Well-Being Tip: Get to Know Your MindJune 1, 2021
In this week’s Well-Being Tip, we explore the skill of bringing awareness to our thoughts.
Do you have a constant stream of thoughts from your mind, providing a nonstop narrative to your day? How do you react to this voice? Do you ignore it? Admonish it? Forget all about it?
When we turn inward, it doesn’t take long to notice the endless stories we tell ourselves. There is such a continuous stream of chatter in the mind – and usually we don’t even know it’s there. These thoughts, judgments, and stories are like a pair of glasses that distort everything we see. The problem is that we forget we’re wearing them, and we assume that the stories we tell ourselves are true.
Self-awareness is the skill of knowing your state of mind, of listening and noticing these thought patterns without judgment.
In this week’s Tuesday Tip, we’ll learn how to bring awareness to our thoughts as we go about our day, to the inner narrative that plays in the background of our minds. In other words, we’ll spend some time getting to know our minds.
The key to self-awareness is taking the time to check in with yourself, to slow down a bit, and to notice what’s going on with your thoughts and emotions. Like anything else, slowing down is a skill. You can practice pausing so that you can respond rather than react. You can train yourself to notice your thoughts and emotions, and then choose how to handle them in a skillful way.
Unconscious habits thrive on distraction. When we’re not aware of what’s happening in our mind, we end up reacting impulsively without any clear intentions. To get to know your mind more and bring the background chatter to the forefront, set an intention to train your mind to notice these thoughts in a specific upcoming situation.
- Step 1: Pick an upcoming situation. Take a moment right now to think of a specific moment in the future (an upcoming meeting, seeing friends, delivering a project, picking up a child from school) and set an intention to be aware of your thoughts, expectations, and judgments when you’re about to enter the situation.
- Step 2: Notice what’s going on in your mind without judgment. Is your inner critic judging and evaluating you? What narrative is your mind writing? The point here is to notice, not to make it stop. This point is extremely important, because if we try to shut our inner critic up, that itself is a reflection of the judgemental mind.
- Step 3: Repeat. You’re training your mind to be self-aware, and it takes time. But the more you practice this skill, by noticing your thoughts and judgments throughout the day, the more you’ll build that “muscle.”
What we’re doing is seeing that this inner critic – and all of the thoughts and feelings it conjures up – doesn’t have to run the show. It’s just words and images in the mind. In these practices, you are aware of the inner critic and the background narrative, but you treat it like a random sound, or like the breath – and are simply aware.
Want more guidance? You can continue to support your self-awareness skill-building with this 10 minute seated meditation.
Get more practices and tips by downloading the Healthy Minds Program App, freely available thanks to the generosity of our donors wherever you get your apps.