Your Brain on Mindfulness
ABC's of Stress - A Lesson on Perspective Building
EXAMPLE: (A) Friend turns you down for dinner + (B) no one likes you = (C) sad/feel rejected
Unrealistically distorting your experiences produces these thoughts which then lead to your negative emotions.
If you want to change your emotion, you will need to change your beliefs. To change your beliefs you need to examine them.
Consider: In this example, no one likes you. Examine the evidence - Why do you think no one likes you? Does one person turning you down actually mean that no one likes you? Does this one event mean that no one will ever like you? Does this mean that everyone must like you?
By challenging your thoughts & beliefs about yourself, you can change your emotional reactions. Once you can start picking apart the illogical basis for your emotions you can free yourself from being dominated by emotions like rage, jealousy, and rejection and instead boost your emotions like happiness, contentment, and joy.
SADNESS = the belief that you’ve lost or will lose something important to you
ANGER = the belief that someone has taken something away from you
ANXIETY = the belief that something bad will happen to you
Focusing Inward Vs. Focusing Outward
You always have the ability to focus outward or focus inward. Focusing outward means paying attention to what’s happening around you. Focusing inward means paying attention to what’s happening inside you: your breath, your feelings, and your thoughts. Most people are good at focusing their attention outward - on their friends, on their phone, or on what people around them are doing. Focusing outward can keep us safe and help us read social cues.
It is equally important to be able to focus inward. If you don’t, you might not notice your thoughts or feelings until they get really strong and start to affect your behavior.
Another thing, we tend to hold onto negative comments from others much more strongly than positive ones. If we’re not careful, negative comments can affect us for weeks, months, or even years!
Do you spend more time focusing outward on what’s going on around you, or focused inward on yourself?
Watching Your Thoughts
Sometimes we tell ourselves (in our minds) about how good or bad we are, about what we can or can’t do, or about other people. When we notice these stories, we can step back from them and decide if we want to believe them or not. If we are aware of them, the stories no longer have so much power over our actions. Noticing our thoughts gives us the power to change them if we want. You can notice your stories, or thought patterns, by watching your thoughts come and go. Watching your thoughts is different from “thinking” - when you watch your thoughts, you try not to get carried away by any one thought or fear or fantasy.
Can you think of any beliefs you had about yourself in the past? Do you think these beliefs were helpful or harmful to you?
Managing Thoughts & Feelings
Your thoughts and feelings are always changing. It’s important to know this because when you’re feeling angry or sad, you know that you won’t always feel that way. It will eventually change. And when you’re really happy, you won’t try to make it last forever, because that’s impossible.
Have you ever felt really down or sad and felt like things would always be that way?
No matter how strong those feelings are, something shifts and you realize with time that those feelings have changed. That’s the nature of our emotions - they give us information but they are not who we are.
Think of the last time you were excited (alternatively: worried or sad). How long did that last?
Unhelpful Patterns of Thinking
Positive thinking is important for success in all areas. Avoid these negative patterns of thinking to avoid falling into a downward spiral of negativity.
All or Nothing Thinking: Black/White thinking. If I don’t do this right, I’m a failure.
Overgeneralization: Seeing a pattern based on a single event. Being overly broad. “I never win” “Nothing Good Ever Happens to Me”
Jumping to Conclusions: 2 things: thinking you know what others are thinking or thinking you can predict the future
Mental Filter: noticing our failures but not seeing our successes
Disqualifying the Positive: Discounting the good things that have happened or that you’ve done - thinking it doesn’t count
Emotional Reasoning: Assuming because we FEEL a certain way, what we think must be true. “I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot.”
Catastrophizing or Minimizing: Blowing things out of proportion or making them seem less important.
Should Statements: Using words like “should/must/ought” which make us feel guilty or like we’ve failed.