Be Kind, Retrain Your Mind: 3 Tips to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

From Tiny Buddha

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

In 1990, in an early encounter between the Dalai Lama, the foremost Tibetan teacher of Buddhism, and Western students, the Dalia Lama was asked a question about how to deal with self-hatred. He was confused and didn’t understand the question. The translator translated the question again and still the Dalai Lama was confused.

Finally, the Dalai Lama understood that the question was about how to manage negative feelings about the self. This was a new concept to him: he knew that people had negative feelings about others, but he had not encountered the challenge of self-hatred.

I wish I could say that I had never encountered the problem of self-hatred, but I’d be lying. Like so many people, even if I didn’t necessarily recognize my self-talk as such, I was inundated with internal negative self-talk.

My process of coming first to recognize what that voice was up to, then to listen to it with more compassion, and finally, once and for all, to ask it to grow up and step out of the room has been a journey of self acceptance, growth, and ultimately, freedom.

Here are three steps to deal with your own inner negative self-talk:

The first step is to become aware of the negativity of your internal voice. 

For the first twenty-eight years of my life, I was so familiar with my negative voice that I didn’t even recognize it.

I’ve been told that people with Tinnitus, a constant ringing sound in the ears, grow used to it and learn to live with it so successfully that they’re no longer really even aware the ringing’s there. That was the case with my negative voice: it was a kind of background hum.

If I did pay attention to it, I was tricked into thinking that its particular message mattered.

At sixteen it might have been the enormous, overly sweet corn muffin I’d eaten on the way home from school that was a sign of my failure.

At twenty-six it might have been that an essay I wrote hadn’t been accepted for publication; this was a sign, I was sure, that nothing I’d ever write would ever be fully understood.

It wasn’t until I’d been in therapy for a while and had a real mindfulness practice that I even began to notice the daily hum of background voices and to notice that the particulars of the negative voice I did hear were less important, actually, than the larger pattern it was a part of.

Any mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of the negative self-talk in your head. You can try guided meditations, deep breathing exercises, or mindful walking, or simply spend time tuning into your senses. When you become conscious of the present moment, it’s easier to recognize what’s going on internally.

The second step is to listen a little more deeply.

What was important was not so much what the voice was saying as what was under the voice. Often the negativity was there to distract me from something else.

Was the corn muffin or the publication rejection really the problem?

Read more here…

Tibetan Buddhism Course

From Embodied Philosophy

COURSE SUMMARY

We are witnessing a time of great geo-political, economic and ecological upheaval. At the same time a spiritual revolution is emerging, with burgeoning interest in methods for expanding human consciousness. As more people grow dissatisfied with materialistic culture, and taste the benefits of meditation, yoga, and plant medicines many are becoming increasingly committed to the deeper contemplative sciences and embodied philosophies that underpin these practices.

This four-part course surveys Tibetan Buddhism, specifically it’s unique practices of visualization, renunciation, and compassion grounded in its scientific world-view of interdependence.  The course asks not only how do Buddhists understand and relate to our current global predicament but invites you to personally consider how to become fully human. Each class will address the most salient existential questions we each face: how to learn, how to let go, how to love and how to lead. Content is presented through an interdisciplinary lens, using the idiom of psychotherapy and neuroscience to make ancient principals and practices even more relevant to our modern mindset.

About Your Teacher

Miles Neale, PsyD, is a Buddhist psychotherapist in private practice, and faculty member of Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, and Tibet House (US), all initiatives that aim to preserve and assimilate Tibet’s rich curriculum of awakening into contemporary life. With more than twenty years integrating the mind science and meditative arts of Tibetan Buddhism with neuroscience and psychotherapy, Miles is a forerunner in the emerging field of contemplative psychotherapy, and offers public teachings and professional trainings worldwide. Miles is coeditor of Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy (Routledge, 2017) and author of Gradual Awakening: The Tibetan Buddhist Path of Becoming Fully Human along with its companion audio course The Gradual Path (Sounds True, 2018). He is based in New York City. Visit milesneale.com for more information.

See more here

Scientists Reveal How to Train Your Brain To Prevent Unwanted Thoughts

Originally posted at Power of Positivity

“Our ability to control our thoughts is fundamental to our well-being. When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases.” ~ Professor Michael Anderson, University of Cambridge

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified a key chemical within the brain that allows us to suppress unwanted (intrusive) thoughts.

Dr. Michael Anderson, a professor of neuroscience – along with his team of researchers at the University of Cambridge – discovered this chemical within the brain region responsible for memory formation.

Further, the research helps explain why individuals with certain mental health conditions – e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD, and schizophrenia – often contend with continuously invasive thoughts.

The ability to control thoughts is crucial to mental and physical well-being, says Professor Anderson:

“When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases: intrusive memories, images, hallucinations, ruminations, and pathological and consistent worries. These are all key symptoms of mental illnesses such as PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.”

In many ways, the ability to halt negative thinking is akin to that of physical restraint. “We wouldn’t be able to survive without controlling our actions,” says Anderson. “We have lots of quick reflexes that are often useful, but we need to control these actions and stop them from happening.”

Anderson assumes that us humans also have a “similar mechanism” for stopping unwanted thoughts.

The Prefrontal Cortex, or PFC, is known as the “executive function” area of the brain. The PFC is associated with planning complex behaviors, paying attention, critical thinking, solving problems, self-awareness, decision-making, social cognition, and working memory.

The PFC can also be thought of as the brain’s “control center,” regulating other brain regions such as the motor cortex and hippocampus.

It wasn’t until recently that an area of the PFC was discovered to also play an essential role in stopping unwanted thoughts.

The Study

Anderson’s research was published in the journal Nature Communications on November 3, 2017.

Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (measures brain chemistry), researchers observed the brains of participants as they attempted to suppress their thoughts on a given task.

Spectroscopy feedback showed that “the ability to inhibit unwanted thoughts relies on a neurotransmitter – a chemical within the brain that allows messages to pass between cells – known as GABA.”

GABA is the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, which helps to regulate the activity of exhibitory (‘excitatory’) transmitters, e.g., glutamate and dopamine.

Here is a summation of Anderson’s findings, point-by-point:

– GABA concentrations within the hippocampus, the brain area responsible for memory formation, determines a person’s ability to inhibit unwanted thoughts.

– Suppressing unwanted thoughts is dependent “as much” on PFC activity as the hippocampus. (This bucks the trend, as most neuroscientists focus on the PFC for such roles.)

– People with lower concentrations of GABA within the hippocampus “were less able to suppress (activity) by the prefrontal cortex,” suppressing thought at a much lower rate.

– The study’s discoveries may lead to additional insights – and potential treatment options – for schizophrenia. (Schizophrenics display hyperactivity in the hippocampus, which is thought to be responsible for hallucinations and other intrusive symptoms.)

Boosting GABA levels

As Anderson’s research is very recent, potential treatments have not yet been examined. However, it’s clear that correcting a GABA deficiency – a neurochemical imbalance – can be helpful in suppressing unwanted thoughts.

For those dealing with invasive thoughts, increasing the levels of GABA in the brain may help. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural ways to do this.

Here are a few known GABA boosters:

– Exercise: Increasing your heart rate has been shown to boost your GABA levels. Brisk walking or running, three to four times per week, may contribute to higher levels of GABA.

– Meditation: Quieting your busy mind and focusing on deep breaths may help increase GABA levels. Try meditating for 10 to 15 minutes to start.

– Yoga: Maintaining focus on the present moment may help boost GABA levels. Additionally, yoga focuses on deep breathing, which helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

– Proper Diet: Stay away from soft drinks, MSG, and processed foods as much as possible. Instead, eat foods that are rich in glutamic acid, a building block of GABA.

Foods high in glutamic acid include:

  • Almonds and walnuts
  • Bananas
  • Beef liver
  • Broccoli
  • Brown rice
  • Halibut
  • Lentils
  • Oats
  • Citrus fruits
  • Potato
  • Rice bran
  • Spinach

A Japanese Buddhist Master reveals 21 rules of life that will blow your mind

By Lachlan Brown for Hackspirit

For years I struggled to find the peace I really wanted.

You know the dream:

  • Happiness
  • Not overthinking
  • No anxiety
  • Physically fit

And the to live every moment without being distracted by the past or the future.

During that time, I lived with anxiety, insomnia and way too much useless thinking going on in my head. It was never easy.

One of the reasons I was never truly at peace was because of one recurring problem: I couldn’t learn to “accept” where I was without wishing it were different.

Because avoiding and fighting against what is happening inside you only makes it worse.

Unfortunately, acceptance is also really hard to cultivate. We’re practically wired to not accept the moment if it’s not 100% comfortable.

So, what can we do?

What helped me was coming across Japanese Buddhist master Miyamoto Mushashi’s 21 rules of life.

Known as Japan’s greatest ever swordsman, he wrote these 21 rules 2 weeks before his death.

Each rule teaches you to accept your circumstances in life, detach from outside forces you can’t control and be comfortable with who you are.

I find these rules powerful because the only way to cultivate acceptance is through continued practice in your actions and your attitude. The two things we actually have control over.

And these rules give you the necessary guidelines to do just that.

It might take months to rewire your brain, but it’s well worth it.

Check them out:

1) Accept everything just the way it is.

Acceptance is perhaps the most important attitude to overcome mental challenges in life.

It’s a state of mind. There’s no destination or goal with acceptance. It’s simply the process of exercising the mind to be tolerant of anything life throws at us.

Why is it powerful?

Because instead of fighting against negative emotions like anxiety and stress, you’re actually accepting them the way they are. You’re not bitter, and you’re not creating more negativity out of your negativity.

Through acceptance you pave the path for negative emotions like anxiety to become less powerful. You’re not fighting against them and making them worse.

But to be clear: Acceptance is not the following: It’s not indifference or apathy. It does not involve giving up or not trying. It’s simply about accepting things without judging them.

It is what it is. Whatever happens happens. It’s about being patient and allowing the natural flow of things to take place.

2) Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.

As humans, we’re unhappiest when we become dissatisfied with what we have, and decide that we want more.

When we seek pleasure for pleasure’s sake, we put ourselves in an endless loop of desiring that’s only temporarily satisfied when we experience that pleasure.

But feelings don’t last forever. And before you know it, you’ll be back desiring again.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and enjoy pleasure when you experience it. It just means you won’t be constantly seeking pleasure for its own sake. You appreciate what you have in every moment, and sometimes that will be pleasurable emotions.

But you also won’t be unhappy when you aren’t experiencing pleasure.

3) Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.

Same as above, feelings don’t last forever. Emotions are transient. You won’t be happy all the time, and wanting to be so will only make you unhappy.

4) Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.

When you think of yourself too much, you amplify your ego and your insecurities.

Happy people are the ones who focus on helping others. There’s a beautiful Chinese Proverb which describes this perfectly:

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

In other words: Be humble, don’t take yourself too seriously and focus on helping others.

5) Be detached from desire your whole life long.

Buddhism says that desiring leads to suffering. Why? Because when you’re desiring, you’re dissatisfied with what you have right now.

And when you get what you want, this leads you down an endless loop of desiring.

If you can forget about the idea of wanting, you can learn to be comfortable and grateful for what you have right now, which is key to inner peace.

6) Do not regret what you have done.

Regret is a useless emotion, isn’t it? You can’t change what’s happened. Yes, you can learn from what happened, but that doesn’t involve experiencing regret.

I know that sometimes we can’t help but regret things in life, but it’s important not to dwell on it. It’s useless to do so.

7) Never be jealous.

Another useless emotion. It also means you’re insecure with yourself, because you’re envious of someone else.

Instead, look inside yourself and be grateful for who you are and what you have.

8) Never let yourself be saddened by separation.

It sucks to separate from someone you want to be with. But getting sad over it won’t help you or them.

Sometimes you just need to toughen up and appreciate what you have, not what you lose.

9) Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.

Again, complaining without action doesn’t help you achieve anything. It only serves to raise your toxic energy.

And don’t let what other people do affect you as well. You’re not in control of what they do. But you are in control of how you react to what they do.

10) Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.

This one’s probably a controversial one for many. For me, too. I think we can all agree that you don’t want to be guided by lust. It’s similar to chasing emotions that don’t last forever and will only give you temporary fulfilment.

Love, however, is a different story. I don’t know about you, but I think that love is one of the most important emotions to be guided by. Your family is everything, whoever they are, and your life is much more fulfilled when you do whatever you can for them.

11) In all things have no preferences.

Similar to desiring, by having preferences, you’re not happy with what you have right now. You’re dissatisfied and unable to enjoy the present moment.

So if you can, try not to prefer something over something else, especially if you can’t control it.

12) Be indifferent to where you live.

If you can change where you live, then by all means go ahead. And don’t stop looking for opportunities to do so.

But besides doing that, it’s more fulfilling to appreciate where you are right now, rather than wishing it were different.

13) Do not pursue the taste of good food.

Interesting one. Focus on eating to be healthy and for nourishment. Desiring delicious food can lead to addiction and attachment. This goes for alcohol and drugs, too.

14) Do not hold onto possessions you no longer need.

It’s easy to get cluttered with junk that you don’t need. But if it’s not benefiting your life, get rid of it. More space and clear thinking is what’s needed. Not more stuff.

15) Do not act following customary beliefs.

Follow your own common sense. Do what makes sense to your own values, not what other people think. Decide for yourself.

You know what’s right and wrong. You don’t need someone else to tell you.

16) Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.

A tribute to his swordsman time, but we can apply this for our lives, too. It’s better to be an expert in one thing, than okay at everything.

17) Do not fear death.

Extremely hard to do. But it’s something none of us will escape. We can either learn to accept that our own and our close one’s time will eventually come, or fight against it causing anxiety and sadness for the rest of our lives.

18) Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.

What good will they do you when you’re gone? Only collect what is useful. Don’t waste your time.

19) Respect Buddha and the Gods without counting on their help.

Take responsibility for yourself. Don’t count on luck or god to pull you through. Tackle the endeavors you know are within your capabilities. Keep doing the right thing and everything else will fall into place.

20) You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.

Don’t do anything that you won’t be able to live with for the rest of your life. Your actions define you, not your beliefs.

21) Never stray from the way.

Stay humble, do the right thing and always keep learning and growing.