Step One of the Mind TRACK to happiness process is Thoughts. The essential agenda of this step is to develop awareness and detachment.
The way you view the world is largely made up of habit, unless you take concious and deliberate control over your thoughts. Furthermore this habit of thinking is responsible for how you feel about your life.
If you feel sad, miserable, depressed, anxious, stressed, or any other emotion (good or bad), then it is because of the way you are interpreting the situations within your life, and how you have your self-worth tied up into these situations.
Events do not cause stress! Thoughts do.
Most of your thoughts were created at a time where you didn’t know any better. You were just a child, innocent to the way the world works and vulnerable to learning from the people in your environment who only knew what they were taught.
You naively took on the beliefs that you were exposed to and formed other beliefs as you interpreted your situations through this inexperienced mind.
What’s more, is that by taking on these beliefs and repetitively perceiving life through these lenses, you created physical neural pathways in the brain that has helped you to form this habit of thinking.
This thinking is the cause of your emotions. Emotions are always triggered by a belief.
What makes you laugh? Your beliefs about what is funny.
What makes you love? Your judgements about another person and whether they align with what you believe to be admirable traits in a person.
What makes you cry? Your perception of what is sad.
What makes you happy? The situation has aligned with the way you believe it ‘should’.
All of the emotions that you feel come from the beliefs that you hold and the habitual way you perceive life’s ups and downs.
Let’s have a specific look at a few common emotions:
Anger occurs because you are in conflict with the reality of what is actually happening. You believe that it ‘should’ be different and it is not. You are holding onto the picture you held in your mind of how things were supposed to unfold and you are holding onto this picture. You are in denial that it did not happen and you converse with yourself over this conflict.
Statements like, “I can’t believe [this is happening]”, “How could he/she do this to me“, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way“, etc.
A conversation in your mind always expands in the direction you send it, unless you deliberately stop it, so if your thinking is in conflict with the reality of an event, and you are holding onto what was supposed to happen, then this path of thinking will get progressively worse.
All thinking creates a physical reaction in the body, just like what happens if a spider was to crawl down the wall beside you or you feel afraid of the dark. With anger, there is a progressive accumulation of pent up energy that generates as the conversation in your mind accelerates along this pathway of thinking that is in conflict with reality, until at some point, it needs a release. This is when annoyance turns to anger.
Guilt occurs because you believe that you should be doing something different than what you are. You hold certain beliefs about how life ‘should’ be and if you do not feel like you are living up to the expectations you have which you believe proves you are a worthy person, then guilt kicks in.
It occurs very commonly with mums who believe that they can ‘have it all’, but then realise that it comes at a price. Usually mums feel like they are jeopardising their child’s life experience.
However, it is your perception of the events that is causing the guilt, not what you are doing. It also comes down to priorities and looking at why you are doing what you are doing, instead of what you believe you are ‘supposed’ to be doing.
In next week’s lessons we are going to explore all of these common types of emotions and I will show you how to apply the Mind TRACK to Happiness process to help you with these emotions.
We learn how to view ourselves at a very young age and quite often take this self-perception through life with us. If you’re anything like me you are constantly reviewing your performance and how people are perceiving you to check whether you are being accepted or approved of in order to validate your self-worth.
This is definitely a learnt response and in conflict with the reality that you are 100% worthy no matter what you are doing.
It is interesting when you first become aware of this self-criticism, just how destructive it is. I was shocked at the way I spoke to myself when I first became aware of my own thinking.
Blame & Resentment
We blame when we believe that someone ‘should’ have done something different than what they did. It’s somone else’s fault. Sometimes it’s not a person, sometimes it’s an event that we blame for happening and being the cause of our current problem. For example, an unplanned c-section.
We look for answers and find minimal comfort in being able to point our fingers at someone or something else. Once again blame comes from our beliefs about ‘right and wrong’ and believing that this wrong thing has interfered with our self-worth or quality of life.
Once we have blamed, we often progress into resentment where we are now resisting (in conflict with) what has happened and silently seethe about it, causing further pain and stress for ourselves.
All of these emotions mentioned above have thoughts that are in conflict with reality and are pereciving life to be wrong, meaning that we’ve missed out on something valuable for our lives, and fundamentally believing that this event means something negative about you or your life.
Awareness is the 1st key to the Thoughts Step
The first step on the Mind TRACK to Happiness process is to become aware of your thoughts. Because we are often using habitual thoughts to interpret life’s events, you must start to deliberately take notice of the thoughts going on inside your mind, so you can become aware of these habits of thinking and become aware of how they are directly responsible for how you feel.
The commentary that occurs inside your mind often goes on unconsciously, and we are unaware of just how destructive this thinking is. It can be a very enlightening exercise to listen to your thoughts on an ongoing basis.
Let your emotions be your guide. Whenever you are feeling low, down or stressed, put your attention upstairs to your mind and begin looking curiously at what thoughts are generating this feeling within you. How are you interpreting this situation? You will start to see a pattern emerging between the way you feel and the way you think.
Detachment is the 2nd key to the thoughts step
When you start to become aware of your thoughts, the next thing to do is to try and detach from these thoughts. Thoughts are often not a realistic perception of the situation and do not define who you are.
It is often your memes; thinking that has been handed down to you from society or your childhood environment that has caused you to think this way, not because it is actually true. Your brain doesn’t know any different than what it has been taught over time.
You have new information now though. When you can see your thoughts as the memes that are physically within your mind and not a representation of truth (especially when they are leading you to feeling bad about yourself or life), you learn to become more detached from these thoughts. You learn to see how it couldn’t have been any different considering your background and your parents beliefs and you start to understand that your feelings are a result of untruthful perceptions of life that can be changed.
It becomes interesting to watch what you say to yourself and how you react to circumstances and in a lot of cases, this step alone can be enough to make you realise how unreasonable or how irrelevant these thoughts are.
Many times, how you are now thinking is quite possibly redundant and certain not useful for obtaining a happy life. By becoming aware and detached by the thoughts that lead you to stress, you are then ready to move up the ladder to the next step of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process – Reality.
In tomorrow’s lesson we will summarise what this step is all about.