How To Become Mindful of Thoughts & Emotions

A little over a week ago, as some of you might have seen on Instagram, I had a family emergency that allowed me to practice being mindful of intense emotions. Fun right? 😆 I know. It’s not fun in the moment, but it is in the long run when you consider that unprocessed emotions can devolve into nervous system dysregulation. If you’re down to learn more about the nervous system’s role in health, you need to meet my friend Veronica on Instagram @wakingwomb. She’s a wealth of knowledge and has coached me through some difficult times on my healing journey. 

BUT BACK TO BECOMING MORE MINDFUL OF EMOTIONS (AND LET’S THROW IN THOUGHTS, TOO, WHILE WE’RE AT IT)

When you practice mindfulness to observe your thoughts and emotions, your feelings are not good or bad. Instead, your feelings are just what they are: emotions. 

We give our feelings labels like happy, confident, brave, bad, or ashamed in an attempt to make meaning of them. And anyone alive will tell you that emotions can be easy to deal with or they can be difficult. Some feelings make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable.

Children are constantly told that they shouldn’t feel this way or that. Even as adults, we are told to “be positive,” “don’t get mad,” “don’t cry,” and on and on, which sends the message that some emotions are good while others are bad. 

We are told to be happy, calm down, move on, get over it, or lighten up, but I’m giving you permission (even though you don’t need it) to let other people’s opinions go in one ear and out the other for the next week. 

Observing whatever you are feeling is an essential mindful thinking practice we can all benefit from. It’s one way into the “listen to your body” mantra I’m always talking about. You are allowed to “be” with non-judgmental acceptance and curiosity.

DO YOU HAVE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS?

Negative thoughts can have devastating results on your body and mind. It’s hard to believe that something as simple as being taken out of present moments can have such far-reaching consequences, but when you factor in that most of us are stressed and anxious a lot of the time, it adds up. 

Negative thoughts can come from constantly labeling your experience as bad, catastrophizing, and overgeneralization. Labeling yourself or your situation doesn’t make it any better. Take away labels and see how freeing it can be.

The hardest part is challenging these thoughts, and that’s where mindfulness comes into play. Learning to pay attention in a certain way, on purpose, and in the present moment will allow you to become more aware of your thoughts without judging them.

Mindfulness allows us to be still and anchored in the here and now. When we allow ourselves to notice our thoughts more clearly and become more aware of the present, we can begin to challenge them.

BUCKLE UP, BUTTERCUP

All the information in the world isn’t going to matter unless you commit to yourself and practice making the changes you’re eager to make. Ready to interact with your thinking/feeling a little differently?

FOUR CONCRETE OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE MINDFUL THINKING/FEELING

In order to become mindful of your thoughts and emotions, allow yourself to see things as though you were looking at them through a child or animal’s eyes. Most young children and animals are only focused on the present. This allows you to explore the thought or emotion(s) without attaching yourself to them or pushing them away. 

For example, instead of: “I have to do xyz,” (engaging with the thought) Roll with: “I notice I feel like I have a lot to do,” (exploring the thought without attachment).

If you practice yoga, try concentrating on some of the harder poses. If you happen to be suffering from anxiety or depression, for instance, try holding a challenging pose and bring attention to the discomfort. Don’t stop, but instead embrace it and practice regulated breathing through the pose. 

If you are in an anxious or depressed state, you might feel as if you are always in pain and that the pain will never go away. By holding a challenging pose, it can teach you to accept challenges and to know and trust that the pain will eventually go away.

Begin eating mindfully.  There are a million different approaches you can take in the world of mindful eating. But here’s a simple favorite of mine:

Sit down and really enjoy the food you are about to eat by feeling the texture, noticing the smell, and savoring the flavor of your food. Most people sit in front of a TV or phone and eat their meals. (I’m guilty of this myself 🫣) 

Let’s not be most people anymore, k? Let’s be the version of ourselves who turn off the TV and put away the phone, even if it’s only for one meal this week. 

Think about the food you are about to eat. Show gratitude for all the people that helped get the food to your plate (including yourself!). 

Take small bites and really chew the food savoring each bite. And, when you’re ready for it, build up to doing this a few times a week.

Take the time to listen mindfully. Just listen. Do nothing else. Practice really listening to your partner or the sounds around you. My favorite from last week? Listening to Miles purr. 

When mindfully listening, it’s important to avoid distractions and interruptions. The hardest part (imo) is not adding your opinion or agreeing/disagreeing. By doing this, you can enhance any relationship. 

WHICH OPTION WILL YOU TRY?

I love to hear what you’re working on. Let me know on IG or FB! (@outlookgoodfeelgood)

WELL WISHES FOR THE JOURNEY AHEAD

One thing all my clients have in common is their appreciation for slowing down and discovering how easy up-leveling their health gets to be. 

I think you’ll be surprised at the difference applying just one of the strategies listed above makes in your life and the way your mind and body feel after a consistent mindfulness practice. And if you get stuck? Revise. There are no rules. Make adjustments to support what feels good in your body as it is right now.