Why You Are Not Your Thoughts or Feelings
I so love a lightbulb moment. I had a life-changing one in 2013, at the ACBS World Conference, when I first heard these words from Russ Harris.
"You are not your thoughts or feelings"
The entire Association for Contextual Behavioural Sciences (ACBS) World Conference was a series of them. Truly a life-altering experience for me. I learnt so much about myself and the human condition whilst there that I hope to share with all those I know, so they too may experience the phenomenon.
" You are not your thoughts or your feelings"
Think on that for a moment.
Russ went on to explain, imagine your thoughts and feelings as images, words and visible things playing across a stage.
Now take a moment to become aware of where you are right now, in this room. How is your body positioned? Push your feet into the floor and your body into the chair. Notice what you can feel, right now.
His workshop began with a mindfulness activity of noticing your body and yourself in the room, using the senses to connect with the present moment.
It went on to visualising yourself sitting at a stage with all your thoughts, feelings, ideas and judgments playing out and moving across this stage in front of you.
Then noticing that you are able to watch your thoughts and feelings play out that you do not have to interact with them. You do not have to be affected by them. You do not have to stop them.
You can just let them be.
You are the sky, constant. Your thoughts and feelings are the weather. The sky does not chase the weather or get bogged-down in it, it is just there, large enough to hold all of it's changes and just be.
Then to the next, mind expanding level of....noticing that you are able to notice yourself, watching your thoughts and feelings.
That observer, watching, noticing. That is the real YOU.
Your thoughts and feelings do not make you weird or broken. Whether they are positive, negative or somewhere in between. They make you human.
You can always take a moment to be mindful and become aware of what you are playing on the stage of your mind. You do not have to go along with every thought that comes and let it take centre stage. You are not governed by what you think or how you feel. You can stop, become present, aware, observe and make a choice. A choice to jump on that "thought train" and let it take you away or to stand at the station and watch it go by, noticing, observing, breathing.
You have more than enough space in your body and your mind for every thought and feeling you experience and have, they are never bigger than you. Every time you breathe and focus you create more space. You can always put your thoughts and feelings into a pocket of what you carry with you, they do not have to be front and centre, clouding every thing you do.
This is a very brief intro to and paraphrase of, one ACT mindful-noticing activity.
They truly are incredible experiences.
ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is a hugely evidence-backed psychological intervention and school of thought. It is a model which teaches psychological flexibility. It has been used successfully to treat, improve and achieve lasting change in such a diverse range of areas from schizophrenia and depression, anxiety, PTSD and all mental health areas. To overcoming drug addiction, achieving lasting weight loss, realising and stepping into a value-rich life, accepting your experiences, thoughts and emotions, taking valued action and making a commitment to living a values based life.
It is nothing short of incredible.
If you would like to learn more about ACT, find a practicing ACT practitioner or begin your own ACT journey these resources are a great place to start.
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
Find an ACT Therapist
Steven Hayes, a founder of ACT's intro to it
I am not an ACT Therapist, nor have I undertaken professional training in it. Nor am I an affiliate or receiving any payment for my recommendations. This is my experience of it from the conference mentioned above which I attended with colleagues in 2013.
I believe this information and enlightenment, should be shared with all humans so we can break the stigma surrounding mental health, our own inner voice and critic and improve our lives.
So the next time you find yourself having an overwhelming feeling, a painful or uncomfortable thought or feeling as though you are riding the thought trains, remember to stop. Breathe, check into the present moment, make space and observe. You have the choice to just let the thoughts and feelings come and go, you do not have to be swept away by them. With practice this will get much easier.
Here's to you being Happy, Well and Fed (delicious, healthy, inspiring whole foods)
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