As I am writing this very article that you are reading, my mind is flooded with questions like “Will they even like what I’m writing?” “Gosh I sound so damn stupid, what makes me think I can ever write well?”
In fact, up in my head, I have already graduated college, gotten rejected from three different jobs, having a second midlife crisis if that’s even possible, pretty much feeling like a failure. How did I get here, you may be wondering? Read on.
We overthink every little thing going on in our lives. No matter who we are, every single person has one constant in their life: Stress. This isn’t always because the task at hand is bothering us. It is most likely a future outcome or a mistake of the past gnawing at our thoughts. We tend to either live in the past or future; filling our mind with all of the “what ifs” and “should haves” instead of focusing on the now, focusing on simply being. Haemin Sunim, a Buddhist teacher and well-known writer, has a saying that goes
“If you wish to clear away the clouds of your thoughts, simply keep your mind in the present. The clouds of thought linger only in the past or future. Bring your mind to the present, and your thoughts will rest.”
I have kept this saying in mind ever since I first came across it, and it has honestly changed my life for the better.
I used to spend my days living in my head rather than actually noticing what goes on around me because it felt easier that way. I wouldn’t have to deal with worries and face any harsh realities every teenager going into adulthood has to face. What I failed to realise, though, was that I was missing out on actually just living and enjoy my life as a seventeen-year-old should. After reading more of Sunim’s work, I started adding little things such as meditation and journaling into my daily routine. I even started working out more! Taking an hour out of my day to do these three simple activities completely changed my perspective on life and made me more aware of my thoughts. I finally understood why all those self-help books and articles, which initially seemed pretty pointless to me, said to do all these. I stopped looking at my problems and accomplishments at face value and started dealing with changes as they came. Instead of spending days stressing over one small issue I couldn’t control, I learnt to accept small mistakes I made, and moved on with newfound knowledge. Likewise, I allowed myself to feel happy without bringing in thoughts that reminded me that happiness wouldn’t last.
What I hope you take away from this article is that it is important to bring your focus back to the present when you catch yourself going in a downward spiral. In order to do so, you need to start by being aware of your thoughts. It is but natural to have negative thoughts; to have your mind immediately think of the worst situation possible, and to just drown in worry. What’s not okay though, is to let these emotions consume you. I still frequently catch myself feeling that way. I could be doing something as simple as reading a book, and end up getting lost in my own thoughts. One thought leads to another, and I can’t seem to stop my mind from running in all the wrong directions. When I realise I’m doing this, I talk to myself like I would to a friend, with understanding and kindness. Not everyone responds to negative emotions the same way, so try and find what works for you, whether it is listening to your favourite song, going for a walk, or writing your feelings down. Pull yourself out of that train of thought. As you start increasing the awareness of your thoughts, you will be able to look at both positive and negative emotions from a neutral point of view, without being as affected by either.