Reprogramming Thoughts…


I have learned behaviour from childhood where I can over analyse everything, worrying over the smallest thing. That’s why I love mindfulness. Now if someone says something where I automatically go into panic mode I know I can think “it’s just my thoughts”, and everyone’s thoughts create their own realities.
If you observe your thoughts while being mindful you notice they are mainly negative. I used to panic just seeing a bill arrive in the post, even though I had enough money in the bank to pay for it. Now I pay most of my bills by direct debit.

We are so good at thinking the worse. I know I did. If I was invited to a party I wouldn’t think “great, an opportunity to meet new people”, I’d instead think “argh, new people. I won’t know what to say and people might think I’m stupid!”

The same goes for body image. We are bombarded by social media how we should look, how thin we should be, how much cellulite we should have. And before social media, there were magazines telling us the same. The unachievable body that you always try to attain.

I am a mother, and carer to my youngest son who has learning difficulties. I used to feel guilty, even though my time was taken up, because the media makes out that you’re only a real woman if you have a career. So I felt that being a carer and homemaker, I wasn’t pursuing a career. I was letting the family down because we were living off carers allowance and my husband’s wage. We had the odd holiday here and there – but not every year, and when our latest car broke we made the choice not to replace it as we couldn’t afford to.

 It’s easy to compare yourself to others, but that doesn’t make you happy. Everyone has their own idea of what makes them happy.

Yes, a car would be nice. I could visit different parks and woodlands at the weekend with the dogs. But my local one will suffice. Holidays are great, but we can still do day trips. Besides, who doesn’t like an afternoon in the garden when it’s sunny for an impromptu BBQ?! I feel I am lucky because I was able to raise my children, whereas some mother’s would love to have been stay at home moms but were forced into work for the money, and possibly felt guilty too.

I treat my thoughts as if it is a conversation with a friend. If I think to myself “huh, I washed up last night and everyone has eaten snacks since and left me more washing this morning,” I first think, “it’s just a thought”. Then I will look at the thought as if I’m chatting with a friend. And I’ll say back, “well you could calmly point out to everyone that you’d really appreciate if they tidied up after themselves in the evening.” Then I would say that for that morning you could wash up. It would take 5 minutes and you could practice mindfulness while doing it. I would explain that nobody in the house would realise they were being rude leaving their dirty dishes and pots, that it wasn’t a personal attack.

And from that I would see that reality. That my family loves me and weren’t out to ruin my day by leaving just a few dirty items. Everyone has their own reality, they imagine each others points of view differently. And with this example I can tackle any subject rationally.

If someone was in a bad mood, well I used to take it personally and become very defensive. My mood would lower and either I’d spend the day feeling I was rubbish at doing something or I’d think of all the things that person did that annoyed me. And all the things they did a year ago that annoyed me. Dragging up old arguments, etc. Now if someone is feeling grumpy, I leave them to their bad mood. I can rationalise it’s not personally aimed at me, and by leaving them alone, or refusing to be sucked into an argument, they will soon return to a happier way of being. And if there’s a problem we can discuss it rationally, once they are calm and everyone is level headed.

Everything is so much easier once you’re mindful, and you find you judge yourself and others far less. You realise you’re not in a competition with the rest of the world. It’s just you. Right here. Right now.

Being Happy

Being in the present moment can help you to be happy. If you are fully present, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying of the future, then you begin to appreciate things more. You start noticing and appreciating the little things, like nature, like how lucky you are to have your friends and family, and less bothered with materialistic objects.

I’m guilty in the past of thinking things would be better when I’d move house, got more money, lost a few pounds in weight, bought various items, when I had a family, when the children started school, when the children started secondary school, when the children were grown ups. I was basically wishing my life away, instead of appreciating them in every waking moment. Life is too short and time does indeed fly. My boys are now young men, I am in middle age, and there has never been an aha moment that I’ve finally gotten to that elusive part of my life when everything was perfect and I could live as if I’d reached Nirvana.

However, I do now live mostly in the present moment. I no longer think that there are missing things in my life that would improve it. I have always looked after my health anyway so I no longer think I will be happy once I get that photoshopped celebrity look. I’ve had two boys, I have wobbly bits. Big deal.

A few years ago I had a wake up call. I was having difficulty breathing and​ put it down to my wrongly diagnosed asthma. I ended up in a&e and was told I had clots on my lungs. I was treated in hospital for a week, being reassured that everything would return to normal. It didn’t. The clots were so large on both lungs that I developed chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. 

It took a while to be taken seriously by the NHS but eventually I was diagnosed and luckily for me I was able to have an 8 hour operation that removed the clots. It took my body over a year to recover from the operation.

But what I will say is this…

It was a scary time, yes, but when you are staring death in the face, it makes you look at things differently. It makes you appreciate the little things, the birdsong, the seasons, a sunset, the sound of rain, your loved ones. It makes you realise that your life is pretty awesome. That you wake up every morning and the sun always rises. 

I can walk across my living room floor now without feeling violently ill and out of breath. In fact I can walk for miles now and I do.

Everyone who can breathe with ease takes breathing for granted. I know I did. Life’s so unfair because I don’t have that fancy kitchen/car/job/boyfriend,etc. Yes, but you have your health. 

Now every day I wake up early to walk the dogs. As I wake I smile to myself and think another day and I’m awake and alive and the sun is going to rise again. I am grateful for my body, for my health, for being able to take these two wonderful creatures out for their walk. And as I walk I breathe deeply and wonder at the air filling my lungs.

Monkey Mind

I read recently about the Chimp Paradox. We have a human mind (where we think logically and rationally), a far more powerful Chimp mind (in essence our intuition and instincts, emotions, etc) and a computer that takes information from both the monkey mind and human mind. 

If you can rationalise with the Chimp mind, you can then deal with a situation calmly, using the human. When I look back now at some arguments I’ve had with my other half, I can see how we would both argue with our irrational, emotional Chimp minds. 

And another book I read, how we over think and dwell on stuff. That instead of over thinking, to acknowledge the thoughts and let them go without judging. That if we are in a sad mood and we can let our thoughts go and simply quieten our minds we can get ourselves back into a happy place without trying.

This makes me think of all the times when I might be feeling a little off and my husband would persistently ask if I was in a mood and make me feel even grumpier! And I would do the same to him. Firstly, he’d be all sulky and I’d take it personally and get defensive. And the more I’m getting wound up, the more we are both annoying each other. Suddenly we’re both over thinking and with our Chimp minds can’t possibly pull ourselves out of our moods.

So don’t get pulled into someone elses bad mood. Give them the chance to pull themselves out of it. Give them space. And if you feel it’s you getting into a mood, observe it without judgement, let whatever thoughts that are troubling you go, and allow your mind the chance to lift itself. 

No chimps were harmed in the writing of this blog…

Baking



Part of my being mindful plan involves baking. There’s something so enjoyable being mindful while weighing out ingredients and following the instructions from a cook book.

Today I baked blueberry muffins (again) and scones. I’ve attempted cheese scones before but sweet scones are a first.

I think maybe my favourite bakes are baps, bread and baguettes. I really get into the power of now while I spend 10 minutes kneading. I find myself concentrating on the kneading rather than worrying over something irrelevant.

Baguettes…

Pitta bread…

Bread…

Baps…

Crumpets…

Thoughts…

Thoughts can be a dangerous thing. They can shape you, make you or break you. It’s how you handle them that’s the key.

I’ve suffered self esteem issues a lot of my life, through learned behaviour. My parents were both shy and never socialised. My dad stressed over everything. He was angry with the world. My uncle would visit about twice a year. I have a memory where I was about 3 years old and I was excited as my uncle was at our house. I was trying to chat to him and my father became extremely angry with me. He was from a generation where children were seen and not heard. I think that was the defining day that started my extreme shyness.

I also stressed a lot. Early childhood memories include a holiday where we went via train. Dad is frantically looking at the timetable for our train and moaning and stressing. That in turn is stressing mom. I feel like I am dying inside. Then there is another holiday when dad had forgotten to return the chalet keys. He is in a mood and we are all stressing on the coach waiting for him. I have no memories of those holidays at all, other than those stressful moments. 

I spent my childhood being painfully shy. My thoughts were that everyone was better than me, I didn’t deserve my own opinions, always wondering if I was making a fool of myself. In all likelihood every​ child in my class were no doubt lost in their own thoughts and didn’t give a damn about the strange shy kid.

Thoughts can be dangerous things. Everyone’s thoughts shape their own reality of the world. But to be able to recognise they are just thoughts and to not let them hold you to ransom, well that my friends, is the key. Even now, after writing about my past, I feel a bit of anger, of resentment. You can analyse your past all you like and feel a victim, but it’s happened and you can’t​ do a damn thing about it. So recognise that this is just your thoughts, nobody elses. Let go. Let go. Let go. They are just clouds in the sky. Watch them drift away in the wind, like I just have.

Mindfulness

With a little practice I’m beginning to get quite good at this mindfulness malarky. It helps that I don’t drive so I walk everywhere, and I walk my two Jack Russells twice a day too. I’m up at 6am each morning and my walk consist of attempting to be as mindful and in the present as possible. So if I begin daydreaming or thinking about something I need to do, I recognise it, dismiss it, and focus again on the present. I don’t tell myself off for losing myself in thought. That would be pointless and self defeating. I just think “thinking!” or “here I go again!” or something on that vein. To stay in the present I focus on my breathing, or I may count my footsteps, or even concentrate on sounds, IE birdsong or the odd traffic going past. It gets easier the more you do it – I am becoming aware faster that I am losing myself on thoughts and regain focus.