Did you know that the average human has 60,000 thoughts each and every day?
Let me break that down for you:
The average human is awake between 15-18 hours each day. So let’s say 17 hours per day on average. That’s 60,000 thoughts divided by 17 waking hours equaling 3529 thoughts per hour OR about 58 thoughts PER MINUTE. That’s almost one thought every second of your waking hours - No wonder you’re exhausted, eh?
But here’s where it gets even crazier…
On average, around 95% of those thoughts are repetitive, and 80% are negative.
As if having one thought every second wasn’t tiring enough, most of us are thinking about negative things on repeat! Do you hear me? We are literally thinking negative thoughts on repeat like all freakin’ day!
These negative thoughts manifest in different ways including:
• Negative self-talk (judgement)
• Worrying about the future
So come here ya big bully… I’ve got a bone to pick with you.
First things first. Quit being mean to yourself. Seriously.
I can almost guarantee that you have daily thoughts about yourself going through that head of yours that if you ever said to someone else you’d either get punched in the face or they’d run away in a fit of tears.
Imagine walking up to your best friend saying, “Hey Friend. Just wanted to let you know that you’re fat, and that shirt looks absolutely disgusting on you. Doesn’t matter though. All clothes look disgusting on you. Why’d you even eat anything today at all, you pig? You really need to lose weight.”
“Hey Friend. That barista back there seemed to be flirting with you, but honestly just forget about it. You definitely misread the signs. You don’t even know them, but it’s obvious they’re too good for you. You’d better get used to the idea that you’re going to be alone forever because no one is ever going to love you.”
I’m hoping that you get the point I’m trying to make here, because being this mean to “Friend” is really starting to give me a queasy feeling in my stomach.
So for those of you not getting it: You would NEVER (I hope) say these things to anyone - a friend or otherwise - so why would you say it to yourself?
It doesn’t have to be that extreme either… how about fleeting thoughts of “I’m a bad mom,” or “There’s no way my partner thinks I’m attractive with this extra 5 pounds,” or even “Why can’t I ever manage to make it to work on time anymore?” or “If I don’t get this promotion I’m a failure.”
All of these examples are types of negative self-talk or self-judgement and these thoughts are making us sick.
But you know what else is making us sick?
When you finish a chocolate bar, do you cry as you rub the wrapper all over your face? No.
You either go buy another one, or you throw the wrapper in the trash and carry on with your day.
It may seem like a ridiculous example, but it’s not really.
Here’s how it works: Something happens. That something could be that you ate a chocolate bar and now it’s gone. That something could also be that you caught your partner in bed with another person. Let’s take the chocolate bar example first. You have a few options:
OPTION 1: You can choose to be sad and sit there and feel sorry for yourself because your chocolate bar is gone. You constantly think about how sad you are, saying repeatedly in your mind "I wish I had another chocolate bar. My life would be so much better if only I had another chocolate bar.” Then when anyone comes around, you tell them how sad you are that you don’t have another chocolate bar. You may even be upset with them for being happy around you when you’re so sad. Allow your sadness to seep into all aspects of your life that day (and maybe beyond) - for example, yell at your kids for no reason, write a nasty email to your boss, refuse a little hanky panky with your partner, whatever it may be.
OPTION 2: You can go to the store and get another chocolate bar. Depending where you live and what time it is, this might mean driving an hour or two until you find a 24/hour gas station or convenience store, but hey, it’s an option. If you don’t have money, you could try calling your friends and/or colleagues and seeing if they have any chocolate bars at home that they’re willing to give you, and you can pay them back when you get money one day. In other words, go find yourself another chocolate bar if you really want one that badly.
OPTION 3: You can say to yourself “Hm, that was a great chocolate bar. I don’t feel fully satisfied, so next time I’ll remember to buy two. I’m so lucky that I even got to eat a chocolate bar today when many people around the world don’t have that option.” And then, feeling lucky and wearing a smile on your face, you continue on with your day.
In other words, when something happens you have a few options that lend themselves to most situations:
1. Think about the situation on repeat and make yourself feel worse and worse.
2. Find a solution for the situation that is making you upset. Act upon that solution.
3. Understand that you can’t fix the problem (or that it’s not worth it), find something to be thankful about, and move on.
Two sayings come to mind right now:
“There’s no use crying over spilled milk,”
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
Dwelling on things does not get you anywhere. If you can change them, do it. If you can’t, you need to accept the present moment as if you’d chosen it. Resisting what is causes pain.
And while you’re at it, quit worrying, would ya?
“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.” -Eckhart Tolle, Power of Now
When we’re not practicing judgement or living in the past, where else might we be? Why, making up stories about the future, of course!
Oh! How our minds just adore making up stories about what might happen in the future!
“When I lose all this weight I’m going to be so happy.”
“Once I get this promotion I’ll finally be able to afford that expensive car, and I’ll finally be everything my parents imagined!”
“My partner hasn’t called in three hours. They must be cheating on me. When they get home I’m going to look through their phone and see if I can find any evidence. Oh I am so angry! How could they do that to me?!”
“I’m getting older. I’m going to die soon. I don’t want to die, I have so much left I want to do!”
“Last time we had a meeting Gina said something that really upset me. In today’s meeting she’d better not do the same thing. I’ll be so angry!”
Any of these sound familiar?
Everyone does it. But spending too much time on thinking about the “what if’s” in life is seriously going to bring you down. Because (I’m going to let you in on a little secret)...
<<THE FUTURE HASN’T HAPPENED YET!>>
So while it’s important to set goals for yourself (and duh! achieve them) creating stories or worrying about things that you have no control over - and that haven’t even happened yet - is just creating a whack of stress for your body that it really doesn’t need!
Your brain/body can’t tell the difference between your thoughts and what’s actually happening.
That’s right! When you are dwelling on those negative feelings in the past or projecting stories or worry into the future - the physiological response in your body is reacting as though those things are really happening.
HELLO, ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS!
When you are constantly thinking about things that ‘stress you out’, or make you feel angry, unloved or just generally sad - whether they have already passed, or they have yet to come - your body is pumping out cortisol (aka the stress hormone) and adrenaline the whole freakin’ time!
FYI, those hormones are part of the fight, flight, freeze response that is meant to be triggered when we are under attack, or our lives are literally being threatened - not because the lady in front of you at Starbucks is talking too loud and ‘driving you crazy’, or because your boss has a stick up his @$$!
So basically, we’re constantly living in ‘survival mode’ due to the constant shifting of thoughts between judgement, the past, and the future. And then we wonder why we’re stuck with a planet full of humans experiencing panic disorders, stress-related illness, and depression.
We are over-taxing our bodies - and most of it comes from our own thought process.
The practice of Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation can help us to stop sabotaging ourselves, and lead healthy, happy and harmonious lives.
So… you have 60,000 thoughts every day, and they’re literally making you sick, sad and super stressed.
What can you do about it?
Most of the negative repetitive thoughts we have arise without us even noticing.
For example, someone cuts you off on the highway. You manage to steer clear without an accident. Suddenly you notice that your jaw is clenched, your palms are sweaty and your knuckles are white from gripping the steering wheel - and you’ve been replaying that moment over and and over in your mind for the last 20 minutes - thinking of what you should have said, how you could have reacted, perhaps calling that person bad name after bad name.
You are out of danger, but your mind is holding onto the event and replaying it. Which is making your physical body react as if it’s still happening.
The quicker we allow our mind to release the event, the quicker our physiological symptoms will settle back into normalcy.
The more time we spend in a ‘normal’, calmer state, the less likely we are to experience long-term stress, anxiety and depression.
And so, where does Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation come into play?
Let’s start by answering the question,
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
So you see, when we can train ourselves to be fully present with our thoughts and physiological responses, we can recognize the repetitive thought pattern, the clenched jaw and white knuckles within just a few moments of the event passing (instead of twenty minutes later) which means that our body is in a state of distress for much less time.
And just like we use weightlifting to increase our muscle mass, we use Mindfulness Meditation to increase our ability to be mindful and aware in each moment through the day.
So, the good news is - through Mindfulness practices we can create an awareness of our own thoughts that will help us combat anxiety, stress and depression. It will also increase our immune systems, deepen and improve our relationships, and improve our overall focus.
But when it comes to the benefits of Mindfulness Meditation, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re interested in learning more about this practice, how it actually works, and of course giving it a try - sign up for my 6-part course to help you live a healthier, happier and less-stressful life.
And remember - every day you wake up to your own choices. You can choose how you react to each and every situation. Choose wisely. And let Mindfulness be your guide.
In Peace, Love & Mindfulness,