That happened to me today as I went to the markets with my sister. It was a nice day, we'd just had a nice ride through the morning sun into town and as I waited for my coffee to be made I started quietly thinking about the fact that I have to get a new job. As I thought about it I began feeling a bit despondent because I've applied for like 100 jobs (but really only like, 30) and had no calls back. A couple of rejection letters, yeah, but no calls. Anyway I'm getting way off topic. The point is I was sitting there just about to drink a coffee with this whirlwind of thoughts ripping around inside my head.
As I had nothing else to distract me, I started adding to the mess: No job? Yeah. No job. Also, you have nothing to do today, no social engagements. You suck.
I didn't catch myself in time, got overwhelmed as fuck and started doing little rabbit sniffles into my coffee. It hadn't helped that I had burned myself with my coffee...
It was uncomfortable as it was thinking about my job-less state, burnt finger, and now I had a critical voice inside my head going 'Ha-HA! You are a failure! No job and now look. You're CRYING in public!'
My immediate response was to try and rationalize how I was feeling, and to fight back at this voice by listing the positive things I have done or at least, am trying to do.
Unsurprisingly, it didn't really work.
I didn't actually use mindfulness at that time to help myself realize a helpful thought versus unhelpful though scenario, but on reflection I think it's because I was feel stressed and my sister also stepped in and tried to help me with positive talk. Sorta like, everything will be ok, you'll get a job etc.
Note: I do like positive people, positive talk and positive situations but I just don't think it works to help me to live a less anxious life. Positivity, that is. I'm somewhat cynical and I just think that accepting a situation and the thoughts you're having as something you can't and shouldn't try to control is more powerful than 'being positive'. Trying to use positivity against some of the negative thoughts I (and some of you, I'm sure) have is like throwing an adorable and very fluffy white bunny into a wolf den. It might make the picture cuter for like, a nano-second, but the bad-thought-wolves will tear that positively fluffy bunny to ribbons.
I mentioned 'helpful' thoughts before and a key component of mindfulness is recognizing whether a thought is helpful or unhelpful. In order to identify this, you need to work out what your values are and then work out what thoughts are helpful for you to achieve or maintain this core value. I will be posting more about this next.
So anyway, the end of the story is that I got anxious and sad and didn't use mindfulness, but I reflected on the situation and realized that I would have benefited from a mindful approach. Duh.
One more thing I wanted to leave you with today is a series of quick questions designed to look at how anxiety is linked to thoughts. It's taken from this article and is a great read for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of identifying and challenging unhelpful thinking. Not too much psychological lingo and an interesting view.
Here's the possible questions a psychologist might ask to establish the relationship between thoughts and emotions:
"Cognitive–behavioural therapists emphasise unhelpful thinking styles because they recognise a link between the view individuals take of a situation and the impact that this has on how they feel emotionally and physically, and on the altered behaviours that result.
This reciprocal relationship can be identified by looking at a specific time when mood has worsened and then asking a series of questions such as:
‘When you were in the pub with your friends at what point did you feel most anxious?’
‘How anxious did you feel at that time on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is feeling no anxiety at all and 100 is the most anxious you have ever felt?’
‘At that moment when you came back from the toilet and your friends were all laughing and you felt 95% anxious, what was going through your mind?’
‘When you noticed the thought “They think I’m an idiot and will end up rejecting me”, how much did you believe it at the time, on the same 0 to 100 scale?’
‘Is it possible that that thought and how anxious you felt are linked?’"
I would recommend reading the article to understand thoughts and how they impact on your life, and then doing a mindfulness meditation about thoughts to better understand how they enter your mind and how you can notice them. I've included a meditation here for you, if you like it, great! If not, check out some of the others on the web at Free Mindfulness.
Anyway, here's the thoughts and sounds meditation. Find a quiet spot, sit up straight and enjoy your practice!
p.s. I got a call about a job while writing this post and I have a trial on Tuesday. Yay!!