Here’s a surprising fact: A typical person has about 60,000 thoughts every day. A whopping 95 percent of those are repeated daily. (It’s like Groundhog Day in your head!) Here’s the real surprise (not!): It turns out that many of those thoughts are negative. But habitual thought patterns, your mind’s way of dealing with life’s little annoyances and daily challenges, don’t have to define you. If you’re willing, you can actually change your thought patterns, which is really pretty cool. “When we meditate, we have the opportunity to experience our thoughts as passing events,” says Jennifer Hunter, LISW-S, Cleveland Clinic’s director of wellness, employer services. “We learn to distance ourselves from the content of the thought and simply observe it as it is happening, allowing it to pass,” she says. “This helps us to develop a vital skill — the ability to accept our thinking without judgment.”
Here’s what to do: When you find yourself having a negative thought, step back and call the thought what it is: a thinking habit. Acknowledge that you’re feeling stressed, and allow the thought to pass. Then, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “I wonder what my next thought will be?” The break will give you a moment to slow down your thinking and create pauses between thoughts. The key is to get to know your negative thought patterns and work on developing more beneficial ones. “You must take a moment to pause, breathe and step back from the thoughts that feel emotionally charged,” says Hunter. “Then come back to what you’re doing and enjoy the present moment.”
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