Episode 119: Negative thinking spirals

When you get caught up in a negative thinking spiral, how can you find your way out?


Resources & References

Related episodes & posts:
The real point of meditation
How to get out of your head
What it really means when you beat yourself up


“There is only a finite amount of real estate available in consciousness at any given instant.”

—Shinzen Young

Har Prakash Khalsa


Aili Kuutan: When you get caught up in a negative thinking spiral, how can you find your way out? That's what this episode is about.

Aili Kuutan: You're listening to pure light, where we explore how you can believe in yourself and be happy with who you are. My name is Aili. I'm a coach, writer and yoga and meditation teacher. This is episode 119.

Aili Kuutan: In the last episode, I talked about the question, "What's wrong with me?" ... and different ways of looking at it when it comes to mind, and as I was thinking about it, it seemed logical to talk about negative thinking spirals next, because I used to have them all the time – these waves, or tidal waves of thoughts that would include not only questions like, "What's wrong with me?" ... but all of the possible answers to that question.

Aili Kuutan: There's a certain amount of energy and momentum in a negative thinking spiral. It's almost like a snowball rolling down a mountain. It'll keep growing and building speed until, at some point, eventually it'll stop at the bottom when it runs out of momentum. So the other option, other than just watching it go down, is to do something to stop it, or to slow it down, or change its path, at least when it comes to a negative thinking spiral... which is totally possible if you focus some of your attention away from what's going on in your mind, because then you aren't feeding it more energy. You're directing that energy towards something else.

Aili Kuutan: There's a limit to how much you can hold in your awareness in any given moment. You can't possibly be aware of everything that's going on. I took a mindfulness course with Har Prakash Khalsa a couple of years ago, and his teacher Shinzen Young said it in a really nice way: "There's only a finite amount of real estate available in consciousness at any given instant."

Aili Kuutan: So if you think about it like a pie chart, during a negative thinking spiral, because there's so much momentum and energy related to thinking, most of the awareness shifts there by default, so the mind ends up taking up a huge piece of the pie, if not all of it... Because when you're in the middle of a negative thinking spiral, you're probably not paying attention to what you're doing or what's going on around you. You're probably a bit checked out and just focusing on the thoughts, which means that there's a huge opportunity to shift the awareness so that thoughts occupy a much smaller piece of that pie.

Aili Kuutan: Negative thinking spirals aren't a sign that you suck. They're a sign that you're thinking too much and not feeling enough. When you focus your attention on the body and feeling whatever sensations you feel, you direct your awareness away from the mind and you take away some of that momentum.

Aili Kuutan: The breath is a great way to support that transition of shifting your focus. The next time that you catch yourself beating yourself up or getting caught up in worry, use that as a sign to get out of your head, to shift that focus. So don't assign meaning to the thoughts. Don't believe your thoughts, and don't try to fight them either. Simply refocus your attention on the body.

Aili Kuutan: The next time you have a negative thinking spiral, remember, the problem isn't you. Your thoughts aren't the truth, unless you choose to believe them. Whatever's going on in your mind is not a reflection of your worth. You can shift your attention away from your mind into your body, and when you do that, you take power away from the thoughts. You slow down that momentum because you aren't feeding the mind with energy by focusing on what you're thinking. So think less and feel more.

Aili Kuutan: If you enjoyed this subscribe to pure light to get more stuff like this. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, may you be guided by your light.

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