We all get stuck sometimes in thinking about what should have been. More than ever, this pandemic has brought up these thoughts. With the thoughts come feelings of grief, anger, frustration and hopelessness. For some, big events were cancelled and for others, it is about missing regular day to day activities that we all took for granted. One thing is certain – if our mind dwells on what should have been for too long, it can have a negative impact on our mood, sense of wellbeing and overall demeanor.
If you suspect that you fall into the trap of thinking and wishing that things were different on a frequent basis, don’t beat yourself up. Although we don’t go around explaining our inner experience to each other, we ALL go through the same mental torture. We get caught up in wishing and wanting and we experience the same feelings about it. Don’t judge what is human nature!
When going through tough times, It is helpful to remember that others are going through the same thing and that you are not alone. This catch phrase has become quite popular and there is evidence behind it. Kristin Neff and Chris Germer developed a self-compassion program and have studied the impact of cultivating self-compassion. One key element is remembering that we are not alone, especially during times of distress. They found that when we purposely bring up the thought that we are not alone, it gives us comfort and perhaps some ease. This has been true for me, especially during the pandemic. It has also been true for many of the young cancer patients that I work with. Suddenly, they are stuck in isolation due to cancer but during the pandemic, so are all their peers. This reality helps a lot and it also relieves the negative feeling of missing out. We do feel better when we are in it together, even if the stuff we are going through is really difficult.
Being aware of your thoughts is the first step. If you want to have impact on how you think, it all begins with awareness. Noticing what you are thinking is incredibly helpful and it is the only way to steer your mind. How to increase awareness of thought? Meditation and journaling are some practices that will help you to become more aware of thinking. Another way to increase awareness is to reflect about what is happening around you, how you interacted with the world and by simply asking “what was going through my head when that happened”. There is not one clear path to increasing awareness but thinking about how we think gives us a chance to have some power over our minds. That is truly all we have control over anyway.