It is near to the end of the year and it is often a time to reflect back on the year and forward to the New Year ahead. Both of these activities are really good things to do if we do it in a positive way! Unfortunately if we don't, we can get our brain stuck in an endless cycle of negativity by focusing on the wrong things and the happy task of reflecting can become an unhappy one.
December is always a busy month! Trying to fit everything in before taking time off for Christmas can be a struggle. There seems to be a lot more to do than a normal month and the strict deadline to get it all done for Christmas Day can be very stressful. Also having or not having family around us can create more tension and unhappiness.
When we’re stressed our primitive brain can take over from our more rational, sensible brain. Our primitive brain isn’t really very clever at all and it mistakes the stresses of a busy festive season for more primitive threats, like a sabre tooth tiger! I know, it seems daft but our primitive brain is exactly that – primitive. It doesn’t understand our modern lives so it views our December stresses in the only way it can – as threatening situations that it needs to either run away from or stand and fight.
The problem when we’re in this part of our brain is that any reflection we do on the past year or plans we’re trying to make for next year will get sabotaged by a very negative way of thinking. Once our primitive brain has taken over it is only interested in checking out any potential dangers. If it isn’t a potential danger, it’s not interested, which means that when we scan back over the past year our brain is more likely to pick up on all the things that went wrong rather than remembering the good bits.
Any plans we are trying to make for the following year will clouded by negative ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m not good enough’ or the dreaded ‘What if’s’. ‘What if this goes wrong, what if I’m not good enough, what if, what if, what if….’ When our primitive brain is in charge it’s very much like watching the news - it is only reporting on the bad things that are happening and we end up with a very unrealistic view of our lives. Suddenly it seems like the whole year was a tough one with lots of things going wrong, and we have forgotten time with our family, the days out, the weekends away and the fun night out with friends. Therefore it’s very important for us to make sure we’re in the right part of our brain when we are reflecting and planning, because when we are it’s a totally different experience!
When we’re calm and relaxed and not feeling overwhelmed our more sensible, rational, intellectual brain is in charge. This part of our brain has a much more balanced view of our lives. It will see the good and the bad and weigh them up together. This then might allow us to acknowledge that we’ve had a challenging year, but we’ll reflect on how well we dealt with it alongside remembering the fun, happy times. We’ll learn from our experiences, decide what we’d do differently and be on the lookout for opportunities to replicate positive experiences and avoid negative ones. We might recognise that we’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal for the year ahead but we’ll see that, with some hard work we’ll be able to achieve it and we find ourselves taking actions to help ourselves.
Now the rush of Christmas is finally over and we’re sitting back and relaxing, it is so much easier to reflect in a calm and positive way. However, the negative thoughts can start creeping in about what’s waiting for you when the New Year starts, going back to work, all the things you need to do, the bills, the things that you need to do on the house, what you’ve got planned…
I know as a hypnotherapist that taking back control from that kind of thinking can be simple, but I also know that simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy! That’s why I want to share with you a few tips that will help you gain back control and shift your minds focus away from the negatives towards the more realistic, balanced view where reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future filled with optimism and excitement rather than negativity and feeling overwhelmed.
1) Remember your mind is there to protect you, not to make you happy (that’s your job). Unfortunately your mind goes a little too far and creates fear over the things that it is trying to protect you from. Therefore question how you feel, put it into prospective. Most things around us is not the threat your primitive brain thinks it is!
2) You cannot control what thought comes into your mind, but you can control what you do with it. When you are really busy and a thought comes into your mind about what you need to buy for dinner you just push it to one side and continue with what you are doing. Therefore you can push a thought that comes into you mind that you do not want! Whether it is an unhelpful thought or overthinking that is driving you mad, you can push it away. The best way to do this is when it comes into your mind shout ‘stop’ loudly in your mind the say something like ‘I am enough’ or ‘thank you for telling me’ or ‘thank you, but no thank you’. You might feel you do this a lot to start with, but your unhelpful thoughts will start to reduce dramatically or stop totally.
3) Reflecting over the past year and planning what you are going to do over the next year is required for development and growth. We learn from our failures and our achievements. Also we need a plan of what we want in our lives so we know what we need to do and where to go. You wouldn’t just get into a car and drive! You would either know where you are going or you have it mapped out. Saying that, the main focus of our mind to give us the greatest happiness in our lives is ‘living in the now’. If you are going for a walk don't allow your mind to be troubled by the past, or you keep mulling over the future, or your head is in your phone. See the true beauty in front of you, the sun shining, the wonderful view, the person you are with, the connection to nature and your companion. The now is the only thing that really exists! The past and present are just thoughts.
4) Remember you are your actions, your thoughts and your words. Look at how you act, think and talk as they create your world. Everything only has the meaning you give it. Be the person you need to be to create and attract the life you want and desire.
Enjoy the last few days of 2019!