Sometimes I wonder that I ever have a good day with all the chatter that goes on in my head! I’ve been noticing how the voice in my head talks.
Sometimes the voice of my mind can be anything but optimistic. The day has barely started, and my mind is running with stories about what’s not going to happen, how there’s not enough time or space for something, how inadequate I am, how someone else is inadequate…blah, blah, blah.
Sometimes the voice of my mind gets caught up in drama. Maybe it’s something that happened in the past and my mind replays it, filling me with regret or dissatisfaction or some other emotion that weighs me down. Maybe it’s anticipating something that I need or want to do and I imagine all the things that could go wrong or ways that I could mess things up. My mind has created this anxiety about things that are not even real, other than in my head! Why would I do that?
Sometimes the voice of my mind feeds feelings of overwhelm and impatience. I’m doing one thing, then there’s an intrusion, and I feel the demands of something else. I want to finish what I had started, and at the same time please the person asking for help…so I try to do them both. My mind, ever the critic, tells me that I’m could do better, that I need to move faster. And, I’m left feeling unfulfilled.
As I’ve become more aware of my mind at work – by noticing those moments when something doesn’t feel right or is out of alignment – I see opportunity. Opportunity to shift my thoughts to something that is of service to me and others. Opportunity to take responsibility for creating what I want instead of letting thoughts run wild creating what I don’t want.
When I catch myself having unfulfilling thoughts, I’ve been trying something new. I say “Oh, there is my mind again doing that thing that she does!”, and I smile. This creates a shift. This small action opens me to loving kindness and self-compassion, and I begin to accept my human nature. I recognize that this is just the way the human mind works; it’s not who I am.
I read about the science of smiling and learned that, when the smiling muscles in our face contract, neural signals are sent to the brain, which stimulate feeling joy. Of course, when we feel joy, smiles come naturally, and a feedback loop is activated: we feel joy, we smile, and smiling, feelings of joy are reinforced. We can activate the loop with a smile. Each time we smile, we change what’s happening in our brain for the better. Apparently smiling reduces stress that your body and mind feel, similar to getting good sleep, and it can generate more positive emotions.
Mr. Widrich points out how children smile nearly 400 times a day, yet happy adults only smile 40-50 times a day, with the average adult only smiling 20 times a day. WOW. Such opportunity for creating something different with the simplest of actions. I’m challenging myself to increase the number of smiles in my day. Want to join me?
Smiling is like a little hug you give to yourself. Sometimes it’s also like a hug to someone else because smiles are contagious!
If you are interested in ways to notice your mind at work, you might be interested in this blog series I’ve been writing for the IBM Jobs Blog about mindfulness:
* I took this photo of a puppy and her mother in Pelekas, Corfu in the summer of 2014.