If we pay attention to our daily thoughts, we begin to see how many self-criticisms, and unhealthy beliefs we impregnate into our subconscious mind every day. These thoughts can take the form of criticisms about our appearance, a lack of confidence in our abilities, feelings of guilt for taking time for ourselves, or a resistance to taking steps to better ourselves. In every person, there is at least one area where they are hindering their evolution by staying in their patterns.
Limiting beliefs and thought patterns repeat themselves for days, weeks, or even years. Sometimes we enforce the same limiting thought patterns throughout our entire life, never giving ourselves the chance to blossom.
We have a tendency to become our own worst enemies, but we can change this by altering our thought patterns. Instead of letting your mind limit you, use it as a tool to help yourself gain confidence and achieve more fulfillment in your life.
What Kind of Thought Patterns Need Replacing?
Anything which makes you feel bad about yourself. This includes negative thoughts around your ability, capacity or desire in areas such as:
- finding a fulfilling career
- making an abundant income
- going back to school or expanding your knowledge
- attracting meaningful partnerships
- feeling good about your physical appearance
- improving your health and physical well-being
- taking care of your spiritual needs
- general feelings of worthiness
How Can You Change Your Patterns of Thinking?
One of the best ways to rid yourself of negative mental patterns is first to witness your thoughts, and then change any negative or limiting thought into a positive and constructive thought.
1. Witness Your Thoughts
Spend a few days to a week, just observing your thought patterns. Make mental notes of how often you repeat certain beliefs. You will be surprised how many times a day you are reinforcing unhealthy patterns. Don’t try to stop these thoughts forcefully, just let them pass without judgment. If you are hard on yourself for being hard on yourself, this will not solve anything. We all have these tendencies, have compassion for yourself, and let the thoughts come as they normally would. Note what kind of thoughts you are thinking and how often they arise.
2. Replace Negative Thoughts With Positive Thoughts
Once you have identified your most self-sabotaging patterns, start working with one of them. You can choose to work on your most destructive and limiting pattern, or you can choose something which is not so deeply rooted. By starting with something which you think may be easier to change you will gain confidence in your ability to change your belief system, and in time, you will have more faith in your ability to tackle more serious patterns in your life.
Work continuously to improve your thoughts in all areas where you find you have negative patterns. Eventually, it will become an automatic reflex and before you a negative though can work it’s way into your consciousness, you will already be thinking positively and constructively.
Examples of How You Can Change Your Patterns:
Feel Better About Your Appearance
Do you look in the mirror in the morning and think “I look so tired today,” “I am fat,” or “My skin is dry/wrinkled/blemished.” Instead of concentrating on what you perceive as undesirable in your appearance, focus on what is desirable. It can be observations like “My eyes are sparkling today,” “This color looks excellent on me,” or “My hair is so wild and fun.” Focus on any aspect of your appearance which make you feel good. When you focus on everything that is looking good to you, you will boost your confidence and feel better when you go out in the world. In time, you will even start to love the aspects of your appearance that you that you once perceived as imperfect. You will notice that the better you feel about yourself, the more you will glow. As a result of your radiance, more compliments will come your way, further enhancing your confidence in the way you look.
Attract a Relationship
I have a friend who recently ended a long term relationship. She felt like she would not be able to start another relationship. She thought herself undesirable to men because she was ten years older than the last time she dated and was now also a single mother. Every time she caught herself starting to think thoughts like “no one will want me now” she instantly replaced it with the phrase “I can’t leave the house without getting hit on”. It certainly worked for her. Within days of changing her thoughts around her ability to attract men, she was getting approached by men every time she left her home, and even inside her apartment building. She was getting more attention than she initially asked for!
Of course, attracting more attention like my friend did can lead to a relationship, but if you are looking for a particular type of relationship or a specific kind of person, then you will want to direct your thoughts accordingly. When you catch yourself thinking that you are unworthy or undesirable, change your thoughts by using an affirmation like “I attract deep, meaningful partnerships into my life.” Use whatever feels right for you.
Feel Good About Nurturing Yourself
If you are the type of person who always puts your needs last, the type who feels guilty for taking time for yourself, the you are missing out on an important part of your self-development. Although there are times when we must care for others, self-care is and essential part of our own well-being.
I used to feel very guilty to take time out to do my yoga or meditation practice. Every time I went to take time out, my mind would automatically think of how I was too busy with work or chores, or how I needed to be somewhere to cater to this or that person. I started replacing these thoughts with affirming statements such as “I take the time to do yoga, to nourish my body and soul” or “When I take the time to meet my needs, I can then better help others.” Once I affirmed why it was important to take time for myself it became difficult to come up with an excuse to justify depriving myself of what I needed.
Whatever you do to nurture yourself, be it reading, cooking, a hot bath, a walk in the woods, or getting a massage, you can easily come up with an affirming statement that will emphasize it’s importance. Also, be careful not to limit yourself by taking on excessive duties, or making unnecessary obligations. We can only truly serve others, once we serve ourselves.
Get Yourself to Exercise
The hardest thing about exercising is beginning. But once you’ve stepped out the door, and are on your way to the gym, or your favorite running spot it’s unlikely you are going to turn around and sit back on the couch. Everyone has days when they may not feel they have the energy; lethargy or tiredness may set in, and we can come up with a host of reasons why we should not go and exercise. On days when you feel a lack of motivation, remind yourself why you want to exercise. Using affirmations such as “Exercise energizes and revitalizes me” or “I exercise because I value my health” will give you the encouragement you need to get out there.
Self-criticizing and allowing ourselves to remain in unhealthy, limiting patterns all boils down to a lack of love for oneself. If you work on self-love, in time you will naturally start feeling better about yourself in every aspect. When we love ourselves, we feel better about our appearance and our abilities, we take the time to care for ourselves through proper nutrition and exercise, we take the necessary time for ourselves, and we seek the most fulfilling life possible.
To cultivate more love for yourself, your affirmation can be as simple as “I love and accept myself.” You can use this statement to replace any negative thought or feeling you have towards yourself. If this is too broad of an affirmation for you, then work on specific areas as in the previous examples.
General Advice for Using Positive Thoughts
Whether you use your own wording or an affirmation written by another, use a phrase which resonates with you. The more it resonates with you, the easier it will be to change your thought patterns. If they all sound cheesy to you, use them anyway; after a few days, you will release your judgments as you start to notice the difference that they make.
Make sure that you always choose a positive thought. Do not use thoughts like “I am not a failure”; the subconscious will hear only the word “failure,” thus reinforcing your negative thinking.
These have been only a few examples to give you an idea of how it works. There are many more areas in which you may want to work on improving your feelings about yourself. Once you have identified your unhealthy thought patterns, you can discover various phrases which will help you change your mind; making it a useful tool in your personal development rather than a self-sabotaging mechanism.
If you need more inspiration or examples on how to change your thoughts read books such as:
- Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking
- Louise Hay, Everyday Positive Thinking
- Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life
- Joseph E. Donlan, Ordaining Reality: The Science Behind the Power of Positive Thinking
Photo: Patrizia Tilly