Let me start by pointing out here that not all thoughts cause us suffering, but as we don't have an issue with the thoughts that add to our lives, lets look at the ones that aren't helping us.
So,Why do our thoughts make us suffer?
Because we believe them.
Our brains are super computers that analyse all the input the receive and them process them against past actions, memories, beliefs and habits and then produce a thought.
We then take this thought as an absolute truth and run with whatever it has told us and whichever emotions it triggers.
We rarely question them and often wonder why we keep making the same mistakes. Why we are unhappy or unfulfilled and why things aren't working out for us.
Because we are attached to them.
We have an ego that thinks that we are amazing and that we should have everything we want when we want it and it doesn't like it when things don't work out that we.
We are attached to a specific outcome, for example, you go for coffee and you want a chai latte. You've gone for coffee and if you weren't attached to the outcome, any coffee would do. BUT, you want a chai latte and when they bring out an Americano, you aren't happy, this won't taste the same, this is not want you wanted and it's not fair that you should have to drink this when you want a chai latte.
Our brain is leading the dialogue in our head and triggering us to become upset over a coffee because we are attached to the idea that we should have what we want. Unfortunately,what we want and what we get are often very different.
Because they are familiar.
We are comfortable with our thought process whether it works for us or not. We know what we think, we've always thought that and we know what to do when we think this way. We have routines and habits and that makes us feel safe.
So what can we do about our thoughts?
The first thing to do is to question them.
Where do they come from?
Are they our thoughts or have we learned to think this way because our parents, teachers, friends etc. think this way.
Do we think that our beliefs are right?
Do they help or hinder our life?
Once we become aware of our thought processes and this is essentially mindfulness, we can then choose what to do about them. If they are not our thoughts and we don't believe them then we can work out what we do believe. If our thoughts are hindering our lives, then we can look at ways to alter our beliefs through education, experience or coaching and modify what we think and how that makes us behave.
The next thing is to not allow them to trigger us and by that I mean push our buttons and cause an automatic response to a thought that we can't control. Once we have identified and worked on that, we will be able to choose how we respond to the situation instead.
Going back to the coffee example It's a drink, it's hot, has caffeine in and will do the trick. We could enjoy it as a tasty drink if we weren't attached to our first idea that we want a chai latte and so we must have a chai latte to be happy. Do you see how this can translate into other areas of our life?
Lastly, we can constantly monitor our thoughts to see if they are fit for purpose. This again is mindfulness in action.
Nothing ever lasts or stays the same including us, our beliefs or the way we live our lives and this is the same for every other living thing on the planet. So if everything is constantly changing, we would we expect the things that we believe as a child to necessarily still be true for us now? We don't really like change, we do like things to be familiar and most of our stress and suffering comes from trying to keep things the same which is absolutely impossible.
By reflecting on our beliefs and behaviours regularly, we begin to see that life flows like a river and if we go with the flow and deal with what is rather than what we would like it to be, a lot of our stress and suffering flows away too.
In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article summarising research on human thoughts per day. They found that the average person has between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day and of those thoughts, 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.https://tlexinstitute.com/how-to-effortlessly-have-more-positive-thoughts/
Leahy, 2005, study of Cornell University concluded that the mind is preoccupied with negative and repetitive thoughts and it is these thoughts that left unchecked cause us stress, anxiety and both physical and mental exhaustion. From these studies we can see that our thoughts are causing us to suffer and if we don't want to suffer, we need to change the quality and focus of our thoughts.https://tlexinstitute.com/how-to-effortlessly-have-more-positive-thoughts/
Mindful awareness = opportunity to evaluate and modify.
Modification of thoughts = enhanced mindset, reduced suffering and improved wellbeing.
If you would like more information or want to start your coaching journey with me to challenge your thoughts and end your suffering then please get in touch.