Updated: Dec 5, 2020
A common and powerful metaphor in the mindset community is seeing our minds like a garden. In our garden we need to plant positive seeds, tend to the plants and flowers, and remove the weeds or it will become overgrown and out of control. Does this sound familiar?
This is one of my favorite metaphors and every time I hear it I feel like it is the first time, because it has such a major impact. However, planting positive thoughts sounds much easier than it is.
I first heard this idea years ago and it typically stayed with me for a few days or a week before my garden would become overgrown yet again. Lately, I've been focused on how to make this practice of tending to my mind garden a consistent one so I can feel better and help my clients do the same.
Neuroscience has shown that we can re-wire our brains. Most of us have felt the re-wiring that social media and other forms of screen instant information and gratification has caused, but we can reverse this and create positive re-wiring!
Creating this change takes consistent effort or gardening and an understanding of why our thought patterns are the way they are.
When we have a negative thought about ourself it doesn't just come out of nowhere. These thoughts start with a deeply held belief system. Our beliefs or automatic thoughts have been forming from childhood and through past experiences and consistent thoughts over time. We then create a cycle that can lead to staying in a pattern of negativity without recognizing opportunities for positive growth and change.
How do we plant seeds of positive thought, maintain our mind garden, and keep it that way?
Awareness. I never stop talking about awareness, because it is the key to everything. We first have to be aware of our thoughts and our beliefs so that we can truly see the garden we are working with. Start by checking in a few times a day and notice how you talk to your self. Ask yourself if the things your thoughts are saying are really true, why you might think this way, and how these thoughts are serving you.
Stop the weeds. With awareness you will begin to notice more negative thoughts that you can stop before they keep piling onto your belief system. Change these negative thoughts to positive ones or neutral ones at the very least. Use gratitude by thinking of 1 thing you are thankful for in that moment or day and move on.
Make an effort. Set reminders, journal about your mindset, and track your progress for at least 1 month! Even after 4 weeks you'll still need to continue weeding out the negativity the same way you have to maintain a healthy diet or exercise plan, but it gets easier. Set daily reminders to check in, use a gratitude journal, schedule weekly self care or meditation time to practice your mindset shift.
Use the environment wisely. Listen to uplifting podcasts. Read inspirational books. Seek out positive support from your tribe. Write out positive affirmations and take them to heart. Read them or, even better, say them out loud to yourself.
Routine. Create a routine for daily meditation, affirmations, and gratitude even if it is less than 5 minutes.
Consistency, no matter how small the act, is what will keep your garden from overgrowing. Our minds are very powerful. Our thoughts create physical symptoms, cause us to take action, and make us believe what we say to ourselves. It doesn't always feel like it, but we can choose our thoughts. Thoughts are not who we are, but the inner awareness of the thoughts is another story. Try these ideas and let me know how your mindset shifts!