Our thoughts have a powerful influence on our emotions and actions. For some, the connection between thoughts and feelings gets lost in the blur of daily tasks and routines. When living life on automatic drive, connection can be lost to our inner world and the meaning we make of our experiences. Others are acutely aware of inner dialogue – especially the inner critic, often offering relentless judgment and promoting a fog of self-doubt and low mood. Both disconnection to thoughts and feelings, or an over-focus on automatic negative thoughts and emotions is detrimental to our emotional health and relationships.
Paying attention to our inner dialogue is a first important step in improving the quality of our inner life. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, an evidence-based treatment for anxiety and depression, encourages people to track their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This intentional attunement gives important information about the content and emotional tone of one’s inner experience. The important connections and influences between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors becomes clearer. This clarity presents an opportunity to change negative inner thoughts to reality based positive thoughts. “What we pay attention to grows” *. This is why gratitude can have such a powerful impact on our mood. When we selectively choose to notice the positive, either blessings or kind words and deeds, we are intentionally changing the focus and emotional quality of our inner life. Far from being a victim of our thoughts, or apathetic and disconnected, we begin to experience energy and meaning for life and relationships.
Wise attention is a learned skill, something that takes practice and commitment. Learning to have an intentional positive focus does not shut a blind eye to suffering in the world, but it does interpret events and thoughts though a hopeful lens. It’s empowering to know we can change our negative relationship to thoughts and feelings to a positive connection. It’s a choice worth considering – what will you grow?
*Quote by Deepak Chopra