How good are you at learning languages? It’s such a wonderful skill, I am in awe of anyone who can effortlessly switch into Spanish or Japanese. And of course the many, many people who live every day of their life speaking in their second language, their non-native tongue. I did okay at French at school, had my “Je m’appelle Louise” down, but I got ever so confused when we got really stuck into all the different tenses. Past, Future Perfect, Past Subjunctive, Plu-Perfect (whatever the hell that was) – it all became Greek to me and I swiftly chose instead in favour of English, and (bizarrely) Chemistry and that was that.
This French tense confusion came flooding back to me this week as a gorgeous client was telling me this week about a meditation teacher she had just seen. She had just started a Beginners Meditation course – it sounded SO fabulous (she lives in Singapore before you start hassling me for deets!). The teach had a fantastic way of breaking down our head-space that I just loved, and I am going to adapt it for you today. Singapore Meditation Man said there were 4 possible places for our thoughts to go. I disagree a little, I think there are actually 5. Knowing what they are and how much of our time we are spending in each of them is the single biggest way I know to totally transform our stress levels. I have a Brand New, hot of the press, thought model for you (complete with my own hand-drawn diagram!) that will make it SOOOOO simple and clear it will start making a difference to your stress levels straight away. I am so excited to share it with you.
So, lets talk about thoughts and stress. Life gets hard and stressful when we get “in our heads”, and our minds seem to be a whirl of thoughts from the time we get up to the time we go to bed. Sometimes the brain chatter is so loud its hard to even go to sleep – on and on and ON the brain goes! Worrying about this and that. Trying to work out how something else might go or work out. Figuring out solutions to problems. Remembering things we forgot. It’s incessant! Mind chatter or “monkey mind” is exacerbated by the immediacy and continual connectivity we expect of ourselves and others these days. Coffee also gets the brain wired up and jumping from thought to thought.
Our thoughts determine how we feel. We have about 60,000 thoughts a day. And the vast majority of these thoughts are on a kind of automatic default. We have thought about 95% of them before. So we have some very hard wired thoughts, that in their turn create our predominant emotional state. Out thoughts drive our emotions, even when we are not conscious or aware of those thoughts. So if the majority of our thoughts are “I don’t have time for this”, “That’s late”, “I can’t afford it”, “She is so unreasonable” then our predominant emotion will be one of anxiety or low grade fear. We obviously don’t want to feel anxious and up tight all the time. Feeling “stressed” is not a lot of fun. The easiest way to not FEEL stressed any more is to STOP or CHANGE the thought. The stress is a feeling that comes from the thought. Instead of trying to change how you feel, be smarter. Change the thought FIRST and the feeling changes automatically.
So, there are actually only 5 places you can put your thoughts. This is where we get to the different “tenses”:
- Future Positive – what is going to/might/you’d like to happen in the future – all in a positive outcome kinda way. This is positive expectation, enthusiasm, eagerness, passion, empowerment, love and joy: “I am SO looking forward to the bach at Christmas with the family!”
- Future Negative – what is going to/might/you’d like to happen in the future – all in a worried outcome kinda way. This feels like worry, stress, discouragement, doubt and overwhelm: “I just know it’s going to be so full on and I’m going to be the one exhausted cooking and cleaning for everyone, no one ever helps like they say they will”
- Past Negative – stuff that has happened that doesn’t look the way you wanted it to. This feels like guilt, regret, jealousy, hate, revenge, anger and blame: “I hated it last time, the bach was nothing like Dawn said it would be, it was too small and we got the worst room. She always gets her own way, every damn Christmas!”
- Past Positive – stuff that’s happened that you are remembering in a positive rosy glow kind of way. This feels like contentment, hopefulness, optimism and happiness: “It was so great to see all the cousins playing together, they got on so well most of the time, what a great experience for their childhoods”
- The Present – right here, right now, baby. This is the hardest of all headspaces to visit. It’s the place that feels like delicious FLOW. When you are completely absorbed in the now. Time disappears, total absorbtion. We all access this in different ways, for me, and a lot of you, it’s yoga. I also get this when I am trail running. Just me and my feet and completely concentrating on where I put them so I don’t fall over as the beauty of nature glides by. Some people get this gardening. Or painting. Or rock climbing. There are so many ways to access the present. It’s fleeting. But the longer we can stay there we can be in absolute contentment. It feels like contentment. Ease. Happiness.
So – there are 5 tenses. Two past. Two future. One perfect.
And here is my handy diagram for you:
Once you have this model fixed in your mind it’s INCREDIBLY EASY to figure out why you feel stressed out, and to change it. If you feel stressed out, or indeed any kind of emotion you don’t want to feel you are at the BACK of the brain (in my diagram). Past negative or future negative. Nothing you can think there will make you feel good. Fact.
You want to be in the FRONT OR THE MIDDLE (in the golden “The Present” zone) in your brain. Every thought here will FEEL GOOD! Everything is this zone is a win. Everything you want to feel good in your life lives here. Moving your thoughts here will transform stress and worry and how you feel about your life completely.
It really is simply a case of changing focus. From past to future or visa versa. From negative to positive, or visa versa. Of asking yourself “Where am I in my brain right now? Which tense am I in? Past Negative! No wonder I feel so pissed off! Right. I need to think about Christmas in a different way: I am going to move directly forward into Future Positive, or, I am going to really try and think of some good things that did happen last year and move into Past Positive”,
Remember those 60,000 daily thoughts – how many of those are in each of your Tense Zones? That will explain EXACTLY why you feel how you feel most of the time. Whatever it is. If you spend most of your time feeling pretty upbeat and optimistic you will have 30 000+ thoughts in the Future Positive zone. If you are stressed out and worried most of the day every day you will have that many or more daily thoughts in Past Negative and/or Future Negative.
If you want to FEEL GOOD, you just need to THINK GOOD. Think in the right tense.
So, to summarise, you can:
Think about the future in a good way that makes me feel good (Future Positive)
Think about the future in a bad way that makes me feel bad (Future Negative)
Think about the past in a good way that makes me feel good (Past Positive)
Think about the past in a bad way that makes me feel bad (Past Negative)
Get in the zone of flow where you are totally engaged, in the moment and completely present (The Present)
Finally – here’s the other really important thing to know. YOU CAN ONLY HOLD ONE THOUGHT IN YOUR MIND AT A TIME. So: you get to CHOOSE what it is. Future or past. Positive or Negative. You get to choose the tense. You CAN change it up. Change the polarity – positive/negative. Change the timeframe – past/future.
If you don’t want to be tense, if you don’t want to feel stressed, get clear on your tenses. Much clearer than I did in 3rd form French lessons. This is way more important than 3rd form French! The more deeply you can integrate this lesson into your life will completely predict the level of stress versus happiness you experience in 2015. You get to transform it, starting right now. How cool is THAT?! Happy New Year, gorgeous.