How to Notice When Your Thinking is Distorted

Today we are going to talk about negative thinking, how it leads to anxiety, and a super simple tip to stop it in its tracks.

Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell ourselves about it Byron Katie

One of the hallmarks of being an anxious person is that we are highly tuned into our feelings. We feel things deeply and are highly sensitive to our surroundings. We notice feelings very much, how we feel, how our bodies feel, how others make us feel, etc.

And we make up stories about how we feel in our heads. This goes on subconsciously, so we don’t even know that we do it!

Negative thinking as we all know can be a vicious cycle. Once it starts, its hard to stop. And negative thought patterns can go on unchecked for years or even decades- leading to anxiety and depression…

For me, now having the wisdom of middle age, and being in anxiety recovery for a decade, I can look back and see clear patterns of negativity in my thinking. For example, I have always had tendencies to isolate myself from others, act like everything’s ok by covering it up to the outside world, and then go about life feeling incredibly lonely.

I have had these tendencies my entire life.

What I have learned, is that when I have this lonely, disconnected feeling, my thinking is very much distorted. The story that I am telling myself in my head is just not jibing with what is going on in reality.

“Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it.” – Byron Katie

So although we are highly tuned into our feelings, we often don’t notice the Warning Signal.

There is a telltale sign in my life that my thinking has gotten out of hand and I am in the grips of a negative story that is making me feel miserable…

And that Warning Signal is this– that I FEEL LIKE CRAP! 😉

I’m dead serious. I feel gross in the pit of my stomach. And I feel sad, almost like a low level depression.

When I feel like crap, when I don’t feel like getting out of bed, when I all of a sudden feel disconnected and lonely for “no apparent reason”, when the world seems dark and menacing, I have let the negative story in my head take over. I have fallen for it again and believed it.

And then I am lonely and miserable. Because I believed the story in my head is true.

What I have learned through doing The Work of Byron Katie, is that any thought that argues with reality is false.

I woke up feeling like crap and just puttered around feeling miserable inside. Thankfully, I had the insight to do something about it.

I traced my thoughts and realized I am missing my daughter, because she went back to school. I miss my sister because I haven’t talked to her in a few weeks. So I reached out to my sister, sent my daughter a heart felt text ,and then I headed off to the gym.

And guess what? The feeling of loneliness and isolation dissolved.

That was not hard to do at all! 🙂

I was able to simply look at my thinking and step out of the sad, negative story. By questioning the story in my head of loneliness and isolation, I was able to do something productive about it and feel better.

When you notice that you feel like crap, without fail, this is because your thinking is off base. It is distorted, and you are believing something your mind made up.

When your thinking is negative, this leads to more negative thinking. This leads to anxiety and can manifest as disturbing bodily sensations. You are feeding your body a diet of adrenaline and this is what fuels anxious symptoms– for me, dizziness, shortness of breath, palpitations, feeling unreal, phobic behavior, and panic attacks. Everyone who suffers from anxiety has their own “usual suspects” LOL.

Because as humans, we make up these stories in our heads unconsciously (that is, we are not aware we are doing it), it creates untold suffering in our lives. We become anxious, depressed, and then develop addictions to mask our suffering.

For me, I used alcohol and prescription drugs, I overate, and habitually watched television (as a way to escape my own life and live vicariously through the lives of characters on TV).

We believe the false stories in our head that we made up- maybe years or even decades ago.

This is no way to live a life.

Life is what is happening NOW, not the story of suffering that happened to me 30 years ago.

If I keep reliving the past in my head, my life today will continue to suffer. I will continue to act in ways that limit and keep me small and isolated and safe and… ultimately miserable.

“Die to the past every moment. You don’t need it.”  –Eckhart Tolle

When you learn to notice how you’re feeling and check in with yourself, you can identify when you step out of balance and go into negative thoughts and stories. When you question your negative thinking, you free yourself from much needless suffering.

Today I can wake up and breathe. I can notice how I am feeling. I can notice that I have a pit in my stomach and a dreadful story of loneliness in my head. I can stop this story in its tracks by investigating it.

Once I traced the feelings to my daughter and my sister, I was easily able to help myself feel better.

And boom. Story is over. Feelings of loneliness are gone.

This stops a vicious cycle of negative thinking in its tracks. 😀

So today I want to challenge you to notice- Is your thinking distorted? Are you feeling yucky inside?

If so, this is your Warning Signal. Now is the time to help yourself feel better. STOP what you are doing and investigate your feeling.

Look inside and ask yourself, “Why am I feeling Lonely, Miserable, Afraid, ____ (fill in the blank) in this moment?”

Once you identify the source, take simple action steps to make yourself feel better.

Make a phone call, send a text, get out in nature. Move around.

And I can hear what you’re thinking: But Jill, I have SO MANY NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. I have been lonely, depressed, anxious for YEARS. How is this going to help me, when I might feel bad one hour later with even more negative thoughts?

My answer is to just start today, right where you are. When you can stop one negative thought pattern, you open up a portal to inner peace. The more you question negative thoughts and feelings, the more you have access to this wonderfully liberated state of being. Because when it comes to recovery from anxiety, Success Builds Upon Success!

So, just stop one stream of negative thought. Take small action steps. That is all it takes. Breathe…

It’s easy and simple to live in reality. Suffering is when you believe the negative thinking in your head and just accept it as the truth without doing anything about it.

And now, get on with your day. And rejoice a little, do a little happy dance! You were well able to get yourself out of some real emotional pain. You have saved your day! Now this is how you were meant to live- happy and free. 🙂

Live your life fully in the present. Be here now. Enjoy being alive.

Your life is now, in the present. And that is a wonderful thing! 😀

I wish you peace,

Jill G.

Here is some helpful information on how to do The Work in regards to panic attacks: http://panicfreeme.com/6694/doing-byon-katies-the-work-for-panic-attacks/

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