Often, it seems it’s all too easy to become hostage to our memories, thoughts and feelings.
After all, many people would argue that’s all we are – the sum of our experiences and our reactions to them.
In many ways, they are right: every memory, thought or feeling is just a download of information, filed away in the brain. Our subconscious is like a tape recorder, always running, storing all of our experiences so they are on hand whenever we encounter a similar situation.
But there’s a problem with our subconscious mind.
It’s far more powerful than our conscious mind, and it’s constantly informing or overriding our conscious awareness. Once a download has been stored in the brain, it’s incredibly difficult to change it. The day-to-day repetitions of our lives reinforce our memories and thoughts until they become patterns. Old habits die hard, as they say.
This memory tape of thoughts and behaviours can be devastating for our wellbeing. It can trap us in negative cycles of thinking, stop us from changing our path in life and prevent us from finding peace and resolution.
Fortunately, it is possible to overwrite this recording. Techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, hypnosis and the Emotional Freedom Technique can help us overlay new thoughts and emotions, enabling us to behave and react differently to experiences, old and new.
Think how liberating it would feel to no longer be held hostage by our past experiences. To see the world with fresh eyes that are able to be kinder to ourselves and the people around us.
Try finding a quiet moment during your day to practise one of the following exercises:
A moment of meditation
Sit comfortably in a quiet place and begin to pay attention to your thoughts, breathing or senses. If your mind starts to wander, just gently bring your attention back to what you were focusing on.
Take note if your thoughts start to drift into negativity. We’re usually unaware this is happening until it’s too late and we’re in the middle of a bad mood. But by learning to recognise our thoughts and triggers for negativity, we can manage them before they spiral into anxiety and fear.
Visualisation is a great way to help you reach your potential or stay calm in stressful situations. Let’s say, for example, that you’re worried about an upcoming doctor’s appointment.
First, find a quiet place to sit. Once you are comfortable and relaxed, imagine yourself entering the room and greeting the doctor. Pay attention to your senses. What are you seeing, hearing and feeling in this visualisation? Walk yourself through every moment of this interaction as if you were doing it in real life.
If you start to feel anxious about what the doctor might say, take a few deep breaths as you take in the situation. Imagine yourself becoming completely relaxed. Rehearse every potential outcome of the appointment, imagining yourself being calm, focused and collected.
Whichever exercise you try, these moments of reflection are vital for creating new habits and patterns of thinking that free you to pursue a more positive mindset.