What was I thinking?

Stay away from Mom, she’s crabby.

When I felt off, staying clear of me was a good idea for the kids. I’d usually start mentally searching for something to blame for my foul demeanour. Someone must have done something.

In my search for what had created my irritability, I’d usually find several innocent victims to blame. And, it didn’t stop there, as everyone and everything seemed bent on adding to my irritation. My mind grew ever more critical, and I’d find myself alone.

I used to feel victim to my prevailing moods, as I’m sure everyone around me did also.

If I’d only known then what I know now. Sorry kids; when we know better, we do better.

Back then, I didn’t understand neuroscience and emotions. I’d yet to learn that I, alone, was the one in charge of my thoughts and moods.

We may try to shift and change the external world to make us happy, when in reality, what most often needs to change is what’s going on inside. 

It’s empowering to move the locus of control from the outer world, and back inside ourselves. It’s not about self-blame; it’s about awareness.

Mindfulness practice has taught me so much about my tendencies of thought, and how to help myself through challenging times.

Becoming aware of the intimate connection between my thoughts, emotions, and behaviour offered me a key to my freedom.

Thoughts and emotions have a complex relationship; our thoughts influence our emotions, and our emotions influence our thoughts, and both influence our actions.

Have you noticed how, in an instant, one thought can take us from absolutely fine and happy into another dimension?

If you’re in doubt, remember a time when you were cozy and ready for sleep, and you suddenly remembered something disturbing. In one instant, the cozy feeling is out the door, as our body responds to the jolt of adrenaline, our heart starts pounding, and we’re wide awake.

One thought, one single thought, changed everything.

Often, the one single thought is then followed by a cluster of associated thoughts, adding their disturbing message to the mix. As our minds race, voices and circumstances from the past surface, and the potential for a restful sleep that was so near, flies out the window.

These changes don’t just happen at bedtime. They occur throughout our days, but we may not be as sensitive to them. During our wakeful hours, with multiple stimuli, we’re often less aware of what happened to turn a sunny disposition sour, or a downer mood happy.

Our thoughts have a powerful influence over how we feel. And, becoming aware of our tendencies of mind can be a key to our freedom. When my emotions change quickly, I’ve learned to pause and ask myself an important question.

What was I just thinking?

The answer to this often-mundane question holds a key to our freedom.

We have thousands of thoughts rolling through our minds daily. Becoming aware of our thoughts, instead of absorbed by them, is a good practice. We don’t have to be victim to them. Just because you thought something, doesn’t mean it’s true; don’t believe everything you think.

I’ve also learned to notice how certain thoughts feel within my body. This is another source of awareness.

Awareness can be curative. If you are aware of your thoughts and emotions, and how they feel within your body, you can choose to observe them as they change, instead of letting them drag you down the rabbit-hole.

I’ve found becoming aware of, and turning toward what’s difficult instead of resisting it, creates a space and an opening where I can make a different choice.

Circumstances don’t have to dictate how we feel.

Positivity researchers found that 50% of happiness is determined by our "set point," or genetics, and 10% is determined by our circumstances.

The remaining 40% is based upon our own intentional efforts to become happier, meaning you have a big say in how you feel.

Practices such as mindfulness affect our perceptions of the world and make us feel calmer, more resilient, and happier. Practices such as kindness, gratitude, and forgiveness can be cultivated to enhance our quality of life, according to research.

There are many ways to keep your mind and mood in optimal shape. Exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, support our happiness and health.

When mood and mental health slip, doing something about it as early as possible can prevent it from getting worse or lasting longer than it needs to.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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