It has often been said that the greatest battles we face are the battles within our own mind. Today’s tip is a simple one, but can make a tremendous difference in combating this war with a simple tool I call the thought check.
The thought check is a quick and effective exercise in gaging how we are treating ourselves. Here is how it works: you simply imagine your best friend committing the same error that you have. How would you respond to them?
For instance, you are late for an important meeting or for picking up carpool. What would you tell your friend if they were to relay to you that they were late for an important meeting or picking up carpool? Would you berate them or attack their character with phrases like, “You are such an idiot and are so unreliable.” “Why can’t you get your act together?” No, that would be absolutely crazy. While the fact they were late doesn’t change, you would probably be empathetic to their plight and express that this does not define their character and maybe you would offer some perspective or advice–“Everybody’s late sometimes. Maybe next time you could try taking a different route–that freeway is so backed up at that hour.” “I know that you are feeling embarrassed right now. This isn’t you. They will get to know that you will be there next time on time. Everything is going to be okay. “
You then repeat those phrases to yourself that you would tell your best friend rather than the internal negative dialogue that we often berate ourselves with. This tool allows yourself the grace and room to acknowledge weaknesses and shortcomings but from a place of love and growth that allow you to become better. So the next time you recognize a mistake and the negative inner dialogue you tell yourself, simply stop and tell your mind to do a “Thought Check”. Become your own best friend. We all spend a lot of time in our own heads– make it a place where you would want to be.
It takes only one thought to activate the sympathetic nervous state – fight or flight. When we go into fight or flight, the prefrontal cortex (pfc) – the brain’s “command center” – located behind the forehead, shuts down. This essentially makes rational thought next to impossible. That also means we can’t come out of fight or flight with just a thought. We now have to engage in other activities such as diaphragmatic breathing to activity the parasympathetic nervous system and thus bring the pfc back online as the increased oxygen slows down the amygdala.
I often teach clients one of the best way to respond to unwanted thoughts and emotions is simply to acknowledge that they’re there without assigning any type of judgement, then keep going about what you’re doing. Emotions, at their most basic level, are neuro electrical firing patterns. By themselves, emotions have a “shelf life” of about 90 seconds, that’s all. However, if we feed them through negative thoughts, or even trying to fight them off, the emotion will surviving past the 90 second shelf life until it morphs into a mood.
Another thing to consider when allowing negative thoughts to run amok is a basic principle in neurology called Hebbs Law which states “neurons that fire together wire together.” So, the more we think a certain type of thought, the stronger that neuro pathway becomes, until we have a habit.
Anyway, these are my 2¢
This is all true and great info for thoughts that might trigger anxiety. The thought check is a tool geared more for the negative self talk where you can talk to yourself from a 3rd person perspective (best friend) to assuage the kicking yourself while you are down experience from an event that we are often prone to do rather than a tool to address anxious thoughts. Love your tips for the anxious thoughts. Thanks for the 2 cents-😊