The 3 steps to a clearer mind
Do you feel stuck in some way? Stuck with your thoughts, feeling trapped in a spiral of negative thoughts? Perhaps if you don’t feel trapped, you notice on some days or in some moments, a negative thought pattern holds you back to the point where you don’t feel like you can gain clarity through a clouded and busy mind. If this resonates with you, this article is three steps to a more neutral or positive mind.
It is from a neutral or more positive mind that we can improve our mental clarity, increase our headspace and more easily make decisions or take action that feels right for us. I include both neutral and positive because I don’t want this to come across as toxic positivity, where we can ‘just’ make everything positive. Life is difficult at times, we are faced with small obstacles every day and on some days, weeks, months and years, we are presented with huge challenges. That is the nature of life. It is OK that hard things happen but our power is in how we choose to navigate these challenges.
There are at least three ways I can think of where us lovely humans get stuck in the negative. Much of the time, it is actually familiar and comfortable to sit amongst the negative thoughts and feelings. We are good at it because we know how to do it:
- For many of us, we bond over it with other people; we share a bad day, the worries about an increase in prices, or poor weather – it brings a sense of common humanity. Of course, that’s not to say it’s a bad thing at all, to share our worries and concerns. However, if you’re getting to the end of a day and realising the vast majority of your thoughts and words have been in the negative, it’s not so fun and over time can feel pretty draining and sad.
- We allow worry, it can feel so necessary when we have a problem. In turn, this can turn into catastrophising worst-case scenarios. Each thought leading on to another one worse than the previous one. It’s difficult to bring to mind a time when worry has ever served a purpose. When we are in a state of worry, we are taken away from the present moment. Worry keeps us stuck in the past or in the future. Worry doesn’t allow us to be in the here and now. Not only do we end up missing the moment, but we become clouded and unable to consider which action we want or need to take to remedy the issue.
- A third way we can get stuck in the negative is in beating ourselves up, mentally being unkind to ourselves with those familiar patterns of unkindness.
Do you recognise any of these behaviours throughout your day? If so, the following can help.
How to change your behaviours and achieve a clearer mind
Simply by reading this far and considering if you recognise this behaviour in yourself, you are bringing your awareness to it. Being able to do this continually and notice our thought patterns, without judgement, is where there is so much power. When we see and hear the patterns, we are able to choose a different narrative.
Once we have noticed a thought, we can catch it and decide what we would like to do with it. If we recognise it is a negative thought that isn’t serving us or going to serve us, it can help to give it a label. It can help to think ‘that’s an interesting story I am telling myself.’ Ultimately, we know our thoughts are not facts but stories we tell ourselves, so we may as well create a narrative that serves us.
Change the narrative
If you recognise a thought that says something like ‘typical, that’s just my luck,’ or the thought that ‘bad things like this always happen to me’. Firstly, let yourself know, without judgement of the thought, that it is an interesting story you are telling yourself. In order to change this narrative, it can help to seek evidence of the opposite. Work on leaning into gratitude, and find evidence of where things are working out for you.
If you recognise a ‘what if’ thought – a thought that leads you down a rabbit hole of worry and of spiralling worst-case scenario. Notice how it isn’t serving you and work on reversing the rabbit hole. Instead of thinking ‘what if it all goes wrong?’, choose to change the narrative to ‘what if it all works out OK?’, or ‘what if it turns out to be the best ever?’. Again, leaning in to the neutral and the positive, allows for more of the same and enables us to have more clarity.
If you recognise an unkind thought, perhaps a ‘I’m so stupid’, or a ‘I look gross’, lean in to self-compassion, are these the same words you would say to a friend having a hard time?
Most of all, know that you’re OK. Know that doing this mindset work can be challenging. Bring as much self-compassion to it as you are able. It may not always feel like it, but we get to choose what we do with our thoughts. If this article resonates with you but you’re not sure where to start, working with a well-being and mindset coach can support you in moving forward in a safe, non-judgemental environment.