We all know that our minds can play tricks on us. Have you ever lay awake at night worrying about something that never actually happened?
This is because humans tend to have a negative bias. Our minds are very good at interpreting things in a negative way or viewing a situation as something that could cause us harm (or make us look like idiots!). Mark Twain once said, ‘I’ve had a lot of worries in my life and most of them never happened’.
So how can we teach our children to not worry or get anxious? In a World that is getting busier and busier it can be incredibly difficult to flow through life without being impacted in some way by stress or anxiety.
A great place to start is by teaching our kids how to examine their thoughts. It has been said that the human mind has between 60,000- 70,000 thoughts a day. Excuse the pun, but just think about that?! When teaching students, I ask each student to blow bubbles. Each bubble represents a thought and the students are amazed at how quickly the room fills up with different sized bubbles. Some are big bubbles (which represent the big thoughts or worries) and some are small. Most of us just accept the thoughts that pop into our head; but the real skill lies in examining exactly what you are thinking and why you are thinking it. Once you are aware of the thought, you can then work towards changing it so that your thoughts are helping you and not hindering you. Again, I teach the students to try and ‘pop’ the bubbles (thoughts) that are not helping them or making them feel good.
Training our minds through practices such as meditation and creative visualisation are not only helpful, but extremely powerful. Through practices such as these we can start to make positive changes to the way we think which in turn will have a positive influence on our emotions and behaviour. Not good at public speaking? Well next time you have a presentation coming up, rather than tell yourself that you will make a fool of yourself try training your mind to see it as an opportunity to grow and learn. You never know, you might actually be good at it!
Awareness is the first step. And unfortunately, because of the busy lives we lead, we often don’t give ourselves the space we need to stop and pay attention to our thoughts. Try it now. Stop whatever you are doing and just sit for the next 2 minutes. Watch your thoughts as they come and go and just notice what you are thinking, without judgement. Simply notice. Imagine that each thought is a bubble floating past and eventually popping in its own time. Don’t try to cling or hold onto the bubble.
Eventually through training your mind, you will find that it becomes easier to focus on the things that serve you- the good things and the things that can help make you feel content. With practice, you will also give yourself permission to let go of the negative thoughts and create a sense of space for yourself.
Thinking in a way that serves you is a skill. It is a skill that we need to teach our children so that they can literally think themselves into leading successful and fulfilling lives!