Do you control your thoughts or do your thoughts control you?
Throughout the duration of lockdown I have been reading and studying for my own personal development. What exactly is personal development? We studied it in school, but at such a young age I know I personally didn't value developing myself as I didn't understand quite what that meant. I think the things I have been learning and researching should be taught in schools as frankly there would a lot less hate and pain in the world for it. But, it must be taught by someone that is passionate about self-help and development and not simply the RE or English teacher that has some free classes in their diary.
That being said, it is never too late to discover yourself and work on you. Before now, I have always thought that living my best life and working on myself equalled going to the gym 5 days a week, or doing my fake tan and nails to feel better about myself. Yes, these are coping mechanisms and they definitely boost serotonin levels in your brain, making you feel better as a result, but for me these were always methods of picking myself up when I was down, which was actually quite often. How much of us have to have a pamper night once a week or even crack the bottle open to cope with the weekly stresses we are faced with? Feeling the need to have to pick yourself up on a weekly basis isn't right. Even if it is simply one day of the week that you find yourself feeling down, this totals up to 52 bad days for every week in a year. Think of all of the good things and memories you could be making in those 52 days. I for one didn't realise how often I was feeling down until I was forced to sit with myself for weeks with not many distractions bar the 9-5. I'm not someone that is clinically depressed either, nor am I going through serious hardship, but I now see how much happier I could have been.
I know that life isn't all roses and daisies and that having bad days is inevitable, as we can't control how every aspect of our life is going to go. What we can control however, is our mindset. If you gain control of your mind, you can handle so much more, in a more logical and rational manner. One of the online courses I have taken up during lockdown is Becca Gillen's 'lockdown breakthrough' free mindset course. I was a bit sceptical about this course as I completed the first few sections as there are assignments you have to complete, disclosing information about how you're feeling -some of those emotions I have never even let myself think about never mind talk to someone about it. The assignments don't get feedback either, so I thought 'how is this supposed to help if they aren't going to tell me what's wrong with the way I'm thinking...'
As I continued on through the course, I soon figured that by completing the chapters you begin to analyse your own thoughts and emotions on a deeper level, understanding now where you are going wrong. These negative thought patterns I could now notice and am aware of are called 'Cognitive Distortions'. Simply put, it means that our mind is convincing us of something that is not true. The exercise for this section stands out to me in particular as it helped me understand this idea better and actually put it into practice when these negative thoughts were creeping in. Becca tells you to identify a negative thought pattern you might be having frequently. Let's take 'I'm not good enough' for example. Then, write down all of the pieces of evidence you can find that make this thought true. So you might say 'I failed my exam, I dropped out of uni, I got dumped'. Then, the next task is to write down all of the evidence that this is not true. You start off: 'I passed 5 other exams, I got that job, I don't have to be good enough for anyone else'. Soon, you find this list growing and growing as you think of all of the evidence that disproves the negative thought you once had and you feel relieved when you read over this list of now positive affirmations before submitting.
This is just one simple exercise you can use to stop your subconscious, negative thought patterns in their tracks and nip them in the bud before you let it manifest and take another good day from your year. Aim to get those potential 52 days down to as little as possible! You can control it if you put your mind to it :)