Change your thoughts to change your life

Deepak Chopra quotes

“Simply with a change of mind you can change your life.”

“Our future is created from choices we make every minute.”

Seriously, my thoughts have created my life?

Since my forays into the land of self-help began, at 24 years old, everything alluded to the fact that the power to change your life is within your thoughts. I cannot tell you how many times I have been completely inspired by this and how many times I have been so angry about it. My anger always came when I was in a low place and couldn’t seem to find a way out of my situation. I felt like this message was telling me that I had deliberately put myself in my bad situation and that everything that was going wrong was my fault.  

This is a very negative and destructive headspace to be in. What I need to make clear, so that you do not make the same mistakes I did, is that there is no blame or judgement. Our situation and our lives are a result of our thoughts, our actions and our behaviours but that does not mean that we are to blame.

Mostly our thoughts are unconscious. They are a product of what we were told as children and then they change according to how we are treated growing up and according to events in our lives. We are usually totally unaware of what our thoughts are telling us day in day out. How can we then be to blame for thoughts created as a child? How can we be to blame for something we are unaware of?

An example of this that always struck me is abusive relationships. A victim of domestic abuse is in no way to blame for being in an abusive relationship. However, their thoughts going into the relationship probably told them that they didn’t deserve any better and when they were in the relationship their thoughts may have said that they were unworthy and deserved the life they had. The more we head down the cycle of negative thoughts, the harder it is to see that it is our thoughts are perpetuating the situation and changing our thoughts may feel impossible. 

What I am trying to say with this is please do not just ignore any upcoming advice because the idea has evoked a powerful emotional reaction. I had these reactions so many times, but the fact is I came back to the idea again and again, because ultimately, it is true. Changing your thoughts is the only thing that will change your life.

Mindfulness

I am assuming that most people reading this will not have escaped from the mindfulness craze that has taken over in the last few years. Although I had a huge amount of self-help knowledge and experience, I didn’t really get mindfulness until I took a mindfulness course to help me manage my post-natal depression after The Baby.  

Mindfulness is actually really simple. It is just becoming aware of what is happening. Aware of what is around you, aware of how your body feels, aware of your emotions and aware of your thoughts.

Meditation

Becoming aware of what is going on can be incredibly difficult in this high-octane world that we live in. There is very little space for quiet time, pondering, thinking or just being.  How are we supposed to know what we think if we can’t even find the time to think about our thoughts?

Starting a meditation practice gives us the space to do these things. Meditation does not have to be anything special. You do not need gongs, bells and incense. All you need is some quiet and a little space.

Watch this very short video, by a Buddhist monk, which My Love recommended as it showed him how simple meditation is.

How to train your monkey mind

I think it is brilliantly simple! Initially, by concentrating on your breath, you are just teaching your brain to be calm, giving it some space. Once you have practiced and feel more confident in your meditation, you can choose to give some thoughts more attention. This is the point where you can start to become aware of your subconscious thoughts. Crucially though, becoming aware of your thoughts doesn’t mean engaging with them. If you feel that your thoughts starting to spiral, come back to concentrating on your breath until your mind settles again.

There are so many meditation videos of all types and lengths on You Tube so just have a play and see what suits you. If you want a starting point, I find the Honest Guys really good.

When you become more comfortable with meditation, it can also be done while moving. Yoga and Tai Chi are the most common examples of this, but there is no reason why the movement shouldn’t be simpler, like walking in nature or swimming. Anything that gives you quiet and space.

For yoga videos, I found the 30 day Yoga with Adriene practices an amazing starting point.

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Thoughts

So, now that we are aware of our thoughts, what thoughts have arisen?

It is so common to find thoughts that say:

  • I am not good/clever/strong/brave enough
  • I am a failure or always failing
  • I can’t do this
  • I am not enough
  • I am alone, nobody cares about me
  • Nobody likes me
  • It’s impossible/hopeless  
  • It’s my fault

You will probably find that your negative thoughts far outweigh your positive ones. It is estimated that we have between 2-3,000 thoughts an hour. Now imagine someone telling you ‘you are no good’ 2-3,000 times an hour. Then imagine that they have been telling yourself this most of your life. You are going to believe that aren’t you? This amount of negative energy is inevitably going to have a profound effect on actions, behaviours and choices which will massively impact the path of your life.  

How to change your thoughts

Once we have become aware of these thoughts – what to do about them?

We literally have to change our thoughts. Contradict them, say ‘NO!’ to them, tell your thoughts they are wrong. Then actively tell yourself something good. Initially this may feel really weird, but as with everything, with practice it becomes more natural.

It might help to write down the thoughts that were most prominent when meditating, and then write a counter to these thoughts.

As I have talked about so often, we are changing a habit (see How to stop alcohol cravings). These thoughts are just a habit. Trying to change all your thoughts at once is quite unlikely, so just pick a few thoughts and concentrate on those ones until your counter argument feels more natural, then pick a new thought habit to change.

For example, if your thoughts say ‘I am not good enough’ you say no! And change your thought to ‘I am confident and capable, I am enough’ or ‘I am loving and caring, I am enough’ or simply, ‘I am amazing!’ You get the idea.

Some people find positive affirmations really good. A positive affirmation is just a positive statement about you and your life, such as ‘My life is full and happy’. Like a habit, saying these affirmations repeatedly, trains the brain to start thinking that affirmation. Thoughts, as we have seen, turn into actions and behaviours, these actions and behaviours change what you are doing to make these thoughts a reality. It’s a bit ‘fake it until you make it’, but it works!

Just a quick word of warning though. If your life is feeling pretty shit, and you are seriously down, saying ‘My life is full and happy’ is probably going to evoke feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, sadness and ultimately you will stop saying it  pretty quickly because it feels so far from the truth that it must be nonsense. So like all my advice, baby steps. Don’t say ‘My life is full and happy’ if it really really isn’t right now. Maybe pick one thing that you are grateful for. Once thing that made you smile, even slightly, or one person who loves you and say that ‘I am grateful for….’ Or ‘I have love in my life’ (I will write much more on gratitude soon). Slowly these small thoughts will improve your thoughts and mood and bring you to a place where you can move onto the bigger affirmations.

Learning to love and forgive yourself

Most important to your thought changing is kindness. You have to train yourself to be super doper kind to yourself.

No judgement, no blame.

One of the things I hear most often from people trying to change their lives, such as quitting drinking, (and believe me, I was no different), is ‘I have failed again’. Failure is a judgement, and you are also blaming yourself. Neither of these thoughts will help you. Things are as they are. If you have had a drink when you didn’t want to, then there is nothing that beating yourself up about it is going to do about that now; you can’t take it back or change it. The only thing beating yourself up might do is prevent you from starting again, and it is only by starting again and accumulating of baby steps that we finally reach our goal.

As I often say, it’s easier to say this than to practice it, especially if you have had a self-critical thought pattern for a long time. But as with everything, it takes awareness of your thoughts and consistent practice at changing them.

I have created a free course, sign up is below, which will send you a daily email with actions to take to change your thoughts and improve your sense of self-worth.

How changing your thoughts will change your relationship with alcohol  

By changing out thoughts, we become aware of what is going on in us. This awareness allows us to work out our triggers, the reasons that we drink and what we really want from life.

Changing your thoughts allows you to change our behaviours and introduce those new habits which can replace your alcohol habit (see How to stop alcohol cravings for more on this.)

It also allows us to start finding out who we really are. In not being critical we can start to actually like ourselves. Once you learn to love yourself, anything is possible. Most importantly, if you love yourself you will take time to nurture yourself and become the person you want to be.

Lessons I learnt from my thoughts

I learnt by doing this that my inner voice was hugely critical. I had no belief in myself, I was afraid of people and I needed to prove my life’s validity constantly. Every time I made a good or brave decision, my thoughts led me to sabotage it (see How I used alcohol to escape). I most definitely, looking back, created the life I have. Although I fought with this idea for so long – because I was full of anger, judgement and blame – it kept coming back until I realised I had to let go of dwelling on my past and trying to control my future, and simply be aware of my thoughts in the now. Being aware of the now will heal the past and change your future. Let go and trust. (See How to build a life you do not want to escape from for more on this).

Book recommendations for changing your thoughts

These books have been amazing for helping me to change my thoughts – so have a read if that sounds good.

For healing

For trusting

For changing

For happiness

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Awareness gives you the ability to consciously choose your thoughts and subsequently your actions and behaviours, and as a result your life.

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