Simple ways to shift your internal dialogue in a more productive way
We humans are unique in the way we think. Our thoughts can broaden us or hinder us in our growth. We are the only species who have the ability to narrate our lives. This can be both mind-altering and destructive. The stories we tell ourselves in these narratives play a huge part in how we show up in the world. We speak an estimated 50,000 words in our head every single day! Like all forms of growth and change, it starts with awareness. Once you become aware of the words you are saying continuously to yourself, you can begin the process of altering the stories you’ve created in your head.
Living in the present moment is a learned skill and one that can be challenging for those of us who have spent a lifetime romanticizing the past. Perhaps out of uncertainty about the future or to grasp onto pain and trauma from our past. Either way, whatever voice is dominant controls the decisions you make today.
If you are ready to take control of the outcome of your story and change the trajectory you’re on, these 4 steps can guide you towards a future worthy of you.
It’s time to let go of the stories that are holding you back and harness the mind-chatter that keeps you stuck in a life you don’t even love.
- Distance yourself from your inner dialogue
Your inner dialog is always present. It affects every decision you make. That’s why it’s so hard to set emotions aside when making a difficult decision. Distancing yourself from your inner dialogue takes work and patience, but it will enable you to make more productive choices.
One effective way to separate yourself from a pattern on repeat is to talk about yourself in the third person. For example: Instead of saying Why did I do that? A statement that confirms that you are a certain way, Ask yourself, Why did you just do that? This separates you from the event. Allowing your brain to analyze things from a clearer perspective.
This works in the same way as switching your thoughts from…
- I am depressed to I feel depressed
- I am starving to I feel starving
- I am vulnerable to I feel vulnerable
- I hate him to I feel hate towards him
Can you feel the difference in your body when you make this change? One is making the emotion a part of who you are and the other creates a distance because it is not who you are but rather how you are currently feeling.
Our brains understand that we can move beyond something we feel more than it understands moving beyond something we are.
Why this is helpful?
Using this technique helps us to cope with past trauma. It helps us understand we are not our emotions. Creating this border helps us realize that the things that make us anxious, depressed, vulnerable, etc. are emotion-based and can change. When our minds are open we can self-reflect in a more immersive way. This leads us towards growth and understanding instead of just an “I” statement based on a story about a past event that we have romanticized and recreated many times over.
The next time you are faced with a big decision make sure you are not acting out of emotion or a story based on past events. Distance yourself. Ask the introspective questions that allow you to separate from your constant mind-chatter about who and what you are. See if this technique helps guide you from emotion-based movement to a more rational growth-based movement.
Read more about inner dialog and its effects here.
- Turn your thoughts toward awe
Have you ever watched a parent jump through hoops to create an experience of wonder and magic for their kids? It is often paired with a lot of drama, money, and time to get things just right to create these moments. But then you see the parents look of wonder and awe as they watch their kids experience the magic. It is beautiful and sad all in one ball.
We try to recreate moments that we had or others had to keep wonder alive. Forgetting that awe is happening all around us all the time.
Our minds compartmentalize awe. Somewhere along the line, we decided it was to be reserved for special moments like…
- The birth of a child
- Our wedding day
- The first morning on vacation in a tropical land
Because of this, we tend to put a lot of pressure on these events to be perfect and awe-inspiring. These big events are going to produce moments of awe in the nature of what they are, but they can also be seen and felt right now.
Look around where you are right now. What do you see? What are you over-looking in your life right now because of the distraction of your mind-chatter?
- Your cat curled in a ball in the last of the morning sunbeam taking in the rays
- Your jade plant reaching for the light in nature’s perfect way
- The pile of clothes thrown over the coach reminding you of the precious people you live with
- Multiple layers of unread books stacked next to the coach waiting to be read
- The handmade curtains you made over ten years ago that add color and light to the room
All you see is worthy of gratitude and awe if you take the time to see it. The messiness of life is awe in motion. Not just something reserved for special moments because all life is special. Every moment is special. Your unique life is awe-inspiring and special.
Train your mind to slow down and notice all that is happening around you. This stops your mind from spinning tales of doom and fear and allows you to open up to the unlimited possibilities of the ever-present now.
- Start a breathing practice
We’ve all heard how fantastic meditation is to get you out of your head and clear your mind, but it also sounds super scary and impractical. A breath practice on the other hand has the same impact as meditating without the intimidating feelings surrounding it.
When you control your breathing pattern you take back your ability to improve your concentration and focus your mind. Our breath and our mind are duly linked. When one is calm, so is the other. So you can affect your mind by slowing your breath.
Inhales are associated with the fight or flight response that sends signals from your nervous system to your brain that things are out of control. Anxious thoughts result in a series of shallow rapid inhales. Exhales, on the other hand, are associated with your rest and digest side of your nervous systems response to the brain. Long, slow deep exhales help calm your mind, heart, and body down.
By starting a breathing practice you are consciously taking time to focus on what is going on in your body instead of continuing to get lost in the cycles of thoughts in your head.
As little as 5 minutes of conscious breathing per day can have a dramatic impact in clearing out your mind-chatter and creating space for new thoughts to enter and expand.
- Sit up straight right now and soften your gaze.
- Take a deep inhale low into your belly. Let your belly expand as the air travels in your nose, down the back of your throat, and deep into your belly.
- Hold the air in for 2 seconds before exhaling out slowly as you count to five.
Now do it again.
- Inhale, through the nose, for a four count
- Hold for a 2 count
- Exhale for a five count
- Repeat four or five more times
Let your focus be internal. Notice what is happening in your subtle body as the air moves in and out. Notice what parts of your body naturally move, open and expand. Focus solely on the breath.
Boom! You just calmed your nervous system. And you can practice this almost anywhere and at any time. In five short minutes a day you can…
- Increase awareness of your body
- Boost your immune system
- Decrease stress levels in the body
- Focus your mind
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and attention deficit order
Slow, deep, mindful breathing sends a message to your brain that you are calm, cool, and collected. From a calm place you can better harness your mind-chatter and begin to direct your thoughts from a clear perspective.
Read more about the healthy benefits of breathing here.
- Stop venting! It doesn’t help
One of the ways we process our thoughts is by talking about them. This is helpful for many reasons.
- It allows us an opportunity to hear our thoughts and decipher weather or not they make sense
- It gives those we trust an opportunity to help us process our thoughts
- It helps us to understand that our problems aren’t so unique and that there is a way to work through them.
All of this is true if, in fact, we are actually looking for solutions to grow from. Most people are not talking about their problems to find solutions. Most people are venting. And the more we vent about the negative events in our lives the longer the negative event will play out in our minds. We look for support by complaining to others. This bleeds bad energy into your environment and encourages others to suffer alongside you. We’ve all heard the saying, “misery loves company”.
Unless you are prepared to have a constructive dialogue that moves you towards a solution, venting actually keeps problems stuck in our head.
Day after day you will find that most of your thoughts are on repeat from the same thoughts you experienced yesterday and the day before that. When a negative experience gets stuck in your thought pattern and you spend time and energy sharing those negative thoughts it becomes a programmed cycle that will repeat into your day. That is unless you are seeking resolve.
The solution here sounds easy enough, yet it can be incredibly challenging. When you speak with your trusted circle of friends and family, approach it from a resolution perspective. For example: if you are having a conflict with someone at work and are feeling angry with them, try to not vent to everyone else in the workplace and start a tug-of-war amongst staff. Instead speak to one person you trust and ask them to hear you out so that you can find solutions together.
If you want to improve your emotional state then seek solutions in your conversations. This includes owning up to any oversights that come clear as your work through the problem.
Change the Mind-Chatter
At the end of the day you have very little control over so much of what happens in your life. You do, however, always have control over your thoughts. It begins by being aware of the chatter in your mind and actively taking steps to improve it.
The fact is that you spend every moment of every day in your head, so you might as well enjoy the thoughts that create this experience. You cannot change the past or predict the future, but you can work on making the most of the current moment and using these healthy tools to guide your mind-chatter into a more productive place.