Walking the Transformation Talk

Friday, July 20, 2018
This morning while I was preparing to get organised for a busy day, I caught my inner self-talk having a little moment of complaint. Almost immediately after, the idea popped into my head, ‘What’s a better thought for that?’ 
These moments of catching myself and asking, ‘What’s a better thought than that one?’ are coming more frequently. It’s a welcome change from not noticing how my self-talk sabotages me, and not realising that I can change it. While my intention in creating programs that transform the way we think about ourselves and the world around us was to help me to do this as much as anyone else, it’s good to know that the methods I promote and the models I refer to, do actually work. 
I’ve been focusing on changing some particularly annoying thoughts for the past month and I can say that the effort is finally paying off. It does take at least three weeks in my experience to quieten the noise of one unhelpful habit and replace it with a new more helpful one. The benefits from even a really small change of thinking can make a big difference to your life so I thought I’d share a recent success.

The pattern

When there is a lot going on in my life, I tend to sleep poorly. Waking during the night sends an alert to my brain that it’s time to think about all the things in the future that need to be done and all the things in the past that didn’t end well!  Most of the time these worrisome thoughts are simply noise, but they rattle around in my brain until I feel anxious and then sleep is out of the question.

If you fall victim to this thought pattern, you know that everything seems much worse at night in the dark.  To overcome it I had tried list-making, reading and telling myself there was nothing to worry about but these actions only focused me on the problem for longer. Finally, I decided to rewire the pattern to one that would allow me to set those anxious thoughts aside and go back to sleep.

The rewire

To successfully rewire an unhelpful thought, its replacement needs to feel rewarding and be combined with an action which you feel motivated to do. I was highly motivated to go back to sleep, but that was the outcome, not the new action I needed to get me to sleep. My current action when I had the unhelpful thought ‘I’m awake so what can we worry about?’, was to mentally review things that I hadn’t done, and to recall past events that hadn’t worked out. 

I needed a more helpful thought and a more helpful behaviour to match, that was completely different from the current one if I was going to rewire this neural pattern.

I replaced the old thought with the new one, ‘Be here now’, from the title of the Ram Dass book. It reminds me that no matter where you are, simply being here, in this moment now and not in the past or the future, is all you need to do. In this moment, I am here and I am safe.

The action I take to pair with this new thought is to focus on the warmth of the covers, the softness of the bed linen and the quietness of the room. These sensory elements are linked to comfort and safety, and my brain doesn’t see any threat in them. Together they provide me with a new thought and behaviour pattern which I repeat every time I wake up and start to think or worry.

The result

It took about 3 weeks, but I now sleep undisturbed more often than I have in a long time. When I do wake up and my noisy monkey-mind starts chattering, I can quieten it very quickly by repeating my new thought and focusing on the new action. 

This is a very practical application of the techniques that I share in this blog and teach in my programs. Not everything we rewire has to be about achieving momentous things for ourselves and others. A good night’s sleep is also a major achievement to get us up for the next day.

Rewiring an unhelpful thought is not difficult, but it takes focus and practice. Start with any simple problem you have and choose a more helpful thought and action.  Whatever you start with will demonstrate the power you have in your mind to rewire your brain. Small steps take you a long way.  Just start now.