Therapist Musings: Thoughts
This week, I thought often of.... thoughts :D
One of the things that our brain likes to do is generate thoughts. It's been found that we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. And, most of these thoughts are repetitive. The same narratives or stories that we tell ourselves come up again and again throughout the day. We ruminate and worry and catastrophize on the same things over and over again. Which, as you can imagine, is overwhelming and contributes to significant depression and anxiety.
Some folks believe that thoughts are behaviors, just like emotional eating is a behavior. Or, binge drinking. Or, binge watching Netflix. Or, exercising. If thoughts are behaviors, it's fair to say that the same way that we attempt to change the behavior of eating when feeling lonely or stress, we can also attempt to change the behavior of thinking.
The way that we relate to our thoughts is crucial. Most times, we identify with our thoughts. We become our thoughts. So much so that it can be impossible to separate or put distance between what we think and who we actually are, outside of our thoughts. I can have this thought: I'm a horrible person, but is that really who I am?
I've been telling many folks this week that our thoughts are like the squirrels we see out there on our walks. When we see a squirrel, we typically let it go on their merry way as we continue on our own journeys. What if we practiced noticing thoughts like that, and letting them go? Like, oh. Here goes another squirrel. Ooh! Another one. And yet, another squirrel.
Another popular way to think of this way of relating to our thoughts is imagining leaves on a stream. We can practice putting our thoughts on leaves and watching them float away. We can practice watching our thoughts drive away if we place them on cars. Or, practice watching them walk away if we place them on people.
Below, I explore a mindfulness activity, and reflect on another helpful way to relate to our thoughts.
So press play, and breathe with me :)