Saturday, March 29, 2014

Want to feel better? Slow down

In the past month, I found myself thinking faster, adding items to my mental to-do list much faster, and acting faster. Go, go, go! Never enough time to get everything done! Rush through doing one thing as a way to get to the next important thing on the list, and get VERY irritated if something slows me down.

Using my mindfulness skills, I was able to pull back and notice how unpleasant it felt to be so speedy. Then, I made a very conscious effort to slow down, do one thing at a time, focus on only that task, and transition to a new activity at a reasonable pace—I'll get there when I get there—instead of rushing.  

It worked. My mood improved very, very quickly. I also made fewer mistakes, and my interactions with other people were smoother and more pleasant.

Of course, "feeling good and loving life" is complex; it will take many blog postings for me to share tips and techniques that can help you to make big progress. However, if you can do only ONE thing to feel better and to make your life go much better, I would suggest slowing down.

Slowing down doesn't mean that you have to move slowly. It means focusing on one thing at a time, keeping thoughts of other activities out of your awareness and connecting totally with only what you are doing in the moment. It means moving at an effective speed, the speed that will best get the job done. It doesn't mean sitting on  your hands or being a slow poke; it means walking instead of running. It means accepting that you can't do more than one item on your to-do list at a time; it means getting your to-do list out of your head so that it doesn't feel so heavy and overwhelmingwrite down your to-do list as a way to clear it from your mind!

So, try slowing down. Notice how it feels and how well it works.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thoughts have no power

That's what I said. Thoughts have NO power.

Thoughts have power only if you BELIEVE them. When you believe a thought—idea, concept, notion, what others say about you—it can be hard to see life clearly, and it can lead to bad decisions and ineffective action. Also, the more you dwell on a thought, the more likely you are to start believing it.

Let me use a silly example to demonstrate my point. Right now I'm thinking, "I can  fly like Superman." 

Just because I think that doesn't make it true, right? Now, let's say that I'm unfortunate enough to belief that I can fly like Superman. I might see lots of "evidence" around me that convinces me that I'm right. (Strong beliefs can filter what you see, hear, and think, so the only information that gets in strengthens what you already believe. People who believed that the earth was flat somehow found lots of evidence of flatness.) Let's say that I decide to take action based on the belief that I can fly, and I jump off a tall building in a single bound. In that case, you wouldn't be reading any more blog entries from me. 

The "flying like Superman" example is silly. Before I go, let me share types of thoughts that bother some of my clients, thoughts that should be dismissed and laughed at as much as "I can fly like Superman":
  • I'm stupid
  • I'll look stupid
  • People think I'm stupid
  • Nobody loves me
  • I'm fat
  • I'm ugly
  • I can't do that
  • I'm a loser
  • My father/mother should have loved me more
  • I'm broken
  • I'll never find love
  • That's easier said than done
  • I might never reach my potential
  • What's the use
  • Things will never get better
  • What's the use?
  • I hate him/her
Dismiss these powerless thoughts. Attention is like food for them; starve them! Instead, focus on doing something enjoyable and productive in the present moment. In time, those thoughts will lessen have less and less power over you. If you have "sticky" thoughts that are hard to shake, try using "thought stopping" techniques to interrupt and quiet them before returning your attention to the present moment.