The benefits of practicing mindfulness become immediately apparent when we spend few minutes listening to our thoughts.
What am I going to make for dinner? I can’t believe that guy just cut me off and gave ME the finger! I miss my best friend. Speaking of missing, did I miss a dentist appointment last week? Ugh, I really wish I could get my shit together.
Sound familiar? I’m willing to bet that at least one of these thoughts—or something very similar—has crossed your mind within the last hour.
We do our best on a daily basis to take care of ourselves and others, earn enough to make ends meet, work toward our goals, and maybe even have some fun and take time off once in a while… All while being inundated with a constant barrage of thoughts.
And I’m not just talking about mealtime musings and wondering where you left your keys. It’s also the negative, judgmental, self-defeating words you say to yourself. The nasty stuff that holds you back, depresses you, creates anxiety and a sense of defeat before you even get started!
I know that at times (perhaps more often than not!) your brain might seem like an uncontrollable whirlwind of mental chatter rather than your most powerful tool. But I promise it doesn’t take a neuroscience degree to harness your fabulous noggin.
Wellness starts with your mind.
In another blog post, we talked about my 5 pillars of wellness—what you’re eating, drinking and thinking, and how you’re resting and renewing.
Today I’m going to dive deeper into Pillar 3: What you’re thinking.
Just because it’s Pillar 3 doesn’t mean it’s third most important. In fact, I believe it’s necessary to visit this Pillar first because we need a clear vision of our goals. We need to know what they look and feel like, before we can achieve them.
First, we’re going to unpack the truth behind negative thoughts and why they tend to be the loudest. Then I’ll demystify what it really means to take care of your mind by simplifying your mindfulness practice and clearing out mental chatter.
What is mental chatter?
Mental chatter is the tens of thousands of thoughts that we have every day. And if this constant chatter wasn’t distracting enough, research shows that our brains automatically tend to reach for and dwell on the negative more often than the positive (this is known as negativity bias).
Negativity bias does serve an evolutionary purpose. For example, we learn not to touch the stove again because that unpleasant OUCH warning came through loud and clear. However, in the absence of a hot stove, our negative, limiting, and self-deprecating thoughts crowd out the good ones. And that can make it pretty tough to cultivate the mental clarity and positivity you need to live a vibrant, healthy life.
I know it may not always feel like it, but you do have the power to influence what goes on in your head. That’s what the thinking pillar is about—noticing your thoughts and learning to gently guide them. Let’s talk about a few ways to do that.
1. Take care of yourself.
It’s a lot easier to find ways to practice mindfulness and reduce mental chatter when you take care of yourself on a daily basis. However, this doesn’t mean you need to run out and spend a lot of money.
Self-care is not about getting a massage on a private yacht in the Aegean. Or even taking an entire day off to get your nails done and take a bubble bath. It’s actually much simpler (and more affordable) than that.
Self-care is healthcare. It’s a daily practice, a daily routine, and not a once-in-a-while treat. And when we’re talking about it within the context of the thinking pillar, that means taking the time to pause and be kind to yourself.
So, the first step to improving mindfulness is to show yourself some compassion. Give yourself permission to take a break from the mental chatter. Get to know that brilliant spirit of yours, because you are such good company! No yachts or big bucks required.
It’s no secret that I swear by the power of meditation. I’ve recorded a few albums of my own (here) and my personal practice has truly changed my life. It’s a big part of building the thinking pillar, which is why monthly meditations are one of the many treats you’ll enjoy as an Inner Circle Wellness member!
But there’s a common misconception about meditation that I want to clear up. I’m talking about the idea that to meditate the “right way” you must sit in silence for 20+ minutes every day. Listen up: There is no right way to meditate.
Meditation, above all else, is about meeting yourself where you are. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Focus on your breathing. Whisper a positive mantra to yourself. Meditate for 2 minutes while you do the dishes. You don’t even have to be sitting down to meditate. Walking meditation can be very effective too.
Start small and do what you can. Before you know it, you’re a meditator, honey! Remember: You can find peace in your own mind, no matter where you are.
3. Focus on the present.
Remember what I said about the tens of thousands of thoughts running through your mind every day? Well, just because there are a lot of them doesn’t mean space is unlimited!
A lot of the mental chatter that fills up this valuable real estate is junk. Thoughts that dim your shine. Beliefs that keep you small. While sometimes they have something to reveal to you, many times they don’t.
If you’re finding it difficult to manage your unruly thoughts and feelings, a mindfulness practice can help you to focus your attention on the task at hand. When you find yourself making up future stories or dwelling on past mistakes, gently bring your full attention to the present moment. Become aware of your thoughts. If they’re important, file them for later. If they’re not, send them packing.
The trick is to stay in the present moment. Focus your intention on remaining in the present and what is happening in this moment. The great thing is you can practice mindfulness no matter what you’re doing, from brushing your teeth to mindfully eating your dinner.
You’re clearing out space for something bigger, better and far more beautiful. Think of your brain as the precious natural resource it truly is. It’s wise and deep beyond understanding, yet innocent and vulnerable at the same time. Protect it with every ounce of your being.
Everything you need to care for yourself—mind, body and spirit.
I hope this advice abouts ways to practice mindfulness will help you build the thinking pillar in your own life, dear one. Remember that this is a process. A mind isn’t changed in a day. If you want to continue working on this together, I hope you’ll consider joining Inner Circle Wellness.
Go ahead and visit this page to learn more about what’s included in the membership—there’s way too much goodness to share here! I can’t wait to welcome you to the community soon.
Your turn: I hope today’s lessons serve as a gentle reminder that your thoughts create your reality. With that in mind, what reality do YOU want to create? It can be a small step (I want to get to bed by 10 p.m. at least 3 nights this week) or a bigger shift (I want to start writing that novel I’ve been dreaming about for years). Share in the comments below so we can support each other!
Peace & mental clarity,