Welcome to Day 8 of The Beginner's Guide to Mindfulness! If you're reading this, then you have completed seven straight days of observing your thoughts, and then journaling about them. CONGRATULATIONS. You have taken more steps toward wellness this week then some people take in their entire lives. Allow yourself a few moments of gratitude and pride for the work you've done so far, and the courage that it's taken.
Now that you have the beginnings of a better understanding of how your thoughts behave, we are going to use that foundation to dive a bit deeper. Starting today and for the remainder of this course, we are going to explore a new mindfulness technique each day. These techniques and solutions were built by working backwards from common cognitive experiences that often cause stress, anxiety, and depression. Let's get started.
You’ve heard of thought spirals, right? This is when one particular thought or experience catalyzes a chain of repeating thoughts that spiral until you’ve sunk yourself into a state of anxiety or depression. Here’s an example of one that used to cause me a lot of strife.
Catalyst: I’d take a photograph that I didn’t love or that wasn’t quite up to my own standards. Thought spiral: That’s not very good > I’m not very good > I’m not good enough for this job > I shouldn’t have this job > If I can’t do this job, I won’t be able to do any others > I’ll never be good at anything > etc etc. Sound familiar? We think ourselves into such extreme depths, all because we aren’t in control of our mental patterns.
Now,after applying mindfulness, if I take a photo that I’m not happy with, I still have the initial thought- “that’s not very good.” But because I’m aware of that trigger, the spiral no longer progresses from the catalyst. Instead, I ask myself things like “What don’t I like about it?,” or “How can I improve it?” The underlying insecurity might still be present, but there is immense power in allowing it to exist without letting it take over.
You can use your new skill of observing your thoughts to notice the triggers of these thought spirals, and to nip them in the bud before they even start. When you catch yourself swept away in a thought spiral today, see if you can work backwards and find the source. Note it. What healing can be done there? Understanding the sources of our thought spirals can free us from them, and is a way to connect with our subconscious to find unresolved issues. When we are in control of our thoughts, finding the catalyst of these spirals can be a beacon of light in the dark of our subconscious- a priceless tool rather than an experience of suffering.
Hopefully you were able to catch yourself in a thought spiral today. Journal about what that experience was like. How far did the spiral progress before you caught it? Were you able to work backwards and find the thought or experience that caused it? Allow yourself to write stream of consciousness about that particular subject until you learn something new about it.
If you didn't catch a thought spiral today, what's something that's currently causing you a lot of stress in your life? I guarantee whatever comes to mind first is the catalyst of a lot of thought spirals, whether you're aware of them or not. Free-write about that subject until you're able to learn something new about it, or to see it in a new light. What healing can be done there? Is there anything you can do right now in this moment to begin to release that pain point?