It seems we are a culture addicted to positive slogans.
At least, I am. I know this because this is some of what surrounds me on my desk.
More often than not, I seek wisdom on the internet searching for the trendiest titles and positive pins, those which offer as much inspiration as possible in the least amount of words or a picture. On vacations, I find myself hunting and gathering t-shirts, magnets, posters and desktop doo-dads in gift shops. I collect those unique and uplifting sayings that are indigenous to the region I am visiting. How often have I consumed a book or a movie, only to proudly regurgitate it’s most memorable quotes and affirmations?
I tell myself – these are “my” motivational tags; analects of inspiration I’ve collected to challenge my own self-defeating thoughts – those negative voices in my head that are otherwise known as… (cue “dramatic effect” music) dum, dum, dum… “thought traps“.
Thought traps…we all have them and they do have the power to shape our behavior. They can be the first to beat us up when we are thinking of making a lifestyle change, or they can kindly and realistically be a triggered response to counter and direct us in a more positive direction.
Every once in awhile, I get hopelessly mired in a thought trap, in my own head of course. I recognize it is very similar to getting a car stuck in the mud. Giving it gas, spinning the wheels, forward and back – going nowhere. Or, maybe it’s like the experiences of being held up in traffic, in a line, in an argument, and hurrying, fleeing, fighting to get free, only to find it increasingly harder to escape. I’ve come to the realization it is sometimes better to take a deep breathe and stop for a moment. At this point, I like to think – the only advantage of getting stuck is that it offers me a moment of pause. What I do with the pause, is up to me.
I have some thought traps around the activity of walking. Today, I’d like to share one and offer some advice.
There are days I am very busy. (Yes, I am retired. No, I don’t know how the day gets away from me.) I just am. It is on these days that walking nags at me. (See, right there -thought trap. The use of the word ‘nags’) Anyway…this is when the negative voice in my head begins, and it keeps repeating …”Thinking about walking causes me stress, I’m not going to think about walking!”
During my moment of pause I think “Hmmm, when I think that thinking about walking causes me to feel stress, I don’t want to think about walking because I don’t want to feel stress.” This is an emotional reaction. I immediately push walking away because I don’t want to feel stress. My reasoning for eliminating walking is flawed. It sabotages what I really want, which is to walk and de-stress myself.
OK, can I reframe my thinking? First, I need to hear and understand what my poor little thought trap is saying. I do acknowledge that there may be some stress in thinking about walking, but it doesn’t mean I should abandon the idea, I need to ask myself “is there another way I can think about this?”
This is when I pull out all the stops…the affirmations and quotes, the cheerleaders and coaches I’ve supplanted in my brain. Here comes one now…