Several weeks ago I made the decision to begin a journey of investing in my mental and emotional health. After heavy manipulation and abuse, both emotionally and spiritually, I decided now was a good time to begin.
In my most recent session I shared with my doctor my decision to join a gym. To some this may be an effortless decision requiring very little mental energy, for others it is an overwhelming thought requiring a great deal of bravery to even consider, let alone follow through with. I went from heavily working out daily to nothing at all. Partially out of fear pertaining to health concerns and partially due to mental and emotional exhaustion and exclusion.
I shared with her some of my automatic thoughts on my first day back in the gym. Automatic thoughts seem to be a central theme for most of our sessions. Automatic thoughts are the first thoughts that come to our minds, not necessarily truthful thoughts. The thoughts I shared with her were these:
1. People are watching you
2. People are judging you
3. People know you’re new
4. They think you don’t know what you’re doing
As I was rattling off these negative & intimidating thoughts, she had me stop to write these things down. She then had me write down four opposing thoughts that would challenge my automatic thoughts. The opposing thoughts looked like this:
1. No one is watching you
2. No one is judging you
3. You belong here
4. You have much experience
Further, she had me write four additional statements that offer evidence to support the integrity of the opposing thoughts. The supporting thoughts were these:
1. People are focused on themselves, not me
2. I am focused on my own agenda & not concerned with judging others so it is unlikely they are emitting energy on judging me
3. I pay to be here & have established my place just like everyone else
4. I have two decades worth of knowledge & experience in athletic performance with the ability to train myself
She asked me which groups of statements were true. I highly encourage this strategy if you find yourself believing and settling for the first thing that pops into your head.
I made an appearance at the gym two days after this session. After finishing my workout, I received an affirmation from one of the trainers for my form. I had no idea I was being observed. I realized because I let my thoughts work for me instead of against me I was able to show up, perform, and in that was the recipient of an encouraging word from a professional. I left the gym this day feeling energized and accomplished. My second set of thoughts had been validated and my automatic thoughts were on their way out the door.
Who in your life today can you consider an important thinker you can have meaningful conversations with? It is important to develop an awareness strategy when dealing with automatic thoughts and sometimes this comes in the form of people outside our own minds rallying with us to put this into practice.
Two things to consider, should you choose to delve into this process, and I hope that you will: 1) how can I think in a way that shows value for my time & 2) how can I think in a way that shows value for my energy. People will not freely value your time or energy for you, we must practice this for ourselves. Once we begin to value our own time and energy through our thinking and our actions, people will follow suit. But not before you do this for yourself.
There is power in being aware and intentional about rejecting automatic thoughts and challenging them with opposing ideas. There is power in letting your mind work to your advantage rather than giving your thoughts permission to work against you.
Automatic thoughts wont stop coming & everyone has them. It is up to us to be vigilant in our awareness and counteraction of them rather than being rid of them. I encourage you to write down some of your own thoughts that are working against you right now, write them down and then follow the same strategy I was brilliantly supplied with. I want to hear from you, I want to hear your breakthrough stories with this!
“Because life is likewise a flowing process, change and death are its necessary parts. To work for their exclusion is to work against life.”