When was the last time you did something nice for yourself? Maybe you treated yourself to a massage, a weekend away, a nice dinner out, or a quite night with a book. This is good self-care. Another type of kindness is equally important―gentle self-talk.
Imagine that your mind is a beautiful garden. You have the skill to maintain the garden’s design. You can carefully remove the weeds, prune and water the flowers. Or, you can let the weeds overtake the garden, possibly destroying the flowers.
Weeds are like the negative thoughts in our mind and flowers are like our happier thoughts. If we don’t tend to the weeds and the flowers, one or the other will thrive. Nurturing our inner thoughts, like someone laboring over a garden, is hard work. But the outcome is a garden we imagined and wanted.
Here are three steps to take when cultivating the garden of your thoughts:
1. Recognize the weeds
We have an estimated 70,000 thoughts a day according to a Psychology Today article. To help recognize a negative thought with so many floating in our head, start noticing how you feel. If you feel depressed or anxious, see if you can remember what you were just thinking. Even write it down. Our thoughts tend to be habitual and self-critical. We can continually say things to ourselves like, “I’m not smart enough to do this” or “It’s too late for me.” However, this doesn’t mean that negative thoughts are bad. We all have them. What’s important is that we start witnessing them so we can, instead, think positive words.
Author Ruth Fishel observed, “Brain wave tests prove that when we use positive words, our “feel good” hormones flow. Positive self-talk releases endorphins and serotonin in our brain, which then flow throughout our body, making us feel good. These neurotransmitters stop flowing when we use negative words.”
Protecting our inner sanctuary of thoughts is an act of self-kindness and vital to our well-being and success.
2. Respond with compassion
Our negative thoughts have less power over us once we distinguish them. We can then replace them with life-affirming thoughts – thoughts that are valuable and optimistic.
Let’s say you’re having a bad day. You come home and as you go about your night, you go into an inner assault of how you acted that day – what you said or didn’t say. You feel anxious and frustrated in your body, even angry. Think about what a friend would say to you in this moment. Surely, it would be soothing, kind words, something like, “It will be okay” and “You did your best”.
Tara Cousineau, PhD, author of the book, The Kindness Cure, writes, “Awareness of how your body is responding to something is important because it allows you to understand your triggers, and when you have this understanding you won’t feel at such odds with yourself. This is the root of self-care. You can even consciously engage the vagal system for soothing. One way is to use your voice. You can speak to anyone, even yourself, in a lulling, affectionate tone, which is called “motherease” or “vocal prosody.” That has a profound calming effect physiologically.”
Speaking to ourselves with loving kindness, as we would towards a friend, helps us to feel better, emotionally and physically.
3. Develop the habit of positive thinking
Change is hard, especially when it comes to our habitual thought patterns. However, with effective tools, it’s possible to tame our self-destructive thoughts. Here are two:
- Practice gratitude – Being thankful for what we have in life is a great way to redirect our minds from what’s wrong with you or your life to what’s right. The practice of gratitude also boosts our happiness by 25 percent – according to Robert Emmons, PhD, a gratitude expert. He says that grateful people experience more joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism.
- Create affirmations – Affirmations are a powerful way to help change our lives for the better. We can use them to reverse our negative beliefs. Let’s say you believe that you’re not smart enough. This belief may have come about because someone important in your life said that you couldn’t do something. You decided they were right. So now your thoughts are pervasive and preventing you from your true potential. If you changed that belief to “I am worthy of success” and recited those words every day, the feelings of inadequacy will eventually disappear.
What insights do you have on cultivating positive thoughts? You can share by commenting below. We would love to hear from you!