Tip 1: Make good thoughts your priority
Our minds create around 35-48 thoughts a minute – that’s about 50,000 a day! Lots of these are helpful, imaginative, thoughtful or productive. But lots are unhelpful. We need to give the positive thoughts more attention and learn to not dwell on the negative ones.
Take a moment to consider, do you mostly think positive or negative things about your life? Are you looking forward to the future, or worrying about the past?
Notice how you react to your thoughts. Do you dwell on negative thoughts or focus on positive ones? How are you going to respond to your thoughts? Accept them, avoid them, or let them go if they make you feel bad? Letting them go is often the most positive decision.
Tip 2: You're the boss of your mind
It’s easy to react in the same way to certain thoughts, feelings or situations, every time. For example you might notice that when you’re feeling overwhelmed you shut yourself away without speaking to anyone about your feelings, and imagine that it’s all your fault.
For your next mindfulness exercise, see if you can spot negative emotions as soon as they appear, then stop them in their tracks. Remember, you’re the boss of your mind, not the other way around.
I’ve done badly in an exam. I will always do badly…
Improve next time
Next time I can make sure I do better. I’ll start planning how right now.
I’m feeling really angry and I know things will just get worse.
I'll take a minute
I’ll take some time out to myself to calm down and remember that this will pass.
No one understands
I feel like no one will ever understand how this feels. Surely there must be something wrong with me?
I can't explain this
I’ll think about how to explain my feelings and who I would most like to talk to.
People are right to hate me
People are right to hate me. People at school hate me. Of course they do, and they are right to…
People aren't right about me
People can be unkind but it doesn’t mean they are right about me. Maybe it’s more about them than me.
What negative thoughts do you have a lot? Can you come up with a different response to them? Does this new thought create a different feeling about yourself, too?
Tip 3: Figure out your feelings
When you’re feeling sad and anxious, it’s important to remember that although these feelings may be inside you, they don’t define who you are.
It’s important to remember that feelings are just temporary and NOT a part of what makes you, you. So although you may feel sad, anxious or worried, that’s not actually who you are.
Notice your feelings
Noticing your feelings can help you label them – e.g. this is a feeling of uncertainty, this is a feeling of rejection.
What feels different?
Try to notice where the emotion is happening. Is your throat tight, is your stomach churning, is it heavy behind your eyes?
Take a minute
Sit and notice this for 2-3 minutes, just accepting that you have these feelings right now (a bit like a surfer surfing the waves as they flow past).
Figuring out your emotions like this can create some distance between you and the sensation of the emotion. You may even notice the emotion move on, leaving you to feel more calm and peaceful.
Tip 4: You have the skills to make yourself feel better
After you’ve identified a certain thought or emotion that’s bothering you, the next step is thinking ‘what do I need right now?’.
What you notice: ‘I’m feeling sad and low; I sense a heavy feeling in my legs and my mind feels slow and flat. So, what do I need right now?’
What you might need: I need an hour to listen to music and give myself some time to process this feeling (or: I don’t need anything, I know this feeling will pass).
The point here is to see emotions as events that happen in our minds and bodies, rather than defining who we are or how we have to respond. Even the worst feelings will eventually fade and pass and you will feel better again.
Tip 5: How do you become even more mindful?
If you feel like those short mindful moments and our top tricks are helping you, you might want to try something that’s a level up from that.
It’s called mindfulness meditation. This means practising giving your attention to just one thing.
All you need is a little time, between 1 and 30 minutes, and be willing to give it a go. You still don’t need any special equipment or to go anywhere in particular. If you can, just try to find somewhere comfy to sit while you’re practising where you’re unlikely to be interrupted (it’ll help keep your mind on track).
Here are some steps to try:
Start by concentrating on your breathing and how it feels. Your mind will start to wander from time to time but hang on…
2. Pay attention
Notice when your mind wanders and how you react to that. Remember, it’s completely natural and nothing to worry about.
3. Return focus
Once you notice yourself losing focus, remember that it’s ok and simply bring your attention back to the sensation of breathing. You’ll gradually get better and better and keeping your focus.
Tip 6: Turn up the volume on the good stuff
Focusing on the good, fun and beautiful things in life can make you think and feel differently about the hard things. This doesn’t mean ignoring your problems, but it can help you feel better when you focus on all parts of life, not just the bad bits.
However you’re feeling, choose to stop for a minute and focus on how great a piece of music is, how cute your dog’s face is or how good a muffin tastes.
Savour these good things. Turn up their volume. Pause and zoom in on how it feels when things work out okay, when you feel cared for or when you’ve had a good day. Let yourself feel warmed by the positive thoughts and emotions in your life, even if other hard things are happening too.
Our minds are amazing
Minds are thought factories creating around 50,000 thoughts a day – some helpful, some not. Find out more about your amazing brain
Seeing is believing
There’s a big difference between believing that you’re a sad or anxious person, and seeing that really you’re a person who is feeling sad or anxious.
Re-train your brain
Research shows we can re-train ourselves to notice the good times and things in our lives.