Breaking free of our thought patterns

Have you ever noticed that your thought processes are like patterns? We create thought patterns out of events and situations and then when something similar comes up - we see the same patterns unfolding... yet again!

I became aware of these thought patterns when I was suffering from anxiety. They would often be triggered by the same things, usually around food or feeling sick, and if I felt any of the familiar 'signs' it would spark a repeat pattern and nearly always result in a panic attack, or a period of extreme worry and stress.

What I didn't realise at the time was that I had a choice in whether I stayed with the same thought patterns. I thought that once one thing unfolded it was simply inevitable that the same events as before would unfold. This created a negative cycle of anxiety and it got to the point that the patterns were habitually ingrained in my mind and extremely hard to step out of.

Just one slight imbalance in the way I was feeling would spark a chain reaction. It was a daily occurrence. If something I ate or did made me feel less than 100% then I would spiral into panic and anxiety about my health. Then, when that food or situation came up again - it would spark off the fear of the same pattern happening, so I would find every way I could to prevent it. This often meant avoiding certain situations and generally living in fear - I was simply existing through these patterns.

It got to the point that it was utterly exhausting and had such a huge impact on my wellbeing, I couldn't go out for dinner without fear, I restricted my diet to safe foods, I created a pattern of harmful beliefs about my body. It was a very, very negative pattern, and one that I thought I would be stuck with for the rest of my life.

The thing is, unless we want to change these negative thought patterns, we can't. We have to really, really want it. I became so sick and tired of these damaging thought processes that the fear of stepping back into them became worse than the fear of what it would take to try something different.

The first step to changing negative thought patterns is to notice and become aware of them. To realise that the emotions and the feelings are part of a habit. Just being aware without worrying about how to change them can be very empowering and help you understand that these patterns do not define you - they are simply a system you have put in place.

The second step is to accept that they exist and acknowledge that at some point they served you. Often our thought patterns come from fear and doubt, and act as a protection mechanism. We implement them as a way of keeping safe. Can you start to accept that yes this pattern served you in some way before, but that maybe you don't need it on this occasion?

The third step is to be brave enough to choose just one slight detour in your repeat journey. Think of it as a road to an inevitable destination - what would happen if you took a different path? Get curious about your negative pattern. Ask yourself, how can you do just one thing differently on this occasion? What could skew the pattern slightly and perhaps bring you to a different place?

Thoughts are simply thoughts - they aren't always factual, they are often stories we have become so accustomed with that we truly believe they are the only way. They can be challenging to change - however when you start to understand that they are your own creations, and you were capable of making them in the first place, perhaps you can look at ways to create a new, more positive, and more compassionate pattern?

Life is like one big amazing pattern - it doesn't have to have all the same shapes, colours and designs in order to be beautiful. 

"Sometimes the new way doesn't become clear until you have let go of the old way."