2nd week: are you living on autopilot?

How does your mind react to problems?

Losses, disappointments and unpleasant emotions are an inevitable part of human life. How we approach such experiences and emotions can have a significant impact on our wellbeing. The video below provides more information on how our thinking affects our mood. 

Thinking is a part of the problem

It is very human and understandable to wish to never have to feel depressed, or to make it through life without any significant setbacks or losses. It is also very understandable to react to such experiences emotionally. In actuality, it is necessary for us to allow ourselves to feel difficult emotions.

Challenges arise if our mind begins to valuate, judge and criticise these emotions. Our thoughts can be something along the lines of “I’ve failed because I feel disappointed” or “it’s embarrassing that I’m crying.” When that happens, our mind tries to get rid of these emotions and emotional reactions, i.e. feelings of failure and disappointment, feelings of embarrassment and shame or crying, like in the previous examples. 

Contemplate: what kinds of emotions are difficult for you to allow yourself to feel? Do you recognise thoughts that criticise your own experiences? Or do some memories, thoughts, emotions or mental images cause you to feel hopelessness or guilt? Write down your thoughts. Try to focus curiously and gently on what kinds of emotions and physical sensations this contemplation arouses in you. 

Exercises for the week

This week, practice examining what your mind is doing when you are not paying attention to it. Take an occasional break to do the thought time window exercise. You can draw the lines of every practise session onto the same paper. This way, you will start to notice where your mind is spending time over the week.

Be sure to practice mindfulness in everyday life as well. Write down your observations for a week when you are doing your chosen activity consciously. What kinds of thoughts, emotions and sensations can you notice during the exercise?