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You Are Not Your Thoughts

Tips for re-framing negativity

By Amy Austin, RN, Psy.D., LMFT

I have to say that I don’t think anything I’m going to share with you in this article is going to be new, unique or awe-inspiring. With this said, please forgive the negative turn my mind just took and I’ll re-frame my message into a more positive light and mindset. Here goes…With gentle compassion and positive self regard, I’m going to share with you thoughts that can help you to acknowledge negativity and know you have a choice to change it. How did I do?

Too often, we are besieged with‘could’ve, should’ve, would’ve’ thoughts. We get down on ourselves for not doing things right, saying things correctly, or behaving in ways that bring shame or guilt into the picture. Our daily lists are too long, expectations too high and we live in a state of overwhelm. The body reacts to the angst and secretes stress hormones that can increase anxiety states. How do we get off the merry-go-round when a vacation is not in the cards?

1) A check up with your physician might be in order to rule out a possible physiological issue. Also, if anxiety or depression is creating negative consequences in your life such as panic, fatigue, a decrease in pleasurable activities, loss of appetite, lack of motivation, fear of being social, etc., a psychiatric consultation and assessment could be warranted (I’m speaking of a chronic condition, not a situational one). And, if there is any threat to the health and safety of yourself or others, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room, talk to a close friend or family member, and/or call the suicide hot line. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

2) You are not your mind. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Breathe in your thoughts and let them flow like an ocean wave flowing and ebbing on shore. By doing this simple guided imagery you’ll be able to see in your mind’s eye, with greater clarity, what your mind is busy saying. But, it’s not you. You’re so much more, so much deeper than your thoughts. I like it when people go out of their minds sometimes.

3) Yes, you can sleep. You can turn it off. Your thoughts don’t run you. And, they can wait until the morning. If you fast forward five years, can you tell me that your thoughts today really have the monumental meaning you’re giving them now?

4) Complete a “feelings check” every morning and night. Feelings change throughout the day, and you can empower yourself to re-frame those thoughts and feelings on the spot. The feelings I like to use are: joy/happy, fear, pain, lonely, shame, guilt, sad, angry. Keep it simple.

5) Allow yourself to detach (for a time) from social media, phones, texts, etc. Surprisingly, you’ll live richer and wiser.

You are all you need this very moment, and you’re valuable and truly enough. Repeat this saying every time a negative thought enters your mind. Yes, you can.

Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC # 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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