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Change Negative Thoughts With Mindfulness

As I descended the stairs one early morning to prepare tea, a cascade of negative thoughts unexpectedly flooded my mind. Despite a restful night's sleep, each step seemed accompanied by a wave of negativity, criticism, and judgment. "My kitchen is so ugly. The cabinets are filthy. My house is a mess."

Negative thinking is a natural tendency of the mind. When left unaddressed and allowed to persist unchecked, these thoughts can significantly impact our mental and emotional well-being

Step 1 - Recognize Negative Thoughts

Changing negative thoughts begins with the fundamental step of recognizing them. Awareness is key; one must first acknowledge the presence of negative thoughts to initiate transformation. The recognition process involves an understanding that negative thoughts can range from overt expressions like 'I hate myself' to more subtle, inconspicuous patterns such as 'Nothing is going right today.' These negative thought patterns often center around specific themes, like self-worth. Through mindfulness practice, one can cultivate the ability to identify both the overt and subtle aspects of negative thinking, fostering increased awareness and control

Step 2 - Pannatti Insight

The second step, Pannatti insight, introduces a mindfulness practice centered on consciously recognizing naming mental processes. Examples of mental processes include planning, daydreaming, craving, or problem solving.

Unchecked negative thinking patterns tend to escalate, with thoughts like 'Today is a horrible day' progressing into more intense and irrational narratives like 'Nothing ever goes right' or 'My problems are insurmountable.' Pannatti insight acts as a brake on this negative thinking cycle.

In the practice of Pannatti insight, when a negative thought arises, such as 'Nothing ever goes right,' one consciously acknowledges the mental process of negative thinking. Internally labeling the process as 'negative thinking,' this practice prevents us from succumbing to the irrationality of our thoughts. As the next negative thought emerges, such as 'I never do anything right,' Pannatti insight helps maintain objectivity, recognizing it as just another mental process rather than an absolute truth.

With 70,000-90,000 thoughts per day, acknowledging that not all thoughts are accurate becomes a crucial aspect of this practice.

Step 3 - See The Impermanent Nature Of Negative Thoughts

The final tip for reshaping negative thoughts lies in recognizing their impermanence. Much like a flowing river, thoughts change from moment to moment. Understanding that negative thoughts, no matter how intense, will eventually be replaced by different thoughts is empowering. Allow time for this natural ebb and flow. Beliefs, perceptions, and mental processes are in constant flux—this is the nature of the mind. Recognizing the impermanence of thoughts helps prevent endorsement or deep investment in negativity.

A woman sitting on dock meditating
Use Meditation and Change Negative Thoughts

Personally, I've applied these techniques to curb emotional eating, particularly my sweet tooth cravings. When the desire for another piece of pie surfaces, along with subtle self-pity like 'I never do anything nice for myself,' I employ Pannatti insight by internally acknowledging 'craving, craving.' The justification narrative pauses momentarily, and when it resumes with 'I never do anything nice for myself,' I recognize it as 'wrong view' or 'self-pity.'

Enjoying the impermanent nature of thoughts has become a powerful tool in dispelling negativity. Aging has brought shifts in preferences—what I liked turned into dislikes, and vice versa. With curiosity, I observe my mind, thinking, 'Well, that was an interesting thought. I wonder what the mind will come up with next.' This awareness reduces my investment in and belief in negative thoughts, as I know the mind will generate new thoughts in the next moment.

Additional information related to mindfulness practices to improve mental and emotional health can be found in Zenergy Mindfulness available on Amazon


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