time it takes to shift your thinking.
How did you find the exploration? What thoughts do you notice yourself having that are not helpful? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave your comment in the space at the bottom of the page.
Photograph © delcreations / 123RF Stock Photo