My friend Ann loaned me her Fitbit Alta HR so that I could track my steps and heart rate and other activities for as long as I want. I was particularly interested in my sleep patterns. And guess what I learned: My sleep isn’t as bad as I thought. Sure, I have awake times throughout the night. But what I imagined vs. what actually was recorded on my Fitbit showed that I have been overstating how poor my sleep is. According to the Fitbit I have some deep sleep, some light sleep and some REM sleep all in good measure and adding up to enough total time to call it a good night’s sleep. And what I know about myself and we humans in general is that what we think and believe often has too much power over us. What we think often becomes true. Our self-fulfilling prophecies can be positive or negative. The Fitbit helped me to put to rest (I couldn’t resist the pun) that I don’t sleep well. So knowing that I am getting a good night’s sleep I am more relaxed and rested throughout the day.
We have an amazing ability to think ourselves into something. We might think ourselves happy, think ourselves relaxed, or think ourselves confident. The mind is an awesome thing and serves us well—when it does. However, there are times when our minds go places without us (to paraphrase the B-52’s) or to places that aren’t helpful. I was “thinking” myself into feeling bad about my sleep until I had some concrete data to suggest otherwise. Unfortunately we don’t always have real data to compare our thoughts to. Most of the time all we have is our thoughts so they can seem like the truth.
I am sure you have all experienced moments when something doesn’t go the way you want and your mind blows it way out of proportion. For instance, I recently added the Lyft app to my mobile phone. Lyft offered me a promotion as a new user. I looked at the promotion and thought that wasn’t very helpful for my purposes then looked online for other new user promotions. I found one that I thought looked good but then I accidentally chose the wrong promo when the time came to use the app. That error cost me $4.99! Not a huge error but it’s four days later and I have been beating myself up about it ever since. My mind automatically went to the place that I was stupid or too quick to push a button or something like that and I felt shame. Clearly not worth all that mental anguish. Since then I have been practicing letting go—that is I am practicing letting go of the unhelpful thoughts I have been having about the Lyft promo error.
Thoughts come and go of their own volition. But negative thoughts often linger so it takes work to let go of those thoughts. This requires a fair amount of awareness and it takes practice to be present and consciously acknowledge that you are having thoughts and not allow those thoughts to be more than just thoughts. While you are letting go of thoughts that don’t serve, you might as well add in some helpful thoughts. For me that means a thought like “I am glad that Lyft now serves our home area and I will use it successfully.” What will you think yourself out of and think yourself in to?