When I was younger, I had no idea how my own mind worked. I wasn't even aware of all the thoughts I was thinking and how said thoughts affected everything in my life. My life would have been completely different if someone had taught me about my mind.
But no one did, so I had to learn by myself, through my own mistakes and hardships. And I'm not going to keep it to myself. I'm sharing them with you, so I can be that somebody who tells them to you, so you can avoid learning them the hard way.
1. Feelings are natural.
In today's world, people tend to be scared to death of their own feelings. We all want to be happy and comfortable all the time. But the thing is, life is uncomfortable sometimes. And that's okay.
Feelings are just like everything else in life--what determines them is the way we look at them. If we fear them and want to push them away, they will become strong and scary. But if we accept them with peace like visitors in the hotel that is our body, they will be kind to us and leave when it's time for them to go.
2. Everything is neutral.
We put labels on everything. Scary, bad, ugly, weird are just a couple of them. We plaster them on all the things we see, hear or experience. There's nothing wrong with that, because, again, it is natural to label, to judge.
Regarding our judgments as facts is the problem. Because nothing can be scary, bad, ugly or weird on its own. Everything in the world is neutral. Only in our eyes do they turn into something else.
What also illustrates this point is that we all see the world with different eyes. Some people have medical phobias or anxieties related to medical issues, but then there are people with medical fetishes. So which one is it, really? Is it scary or . . . sexy?
The same goes for beauty. Let's take a woman who a lot of people see as beautiful. There will be a lot of other people who see her as ugly. So which one is she, really?
We tend to take our judgments as facts instead of realizing that we see the world with subjective eyes. Beyond the distortion of our perceptions, the world is neutral.
3. Thoughts are just thoughts.
Judgments are specific types of thoughts. And we tend to take all kinds of thoughts too seriously. We don't recognize them as thoughts, we see them as truths.
For example, when we think about the future, we can easily make ourselves anxious. Something bad might happen, is what we think. We unconditionally believe our thoughts, so we start to fear. We fear and fear until the possibility of this danger passes. Then we are relieved without ever recognizing that our thoughts were not true. Next time, this cycle will be exactly the same.
It's an enormous help in life if we learn to recognize our thoughts as just thoughts, seeing that they are not truths. It allows us to be understanding, calm and smart, just to name a few.
4. The future never comes.
As a person who has spent most of her life with anxiety, I know what it's like to be crippled by the fear of the future. To be followed by that unstoppable cloud of doom that might strike down at any moment. Nothing happened until now, but this next moment . . . man, I feel like this next moment will be the moment when that horrible thing finally happens.
Yes, well, let me tell you a secret: The next moment will never come. The always manageable now is all that will ever be. That horrible next moment will always remain in our heads. Because you know what it truly is. That's right, it's just a thought.
5. Change is constant.
Things will never change. What I'm feeling right now is how I'll always feel. How ridiculous is this thought? Yet, we feel like this so often.
A lot of times in life, we'll feel uncomfortable (which we now know is natural). We might not be in the mood for certain things. But that doesn't mean that's how we'll always feel.
When we are happy and enjoying ourselves, we never think, Oh, no, this will never change, I am doomed to be this happy forever. But when it comes to emotions, states of mind, feelings we don't want to be feeling, we fear it will last forever.
No feeling lasts forever. That's why you don't need to push it away. Relax, accept it with peace, and it will soon pass. Change is always in motion.
6. What you fight, you strengthen.
This was a big realization for me. I spent so much energy resisting all the things I didn't want. Now I see that it only made those things worse.
What you resist can be anything: your feelings, your circumstances, other people's behavior. But fighting them will not only get you nowhere, it will only worsen the problem.
Instead of fighting what you don't want, build up what you do want. You don't want to be anxious? Then react with peace. You don't want to be where you are in life? Then build yourself the life you do want. As for all the things we cannot change: Acceptance will transform it all into something peaceful.
7. Control lies in our reactions.
Last, but not least, maybe my most important realization. I've spent a lot of my life afraid. Fearing what might happen, wanting to control it all. I wanted to avoid everything that scared me.
But then I realized what happens is not what matters. How I react to it does.
I can react to everything with peace. Being scared or sad is not a requirement some experiences must bring with them. I can choose my own reactions.
I can be in control not by avoiding life, but by mastering my reactions to it. If I want to be peaceful, I can practice reacting with peace to everything that happens to me. And that includes my own feelings and thoughts as well.
I hope that you will be able to take something away from these seven pieces of advice I've gathered. They have helped me greatly, and I hope they can do the same for you. Even if I had to learn them all the hard way, they were definitely worth it in the end.
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin D. Roosevelt