Unlock your potential: Stop ruminating, be mindfully aware

Photo courtesy of Terrin Parker, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — It happens to all of us. One minute we are feeling perfectly content in our fat pants and fuzzy socks, scraping the last bit of casserole from the corner of a Tupperware container, and the next minute pulling out the scale, scouring the Internet for healthy recipes and typing out a long list of resolutions. With the dawning of spring comes the desire to make positive changes in our lives … but change isn’t always easy.

A study done by University of Scranton found that only 8 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them. Why is that? If so many of us are seeking to make positive, progressive changes in our lives, why is it that most of us don’t? What are those 8 percent doing that the rest of us aren’t?

According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, one reason people fail at changing unhealthy behavior is because they are motivated by a sense of guilt, fear or regret. The Economic and Social Research Council released findings confirming that the least effective strategies for invoking change are those that induce feelings of fear, guilt, or regret.

Perhaps this is why, no matter how motivated we are to change, we find ourselves making the same goals over and over, year after year. Most of us are derailed by our own negative thought patterns. I’m willing to bet that the 8 percent of people who are successful at reaching their goals are able to avoid, or at least move past, the guilt, disappointment, negative self-talk and judgment we impose on ourselves.

Rumination

Here’s a term used in psychology: rumination.

Rumination is the act of compulsively focusing one’s attention on the problem, and on possible causes and consequences, as opposed to solutions. It’s basically a broken record of negative thought patterns, often based on past experiences, playing over and over in our mind.

Many of us ruminate on negative thoughts and problems, thinking it will somehow bring about change. However, all it really does is conjure up more negative thoughts which produces anxiety, guilt, and disappointment, thereby setting us up for more failure. It becomes a cycle. Rumination paralyzes our problem-solving and goal-achieving skills.

Perhaps some of us ruminate because it gives us a (false) sense of control. In the back of our minds we believe that if we just mull over a problem or mistake a little longer we will be able to solve it, fix it, or prevent it from recurring. It feels like we are doing something, but all we are really doing is spinning our wheels.

So, the big question. How do we deal with negative thoughts, events, and situations without getting trapped in the downward spiral of rumination?

How do we learn from the past, while maintaining focus on moving forward toward our goals and leaving the negative emotional baggage behind?

Mindful Awareness

Another concept: mindful awareness.

Mindful awareness is the ability to pay deliberate attention to our experiences from moment to moment in an open, curious way that leaves judgment aside. We direct our attention toward the present moment, allowing ourselves access to our own powerful problem-solving resources of intuition, insight, creativity and self-healing.

Within the practice of mindful awareness, thoughts and feelings are observed as events, without over-identifying with them and without reacting to them in an automatic, habitual pattern. It involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.

When we practice mindful awareness, our thoughts tune in to what we are sensing in the present moment, rather than rehashing the past or worrying about the future. This enables us to tap into our intrinsic problem-solving skills in a positive and effective way, allowing us to progress in life, and ultimately attain our goals and dreams.

These concepts will help you make positive changes in your life as you practice mindful awareness and unlock your true potential.

Terrin Parker
Terrin Parker

Written by Terrin Parker for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.

Parker is the associate editor of St. George Health and Wellness magazine and a physical therapist from Cedar City. She graduated from Loma Linda University and has lived in Denver, San Diego and St. George. She loves to surf, snowboard, write, travel, play the guitar and spend time with her husband and their two children.

Resources

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