A couple of weeks ago one of my patients in her forties came in for ongoing treatment of PMS, sluggish bowels, and feelings of anxiety and depression.

As we started talking she said “Aaahhh Lauren… It’s just that I’m always so stressed.” While talking about the demands of working long hours and taking care of her two kids ages 9 and 12, she had a revelation. Her stress was not coming from a lack of time or ability to get things done, it was coming from her thoughts about the perceived stress.

Indeed our toxic thinking patterns are the source of most of what we interpret as stress. Research concurs, and has found that chronic psychological and emotional stress actually take the worst toll on our health and wellbeing. So what can you do about it? Plenty. As it turns out most stress arises from not being present in the moment. Since it is your mind that is responsible for the habitual thoughts that bring us out of the moment, you merely have to train your mind to think differently.

It’s simple. More awareness + Less toxic thinking patterns= Less stress= More happiness and fulfillment.

Anyone is capable of training their mind, you need only diligence and practice. Why practice? Because we are physiologically programmed to repeat the thoughts and behaviors that we’ve had in the past. In order to reprogram ourselves, we need to become conscious. Once we are conscious of our thoughts, we can make a change.

Here are some common toxic thinking patterns that get in the way of living a happy, fulfilled, present and stress-less life.

Worrying about the future
This is a big one. How often do you find yourself worrying about a future outcome for yourself or a loved one? Does the future ever end up like you painstakingly worried it would? Almost never! Worry is an extreme waste of energy, and according to acupuncture negatively impacts the digestive system.

Healthy thinking pattern
I am perfectly ok in the present moment. Taking stock can be helpful. Is my survival in question? Do I have food, shelter and clothing? The likelihood is that you are truly ok. Remind yourself of this.

Not Accepting the Present
We all have issues in life that are difficult to accept, whether it’s an aspect of a relationship or the reality that you simply have too much on your plate. Did somebody ask for a glass of red wine? We are quite fond of denial, distraction and avoidance as a means for non-acceptance. Unfortunately these methods never really work, and in the long run, lead to tremendous psychological-emotional stress and suffering.

Healthy thinking pattern
We have 3 choices in any situation: to accept it, to change it or to remove ourselves from it. If you’re not able to change it, then you are left with either accepting it or removing yourself from it. Oftentimes we find that acceptance is our only real choice.

Taking things personally
When we take things personally, we are making the assumption that another persons actions have anything to do with us. Not true! What others say and do is merely a projection of their own reality- their own thoughts, emotions, belief systems, and whatever else may be going on with them in the moment. If you hear yourself say, “I wonder why he or she did that to me?”, stop yourself and delete me. You rarely get the opportunity know what another person’s story is, but rest assured is has nothing to do with you.

Healthy thinking pattern
It’s not about me. Others choice of actions have nothing to do with me.

Getting 10 steps ahead of yourself
I don’t know about you but I catch myself doing this all the time. It’s the perpetual “And then ________And then______” A type of projecting into the future or trying to plan, this pattern is largely counterproductive since it’s impossible to predict so many unknowns. It tends to leave you with feelings of overwhelm and anxiety like there’s no way you can possibly accomplish the mission at hand.

Healthy thinking pattern
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Be in the here and now. One step at a time will get you where you want to go.

How to Change Toxic Thinking Patterns

  • Develop a daily breathing/ meditation practice.

    Start with just 5 or 10 minutes a day. A daily practice will lay the foundation for becoming conscious of your thought patterns.
  • Change your thinking on the spot.
  1. As soon as you notice one of these or any other toxic thinking pattern, stop whatever you’re doing and take 3 deep breaths. Bring yourself into the present moment.
  2. Recognize the pattern by name. Ask what is true in this moment?
  3. Shift into a healthy thinking pattern.