Thoughts are powerful energy. Our thoughts drive our emotions, which drive our behaviors, and ultimately determine our actions — what kind of life we live.
You have thousands of thoughts per day, many of which have been residing in your neural circuits since childhood. Most are these thoughts are habitual, meaning you have them over and over again. Many thoughts are not happening at the conscious level; they're deeply embedded into the background chatter of the mind. And most of these thoughts do not benefit you as an adult, because thoughts developed in childhood are not reflective of your current, mature and more fully aware state of mind.
Many of us have a habitual stream of negative thoughts (“I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not lovable,”), and our emotional state reflects these thoughts. For some of us, it means periodic anxiety and mild annoyance. For others, the result is constant anxiety, insecurity, or even depression. Since our emotional state affects what actions we take or don’t take, the result is a subtle, recurring cause-and-effect from thoughts to behaviors.
The good news is that you can take charge of your thoughts and make them powerfully benefit you. So, how do we find this power over our thoughts and emotions? It comes from developing a deeper awareness of your thinking, particularly with thinking that arises habitually. This type of awareness is centered on the idea that, “You are not your thoughts.” You have power over what you think and feel.
To develop this awareness, first, learn to connect with your emotions. Notice when you have emotions like anger, sadness, anxiety or guilt. Understand the root cause of the emotion — what event or action triggered it?
When you are feeling a strong thought or emotion, close your eyes and go into your breathing and the body. Notice where the emotion takes hold in the body. Breathe into that area, relax and release any tension.
Observe your thoughts and emotions. By observing them, you can see that they come and go, and are not always present.
Accept them without judgment as energy that arises periodically. Know that you can make a choice to breathe into the energy and release it, or to keep it in your body. You have the power over your thoughts and emotions.
Remind yourself that you are not your thoughts or emotions. In fact, understand that if you can witness your thoughts and emotions, then you are, in reality, quite distinct from them.
See the thoughts and emotions in any terms that gives them definition — you may name them (“these are my sad, not-good-enough thoughts”) or personify them (“This is my angry, fuming red-faced monster that comes by whenever I feel overwhelmed and inadequate”). By defining the thoughts and emotions, you can remain aware that they're separate from you. You have a choice about holding onto the emotion, or letting it go. It isn’t an intrinsic part of you.
To release the thoughts and emotions, use the power of the breath. Begin by breathing into that space with awareness of the feelings; allow them to shift, move and release. Use the power of the mind to remind yourself that you're observing these thoughts and emotions, and are strong and independent from them. You're able to manage them. Use the power of you, by understanding that your thoughts and emotions all originate with you — though events and people may trigger your thinking, you own your thoughts and have full control over what you think, how you feel, and how you respond in any given situation.
As you develop awareness of your thoughts and emotions, you'll find it easier to create the safe space between what arises in your mind and body, and how you act. That space is where you take power, and make a choice about how you want to think, feel and live.