Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a sentence that has been repeated to me through an online course I’m doing with multi award-winning photographer and educator Jesh De Rox. It goes like this: “Everything we feel and experience is self-generated … it is possible to choose what we experience by practising conscious cultivation of the perception.” In other words we are completely in control of everything we feel, because even though we may not be able to control everything that happens to us we are 100% responsible for the way in which we react to it. Every minute of every day we choose the way we perceive the people we meet and the situations we encounter, most of us are just not conscious of the choices we make. We bring our past, our judgements, our hurt and core beliefs into every situation and label everyone and everything according to the way we view the world.
Some people react to stressful situations with worry, over-thinking and a ton of what-if questions (ME!!!). Others employ a more relaxed approach and take on a let’s-wait-and-see-what-happens attitude (MY HUSBAND!!). When the two of us are in a stressful situation together we react to it in completely different ways. Neither is wrong or right. It just is! It simply is a result of years of building up coping mechanisms through our individual childhood experiences, as well as our genetic make-up and level of sensitivity. Every single person carries a different belief-system around with them that shapes the way they perceive the set of circumstances they are faced with, and because of that there are as many ways to view a situation as there are people in the world. The problems we face, the challenges we encounter, the stresses and worries of our lives are not the problem. The only problem we stand in front of is how we choose to react in each specific situation.
We are in charge of the feelings we feel.
You might say “I can’t help the way I feel,” but you can! Our feelings are a result of our thoughts and at any given moment we can bring awareness into our thinking and make a positive shift. Most of the time our thoughts run on auto pilot and of course we can’t be conscious of every single thought that runs through our mind, but we can use our feelings as a way of keeping an eye on our thoughts. Check in with yourself several times a day and ask yourself “how am I feeling?” If you are feeling good then you know your thoughts are on the right track. If you are feeling anxious and down then you need to bring attention to your mind and shift your thoughts. Yesterday I was driving with my 9-year-old to pick up our youngest from day-care. I was feeling tired and overwhelmed and became aware of this. We were driving in silence and I thought to myself “when will life calm down enough for me to have time and energy to connect better with the people close to me, when will there be time for ‘fun’?” Then I remembered the sentence “everything we feel and experience is self-generated” and I knew that I had the power to change my experience of that moment in an instant, simply by changing how I perceived it. Instead of looking at the drive as yet another thing to do in my stressful day, I could look at it as the opportunity for the perfect bonding-moment, ten minutes of pure, uninterrupted quality time with my daughter, a chance to relax and be light-hearted. I asked her “what would you do if you had a million dollars and you could spend it at your school in any way you wanted?” A silly conversation started which soon described swimming pools in every class room, lolly-machines on each table and a roller-coaster ride for each individual child from the school to their home. We then placed bets on who could guess the exact time it would take to drive to day-care. As my daughter’s guess looked to be most accurate I slowed the car right down to stop her from winning, which made us both burst out in laughter. She won and we were both huge smiles as we parked the car and went to pick up little Isabel.
Perhaps you’re thinking “sure, but how do I change my thoughts and the way I feel when I’m faced with a serious challenge?” It is not easy but it doesn’t change anything. Everything written above still stands! In my family we are currently faced with redundancy. We have just built a new house, have a big mortgage and my husband received the news that he had been made redundant 8 weeks before Christmas and with only a 4-week redundancy package. It was tough news. I reacted with my usual panic and worry and threw around a million what-if questions. I have come to realise that this is really just a record I play every time something goes wrong – big or small. My husband plays a different record. One that says “ok what can we do to fix this, how can we move forward and find solutions.” It really isn’t about the different situations or the severity of them. It is purely about your belief systems and the way they affect how you view things. If your core beliefs are that “things always go wrong, life is hard, there’s never enough time, what if I don’t succeed” then you are always going to react with worry and anxiety to any situation you are faced with that challenges you. On the other hand if your core beliefs are that “things always work out well, everything is happening for a reason, I will succeed and come out stronger and happier” then no situation will ever completely control you.
What are your core beliefs?
A way to find out is to notice every time you feel bad and listen to your self-talk. What are you telling yourself? I know I always tell myself that I don’t have enough time. But I do. I have started challenging that belief, coming up with arguments against it and proving it wrong.
I have made a vow to myself to really start listening to the things that come up when I feel anxious. What am I telling myself that really isn’t the truth. How can I challenge those thoughts and start to build a more positive belief system. How can I shift my thoughts in a positive direction when I notice I’m not feeling great. So far I have found the following steps to work the best when I need to make that shift:
- Write out my feelings about a situation really fast in a diary. Don’t correct spelling etc. The text doesn’t have to be readable, just scribble as fast as you can and don’t over-think it. Just let it flow. Write out questions and you’ll find yourself writing out the answers to yourself.
- Buy a meditation app that you can listen to. I have a gratitude meditation that really works wonders for me.
- Write in a gratitude journal.
- Put on music.
- Go for a walk.
Another thing that works for me is to create. I love Macro Flower Photography and when I give myself permission to just play and create for no other reason than the enjoyment it gives me I always feel better. I just need to work on giving myself permission more often.
What works for you? I would love to know what helps you shift negative feelings. Do you have any core beliefs that you know are not serving you? Make a vow with me today to change them.
Minna Burgess is a Brisbane photographer specialising in birth, newborn, baby and family photography. Contact her today to book a session, 0432 953 003, firstname.lastname@example.org