My personal mindfulness journey – How my mess became my message

How trying to KEEP POSITIVE made me anxious and stuck

and

How accepting negative feelings made me calmer and happier.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I attempted to always look for the bright side, turn my frown upside down and generally stay positive.

I believed it took just as much energy to look for the positive as it did to look for negatives. So I should always look for positives.

Sounds good right?

But…
I made myself anxious, miserable and I felt like a failure. Because some negative thoughts and feelings would inevitably creep in.

I tried to avoid negative thoughts and feelings at all costs. 

Like they were the worst thing that could possibly happen.  Negative feelings were simply unacceptable to me

I finally learnt that negative thoughts and feelings are totally normal human behaviour. 

From an evolutionary aspect, looking for danger kept us humans alive. We are hard-wired to look for the negative.

It IS harder to look on the bright side.

I know this information sounds simple and obvious to some, but for me it was truly a revelation.

  –

Ironically learning that negative thoughts and feelings are normal and accepting them, instead of trying to avoid them has made me much calmer and happier.

I know this might sound like I wallow in negativity now, but its actually the complete opposite.

Let me explain…

Example of old thought pattern…

  • I’m not good enough / I cant do it. (Or any other similar self doubt thought)
  • Well that’s a shitty thought Chriss, you should change that.
  • Come up with a perfectly acceptable reason why above negative thought isn’t true. (Seems like a reasonable and good thing to do)
  • Negative feeling pops back into my head (eventually)
  • I think I’m broken or weak because I cant control / stop this uneasy feeling no matter how much I try
  • Spend a fair amount of time and energy going round and round in circles.
This felt like trying to hold a beach ball under water. Constant and exhausting.

The below illustration demonstrates it perfectly, from ACT Auntie – find her on Facebook HERE 

Example of new thought pattern 

  • I can’t do it (or any similar self doubt)
  • Oh there’s that old negative story again
  • I know its just my biology trying to keep me safe by looking for danger
  • I observe the thought, but don’t believe it or identify with it
  • Thought floats away quickly and with minimal effort or struggle.
This feels like letting the beach ball float alongside me. 
The thought is still there, but I don’t identify with it, or struggle against it.

Since that time I have gone on to study Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) with the renowned Russ Harris.

I have also attended an extensive Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation teacher training at the Gawler Foundation.

I am so happy and excited to be able to share these life changing lessons and techniques with my local community. To teach others how to free themselves from over-thinking and quieten their relentless self critic.

Working IN is just as important as working OUT.

Chriss  

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