Who doesn't love a parade? Music, dancing, huge balloon versions of cartoon characters; what a blast! But what if you were at a parade that never ended? After a while, the parade would not be so amusing—it would be torture! In a sense, each of us has a parade in our heads. A parade of thoughts. Our minds relentlessly produce judgments, memories and worries, whether we want them to or not. Dealing with a nonstop parade of intrusive and distressing thoughts can have a seriously negative impact on your life. However, observing the patterns of your thoughts will enable you to more effectively cope with them.
Sometimes your thoughts will be a disorganized mess that leaves you exhausted and hopeless. Imagine hosting a dinner party and feeling overwhelmed with the number of preparations that need to be made. Instead of focusing on one thing at a time, your mind erratically jumps first to the menu, then to decorations and then to the guest list in just a few seconds. Not fun!
Alternatively, thoughts may feel ingrained and repetitive, making us wish for a different thought, no matter what it may be. This often occurs when we feel resentment. If a co-worker spreads a nasty rumor about you, your thoughts will likely be fixated on what this person said and what other people think. You may also find yourself rehearsing a scathing rant in preparation for the glorious day when you give that person a piece of your mind. Sound familiar?
In previous "Cloud Nine" articles, I've discussed how to mindfully observe thoughts and how to challenge and change your thoughts. In addition to these two reliable techniques, allow me to offer a third alternative: "Focus and Flow*."
The first step of Focus and Flow is to breathe in and tightly embrace whatever thoughts are in your head. Take ownership of them, round them up and face them.
*Levey, J. & Levey, M. (1999). Simple Meditation & Relaxation. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press.
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