Humans have between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day. For a long time, most of my thoughts were self degrading, negative, terrible things. Learning to change those thoughts is a very long, very work intensive process, but it’s the key to living a whole-healthy life.
Buddhists have a phrase they use- “second arrow.” It basically means that when a person makes a mistake, it’s bad enough. When they continue beating themselves up for it, they lodge a second arrow into their heart. Living with a brain of negativity made my heart more of a pin cushion filled with millions of arrows.
EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) has helped me release a lot of the hostility I held for myself, but new insecurities pop up daily. One hour of weekly EMDR with my therapist can not undo years of hurt plus the daily bad thoughts.
This week I’m on vacation with my family, and I’m determined not to let my arrows bring down my time with my family. We are making so many amazing memories, we’ve had so many laughs. I’m not letting this time be tainted by my own negativity.
My initial reaction while on vacation is to think about “what will our pictures look like?” I attempt to micromanage what my children wear, how they act, where we go, and of course my own appearance. It puts so much stress on everyone, and results in volatile emotional breakdowns when things don’t meet my expectations . This is the first trip we’ve taken since being diagnosed officially with OCD. After being diagnosed, I was able to get the correct treatment and medication, and spend a whole lot of time trying to control my symptoms with EMDR. We are at the end of day 2 of vacation, and there have been zero fights, zero tears. I feel like I finally have a handle on those negative thoughts.
I preach a lot about mindfulness, which to some sounds like a hippy dippy yoga term. I used to think the same way. Getting educated on what mindfulness actually is has changed my mind completely.
Today we took the kids sledding. In the past my thought cloud would have been consumed about the way we looked, making sure everyone was smiling, being preoccupied about good pictures, being uptight and uncomfortable. Today I was able to focus on just what I was doing- sledding. Minute by minute I thought only about the moment I was in. I didn’t think about the future pictures, I didn’t think about my insecurities from the past. I took photos as they happened instead of forcing them. I was part of the family, not an outsider watching them have fun. It was the best vacation day we’ve had in years.
We have been forced into a time where multi tasking is expected to be a necessity. I specifically remember in high school, being told we would need to be able to seamlessly do multiple tasks to be successful. Most job postings even list multitasking as a position requirement. In our “down time” we are usually watching tv and scrolling our phone. Multitasking has taken over, and has trained our brains to take on too much at once. It paves the way for multiple thought tunnels, and we feel the need to fill all the tunnels at once. This makes mindfulness incredibly difficult.
I tend to picture this as the train map at the T-station. We’ve been trained to put a thought on every track of the map. Soon we realize the trains we have put on are our anxieties, sadness, insecurities and negativities. We are multitasking our thoughts. Mindfulness is focusing on just one line. Sledding was my redline today. Staying on one track brought me to happiness. In the past I would have tried to process all the lines at once, getting overwhelmed and confused. Staying on one line, keeping my mind zeroed in on one thing- that’s mindfulness. It’s appreciation for the moment we are in, and the effort of enjoying it to the fullest.
The more I practice mindfulness, the more I notice the positivity in my life. Focusing on our activity today put my body issues and depression on the back burner. I spent more time being happy than being hit with second arrows.
We only get 60-80 thousand thoughts in a day. Let’s work on making more of them happy thoughts!
With healthy hearts,
Kate and the Kids.