Monday, May 6, 2013

Jedi Mind Control Tricks

I've been thinking a lot lately about thinking. I've been working on controlling my thoughts, (sorry, these aren't the take-over-the-world type of Jedi Mind tricks you were looking for) and I think it's really improving my life.  Have you seen this diagram before?

When I've been sad in the past, I've had lots of people tell me, "Go work out- you'll feel better."  While I've always understood the connection between thoughts, actions, and emotions, it's been hard for me to implement this by just going to the gym, because I usually don't want to if I'm feeling down.  So I know that changing my actions is easier said than done.

I think most people agree that changing your emotions is even more difficult, so this has left me looking at my thoughts.  The first Jedi Mind Control Trick that was pointed out to me was that feeling emotions is okay, but certain thoughts will sink you.

Thoughts That Sink You

Let's say, for example, that you've recently been dumped (and didn't blog nearly as much as you would have liked to at the beginning of the year as a result). This is hypothetical of course.  But say a relationship has just ended; it's okay and normal to be sad that it's over, but it's not productive to think "I'm going to die alone."  That's a thought that will sink me you.

Lots of people have studied these "sinkers" and call them Cognitive Distortions. (There's a whole bunch of them: all-or-nothing thinking, over generalization, "should" statements...)  So I started trying to recognize my sink-inducing thoughts (or my cognitive distortions), and just recognizing them helped me feel better.  If I'm able to pick out those distorted thoughts, I can remind myself that they are incorrect and move on.  Surprisingly easy and helpful when I remember to do it!

The next trick that I picked up recently was asking myself the following question:

What Does That Thought Do For Me?

I was talking to a friend about something I was worried about and the friend asked me, "what does that worry do for you?".  It stopped me in my tracks- I had no good response.  The worry wasn't making me more productive and it was, in fact, making me feel bad, so it seemed logical to let it go and stop thinking about it.  Another way of looking at it: I'm either going to get the promotion or I'm not; but worrying about it won't change the outcome (or it will, in a negative way).

I love this diagram.  Source

So I've been trying to ask myself this question when I feel stressed or sad.  Is this thought/worry/concern helpful and beneficial to me? If not, who needs it?! 

The last thing I've been trying to keep in mind these days is...


This is not only for my attitude toward others, but also toward myself.  Back around my birthday, I made a resolution to be nicer to myself and to others.  One thing that has helped is changing my tone of voice with myself.  That sounds kind of ridiculous, but it worked.  When I'm struggling and at a low point, I try to talk to myself like I would to a small child: "It'll all be alright", "You're gonna be okay", "You made a mistake, but this is not the end of the world."  It helps, I promise.  Try it next time you're stressed or sad and then get back to me on this.

The other part of my birthday resolution was to be nicer to others.  I think to truly have compassion for myself, I need to have compassion for everyone around me as well.  To me this means being more forgiving and aware that people have their own way of doing things and that my way is not the only right way.  This is a work in progress.

Do you have any super Jedi Mind Control Tricks?      

1 comment:

  1. I learned a process that worked for me. Many years ago I started getting anxiety attacks. They would vary from mild to “death spirals”. (Pilots can get into a “death spiral” by starting a downward turn that steepens and becomes tighter and tighter of a spiral until they can’t pull out and crash). I never crashed, but you get the idea. You start worrying about something and the worrying becomes more and more focused. My solution was too simple to work, but it did/does. When I recognized the start of the attack, I first admitted to myself that I was doing it again. Then I simply said to myself that I wasn’t going to give it the power to control me. I then simply started thinking about something else, moving the other thought or worry to the back of my mind. It took some time to practice but ended up working well.