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When I Focus on My Negative Thoughts, I Just Become More Anxious. How Do I Work With This?

Mark shares how loving awareness can free us from negative thoughts and incline us towards that which is beautiful and uplifting.

Hello, Mark Coleman here. I've been asked to answer the question, When I focus on my negative thoughts I just become more anxious. How do I work with this? First, thank you for your question and know that you're definitely not alone. When we focus on a negative thoughts, negativity, it's quite natural that we often feel distressed, anxious, nervous, triggered, unsettled. And in this larger conversation about working with the critic, a significant part of those negative thoughts can be our judgemental thoughts.

And often when we're beating ourselves up, when we're criticizing ourselves, we become more anxious, more perturbed, more worried. I remember when I first started meditating, I had a fair amount of anxiety, but particularly a lot of thoughts, a lot of negative thoughts. I noticed a lot of judgmental thoughts, a lot of self-deprecating thoughts. And then of course, I would project those out onto the world. A lot of judgment and blame towards the government, towards other people, towards institutions.

Just a lot of negativity. And I noticed that caused me to feel quite disturbed, anxious, upset, irritated. And of course, listening to my mind, to my judging mind, just made that feel worse. Reminding me all the things I wasn't doing, all of the ways I wasn't enough, all of the things I should be doing or could be doing better. And I feel very grateful to have learned a particular teaching that I learned from my Buddhist practice.

And it's a line from the Buddha that goes like this, "Whatever the mind frequently dwells and ponders upon that becomes the inclination of the mind and the heart." Whatever the mind frequently dwells and ponders upon that becomes the inclination of the mind and the heart. Basically whatever we're attending to, which is really the basis of neuroplasticity, whatever we're attending to, what we attend to and how we attend to it really significantly affects our brain and our wellbeing. So as I started developing mindfulness practice, I realized most of the time, my mind was oriented to negative thoughts as the question is asking about, but also negativity in general. I would look at what's wrong in myself, in the world, in people, in society, in government, in politics. And that just created a lot of agitation and anxiety and sadness.

And so there were two things that I learned from that. One is mindfulness helps you understand the content of your mind, whether the thoughts are negative or positive, constructive or not, critical or not. And that I had agency over where I placed my attention. Just because a negative thought arises doesn't mean we need to give it a lot of attention. We can just notice, Oh, look at that.

Thinking's happening. Negative thinking's happening. Negative bias is happening. Negative perspective on the world is happening. And with that, with that awareness, we have some choice.

We can continue going down that negative thought, negative pathway and perspective. Or we can shift our attention. One of the practices that I teach about working with the critic is what's called a replacing practice .Every time that you judge yourself. Oh, you're so lazy, or, no one's going to love you, or, look at your life, it's pathetic or whatever the judgments are. You replace that judgment with, oh, and may I be happy.

Oh, may I be peaceful. May I be free from judgment. And so you're shifting the attention from the negative thought to something more constructive, more kind, more positive. So when I learned that practice of inclining my attention away from negativity, from reactivity, away from negative thoughts and perspective and incline my attention towards that, which was beautiful and that which was uplifting, that which was calming, focusing on the goodness of people or the goodness of myself or the beautiful things around me, then I noticed the anxiety softened. And I started to see myself in the world with new eyes with more positive, more appreciative perspective.

So that's one thing you can do is bring mindfulness to your thoughts, noticing whether they're negative or positive, critical or constructive. Acknowledging them. Then shifting your attention to something that's more easeful. And if you are anxious of course, then we want to bring a kind, loving awareness to that feeling. You might notice where you feel the anxiety in the body.

Perhaps in the breath, tightness in the throat, fluttering in the belly. And then again, inclining your attention to something which helps ground you. Maybe feeling your feet on the floor, somewhere in the body that feels calm. Maybe your legs or your hands, or your shift, your attention to something in this space around you look out the window, listen to sounds. Something that allows that anxiety to calm.

And then you keep orienting towards that, which is supporting a sense of wellbeing rather than going to the negative thoughts that keep spiraling the anxiety. And the important thing to notice is we do have that capacity to choose our response in any moment, to decide whether we go down the same tunnel of negative thinking, which causes in your case anxiety or negativity or fear. To notice that, to release the thought and to come back to something that's more wholesome, more supportive of your wellbeing. Like a phrase of loving kindness, like listening to sounds, like focusing on the task at hand rather than being stuck in the negative thoughts. And of course, one of those main facets of negative thinking is the critic.

And so we want to really pay attention to when that's happening, to notice it, to acknowledge it and then to let it go. So again, thank you for this question and I hope these responses allow you some different ways to work with the anxiety that comes from the negative thoughts. And lastly, just to remember to be kind and gentle in your practice and to enjoy your practice as much as you're able. Thank you.

Talk

4.6

When I Focus on My Negative Thoughts, I Just Become More Anxious. How Do I Work With This?

Mark shares how loving awareness can free us from negative thoughts and incline us towards that which is beautiful and uplifting.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Hello, Mark Coleman here. I've been asked to answer the question, When I focus on my negative thoughts I just become more anxious. How do I work with this? First, thank you for your question and know that you're definitely not alone. When we focus on a negative thoughts, negativity, it's quite natural that we often feel distressed, anxious, nervous, triggered, unsettled. And in this larger conversation about working with the critic, a significant part of those negative thoughts can be our judgemental thoughts.

And often when we're beating ourselves up, when we're criticizing ourselves, we become more anxious, more perturbed, more worried. I remember when I first started meditating, I had a fair amount of anxiety, but particularly a lot of thoughts, a lot of negative thoughts. I noticed a lot of judgmental thoughts, a lot of self-deprecating thoughts. And then of course, I would project those out onto the world. A lot of judgment and blame towards the government, towards other people, towards institutions.

Just a lot of negativity. And I noticed that caused me to feel quite disturbed, anxious, upset, irritated. And of course, listening to my mind, to my judging mind, just made that feel worse. Reminding me all the things I wasn't doing, all of the ways I wasn't enough, all of the things I should be doing or could be doing better. And I feel very grateful to have learned a particular teaching that I learned from my Buddhist practice.

And it's a line from the Buddha that goes like this, "Whatever the mind frequently dwells and ponders upon that becomes the inclination of the mind and the heart." Whatever the mind frequently dwells and ponders upon that becomes the inclination of the mind and the heart. Basically whatever we're attending to, which is really the basis of neuroplasticity, whatever we're attending to, what we attend to and how we attend to it really significantly affects our brain and our wellbeing. So as I started developing mindfulness practice, I realized most of the time, my mind was oriented to negative thoughts as the question is asking about, but also negativity in general. I would look at what's wrong in myself, in the world, in people, in society, in government, in politics. And that just created a lot of agitation and anxiety and sadness.

And so there were two things that I learned from that. One is mindfulness helps you understand the content of your mind, whether the thoughts are negative or positive, constructive or not, critical or not. And that I had agency over where I placed my attention. Just because a negative thought arises doesn't mean we need to give it a lot of attention. We can just notice, Oh, look at that.

Thinking's happening. Negative thinking's happening. Negative bias is happening. Negative perspective on the world is happening. And with that, with that awareness, we have some choice.

We can continue going down that negative thought, negative pathway and perspective. Or we can shift our attention. One of the practices that I teach about working with the critic is what's called a replacing practice .Every time that you judge yourself. Oh, you're so lazy, or, no one's going to love you, or, look at your life, it's pathetic or whatever the judgments are. You replace that judgment with, oh, and may I be happy.

Oh, may I be peaceful. May I be free from judgment. And so you're shifting the attention from the negative thought to something more constructive, more kind, more positive. So when I learned that practice of inclining my attention away from negativity, from reactivity, away from negative thoughts and perspective and incline my attention towards that, which was beautiful and that which was uplifting, that which was calming, focusing on the goodness of people or the goodness of myself or the beautiful things around me, then I noticed the anxiety softened. And I started to see myself in the world with new eyes with more positive, more appreciative perspective.

So that's one thing you can do is bring mindfulness to your thoughts, noticing whether they're negative or positive, critical or constructive. Acknowledging them. Then shifting your attention to something that's more easeful. And if you are anxious of course, then we want to bring a kind, loving awareness to that feeling. You might notice where you feel the anxiety in the body.

Perhaps in the breath, tightness in the throat, fluttering in the belly. And then again, inclining your attention to something which helps ground you. Maybe feeling your feet on the floor, somewhere in the body that feels calm. Maybe your legs or your hands, or your shift, your attention to something in this space around you look out the window, listen to sounds. Something that allows that anxiety to calm.

And then you keep orienting towards that, which is supporting a sense of wellbeing rather than going to the negative thoughts that keep spiraling the anxiety. And the important thing to notice is we do have that capacity to choose our response in any moment, to decide whether we go down the same tunnel of negative thinking, which causes in your case anxiety or negativity or fear. To notice that, to release the thought and to come back to something that's more wholesome, more supportive of your wellbeing. Like a phrase of loving kindness, like listening to sounds, like focusing on the task at hand rather than being stuck in the negative thoughts. And of course, one of those main facets of negative thinking is the critic.

And so we want to really pay attention to when that's happening, to notice it, to acknowledge it and then to let it go. So again, thank you for this question and I hope these responses allow you some different ways to work with the anxiety that comes from the negative thoughts. And lastly, just to remember to be kind and gentle in your practice and to enjoy your practice as much as you're able. Thank you.

Talk

4.6

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