Welcoming Negative Thoughts

I recently read that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. A high percentage of those (around 80%) are negative and mostly repeated from the day before.

I’ve learned that our thoughts are just that, thoughts. They do not represent who we are, our values, or our nature. When negative thoughts arise, we often fall into the trap of buying into them, we get stuck and that initial thought, grows into a negative emotion….suddenly, that fleeting thought has become a negative feeling or sensation, something we physically experience, a hindrance to our day! Sound familiar?

When these thoughts appear, we have a choice, we can play into the downward spiral, as outlined above, or we can choose to react in a far healthier way. Upon the arrival of these unhelpful blips in our train of thought, we can instead learn to recognise it as one of those “silly thoughts” and view it from an impartial perspective. By that I mean, accept the thought is there and welcome it for what it is; an unfriendly voice passing by. At first, this is a very manual process, you will miss some and consciously have to remember to detach, but with time it will become automatic.

To offer a real-world example. When I first started spearfishing, I suffered, a lot! I had little to no confidence, I was WAY outside my comfort zone and everything about it was new to me. Thankfully I had amazing friends to learn from but the internal battle was one I fought mostly alone.

The first year was especially hard, every time I entered the water I would be flooded with thoughts of negativity and defeat. “I can’t do this”, “I’m going to get lost at sea”, “I’m going to drown”, “I’m not fit enough to last the day” and so on…. I realised in time that I was spending my whole day, focusing on engaging and fighting these thoughts and emotions, rather than enjoying where I was and what I was doing. This led to panic and a feeling of total exhaustion which isn’t ideal when your floating around the ocean.

It’s safe to say I grew tired of essentially ruining these trips for myself. So, I adopted my advice above. While swimming my piece of coast, or charging towards a big workup, the thoughts of negativity still came “I bet you miss” “You won’t keep up with the others”…. you get the picture. Instead of engaging and suffering, I simply started NOTICING, “There’s one of those silly thoughts” I wouldn’t fight it or think about what it meant, I’d simply notice it. If it felt shit, I’d feel it but keep my perspective detached and continue on with the hunt.

After a few months, this became automatic. I relaxed, my heart rate came down, my breath hold got better, my fitness grew and the long days out on the boat became what they always should have been, amazing! Sure they are tiring and there are still days I struggle, usually when I’m lacking sleep, but noticing and welcoming these thoughts for what they are, just thoughts, has taken away all of their power.

I use this in all parts of my life now, personal and professional. It’s really shifted my perception of what I’m capable of and I hope it will help you too.

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