Bringing Awareness to Thoughts & Feelings
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Your thoughts are an inner dialogue. Do you know you have an average of about six thousand thoughts a day? Most of which you habitually repeat to yourself. These thoughts lead us to an emotional reaction rather than responding from a place of choice.
If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or maybe you feel stuck with procrastination or lack of motivation the starting point is the same. Bringing awareness to your thoughts and feelings. If we do not understand how we arrived at this point then we cannot move forward.
It sounds simple, it is simple but not easy, it requires practice and perseverance but starting to understand your patterns, triggers and reactions can bring huge changes in your life.
Awareness means we are moving from trying to distract, ignore, or “fix” ourselves to a place of acceptance of the current situation. Once we let go of fighting our emotions we can begin to understand them, allow them to be, and move towards new ways of being. We can begin to see that our thoughts are just a story and we do not have to believe that story, we can change it.
There are many exercises to begin your practice, here are a few to get you started:
Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose without judgement. It supports us to see our thoughts as just thoughts that come and go like clouds across the sky, and we do not need to get caught within their story. Each time your mind wanders in meditation, your task is to notice it and then detach from your thought stream and come back to your senses, in the moment. This is a practice of untangling from thoughts over and over again, a habit which translates in the rest of your life too. With practice, you can do it in the supermarket queue or washing up 😊
This simple technique will help familiarise yourself with your feelings. Practice labelling your emotions as they happen. Name them without judging what you feel. The more you get to know your feelings, the less they will cloud your behaviour. Ahh, there is anger, envy, pride, joy- what is the emotion?
Capturing your experiences, thoughts, or feelings is an effective way to "objectify" them and stop getting caught in the story. You can also monitor how your reactions evolve—don’t just look for improvements, but the "why" behind those changes. You could journal about a difficult conversation, work situation, or something closer to home.
Helpful questions for unhelpful thoughts
Negative patterns have probably been with you for a long time so it will take practice to bring about changes. You can use some of these questions to mentally question negative thoughts and use others to change your focus.
Is this thought in any way useful or helpful?
Is it true? (Can I know that it’s true)
Is this just an old story that my mind is playing out of habit?
Does this thought help me take effective action?
Benefits of Awareness
It’s hard to overstate the benefits of self-awareness, so I’ll just list a few of the most common positives that come from increasing our self-awareness:
Better relationships. It’s difficult to ask for what we want and need in a relationship when we’re not very clear about those things ourselves. What’s more, the less self-awareness we have, the easier it is to get defensive in our interactions with people, which is a recipe for disaster in any type of relationship.
Improved moods. Our mood and how we tend to feel hour-to-hour is largely dependent on how we choose to think and behave. When we improve our awareness it becomes easier to regulate our feelings and moods.
Clearer thinking and better decision-making. When we become more aware of our habits of thought and feeling, we can more easily distinguish between short term impulses or desires and long term values and goals.
More effective communication. Achieving a clearer sense of what you believe and what you want makes it far easier to communicate in any aspect of life. It is easier, to be honest about what we would like and respectful of the wishes of others.
Increased productivity. The most common cause of procrastination isn’t a lack of effort or commitment, it’s interference from ourselves. When we struggle to get to work, it’s usually because on some level our thoughts, emotions, or habits are getting in the way.
Bringing awareness will change your relationship with yourself and enable you to make informed choices in your life. I will be exploring this topic in more detail in my new course "Let go of Anxiety- step into your life"