Humans have an innate ability to jump to conclusions in a single bound! It’s our superpower! The slightest weird glance or ill-timed comment can send you into full-tilt freak out mode, a DEFCON-1 state of alert, fearing your world is falling down around you!
Yet, just because your thoughts are in your head, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the truth. Giving yourself a moment to think about what you’re thinking about, can help you to bring awareness to your thoughts and to create some space between you and your automatic reactions.
Mentally stepping back to observe the content of your thinking has the power to change your relationship to your thoughts. You can learn to watch them come and go instead of believing them as fact. So, when you catch yourself heading towards Anxietyville ask yourself these four questions:
1. Is it true?
Your answer to this question is most likely to be “Yes, of course! Are you kidding me?” This is your mind’s automatic response that has been your go-to for the majority of your life. We assume that our beliefs about ourselves, other people and the world around us is part of who we are, and are fixed and unchangeable.
2. Is it really true?
Ask yourself if you are absolutely, 100% certain that your thought accurate. Take a mental inventory to look for tangible, real-world evidence that either supports or refutes the validity of your thought. Through this process, you can verify if your belief is fact, partially based in fact, or holds no truth at all. By slowing down to examine your thinking in this way, you’re likely to discover there was never much truth there in the first place!
3. How does this thought make me feel?
Take a moment to notice the storylines you’re holding onto. These are the narratives we play in our heads about who we are and our place in the world, allowing our past history to color our present thinking. Just to make matters worse, our emotions are inextricably linked to our thoughts, with our thoughts influencing the way we feel, and the way we feel influencing our thoughts. Name your emotions as you experience them, determining if you are feeling angry, scared, ashamed, etc.
4. What would life look like if I didn’t hold this belief?
Imagine what the possible benefits might be by trying on a new perspective about yourself, other people or the way life works. How would having this new belief impact your relationships, your energy levels, your motivation, or your success?
We experience our thoughts are in our heads, so we have a tendency to accept them as truth, yet the bottom line is your thoughts simply aren’t fact. Realize that your thoughts are merely mental events that automatically pop up in your mind, cobbled together out of past experience and assumptions. But as we learn to question their validity, and allowing your thoughts to come and go, they start to lose their power over you, no longer sending you into a tizzy!
So, the next time you jump to a conclusion, take a deep breath, and check in with yourself to see where your head is, how it makes you feel, and what thoughts led you to come to that conclusion in the first place. You might just be able to avoid that trip to Anxietyville, facing life more calmly and confidently!