How do you talk to yourself? – An Introduction to Mindfulness

How do you talk to yourself

“The most influential and frequent voice you hear is your inner-voice. It can work in your favor or against you, depending on what you listen to and act upon.”
― Maddy Malhotra

I may have mentioned once or twice in the past that I’m a worrier. That’s wOrrier (as opposed to wArrior!) It’s a form of anxiety. And it creates a stress response.

So, I worry about the level of worrying I do, too.

Perhaps you can relate? Maybe you’re a wOrrier, too?

But here’s the thing, my nearest and dearest only know about my level of worrying because I have told them about it. So, not only am I a master worrier, but I’m really good at presenting a calm, in-control front to the world.

Guess the cat’s out of the bag now!

This year, one of my personal goals is to address my level of worrying. Turn the volume down on it, if you like.

And, I’m doing this by working on my inner voice. You know the one I mean – we all have one. That voice in my head that talks to me.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
– William Shakespeare

My inner voice is critical. SUPER critical. Really.

But it’s only in the last few months that I’ve come to realise just how critical it is. And, once I started noticing, I gave myself quite the fright. I would never dream of talking to another human being in the tone with which I talk to myself. 

My partner, LM discussed this very subject with me at breakfast over the weekend. His inner voice doesn’t talk to him the way mine does. His inner voice is not judgmental. His is accepting. And, if you know LM, then this will surprise you not one jot.

I want my voice to be a little more like LM’s…

In fact, LM calls me out when he catches me listening to my critical inner voice. Apparently my body language gives me away. And, it is remarkably effective when he does. I just need to improve the way I do this for myself…

The manifestation of a laid back inner voice
How I imagine LM’s ‘inner voice’…
(Image by JFC)

Am I Abnormal?

Does this overly critical inner voice of mine mean that I’m abnormal…? Apparently not.

So, if you do relate, you can heave a sigh of relief, too!

And, there is a direct link between anxiety and autoimmune conditions. There are a couple of reasons for this:

Despite their flares and remissions, the great majority of autoimmune diseases are chronic illnesses. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, you’ll know just how much this can wear you down over time.

Another important factor is the huge uncertainty that can surround diagnosis. My autoimmune issues remained undiagnosed for over twenty years, despite seeing a number of medical specialists. Shame and uncertainty can be a key driver of anxiety in anybody, but for autoimmune sufferers, this lack of definitive diagnosis and treatment can become that much more daunting and overwhelming.

How we choose to live – our diet and lifestyle choices, can directly affect our mental health. I’ve written before about both MTHFR and Pyrrole Disorder, which I’m confident also have an impact on my particular flavour of critical inner voice. But, I know for sure that I am noticeably less anxious since commencing the Autoimmune Protocol and implementing better lifestyle habits. 

But it still needs work.

And, even if you don’t currently suffer from an autoimmune disease, did you know that recently, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. (i) 

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States aged 18 and older, or 18% of the total population.(ii) That’s pretty mind-blowing, I think.

A little closer to (my) home, according to medical partitioner and psychotherapist, Dr Russ Harris,

“Western psychology is founded on the assumption of healthy normality: that by their nature, humans are psychologically healthy, and given a healthy environment, lifestyle, and social context (with opportunities for ‘self-actualisation’), humans will naturally be happy and content. From this perspective, psychological suffering is seen as abnormal; a disease or syndrome driven by unusual pathological processes.”

He asks us to consider the fact that statistics show that in any given year almost 30% of the adult population will suffer from a recognised psychiatric disorder (iii) The World Health Organization estimates that depression is currently the fourth biggest, most costly, and most debilitating disease in the world, and by the year 2020 it will be the second biggest. In any week, one-tenth of the adult population is suffering from clinical depression, and one in five people will suffer from it at some point in their lifetime (iv).

And then, there are the many forms of psychological suffering that don’t constitute actual ‘clinical disorders’…

Nope. Having a critical inner voice is definitely not abnormal.

But, how do I change my inner voice?

One word. Mindfulness.

It seems you can’t turn around these days without hearing about ‘mindfulness’. It’s the buzz word in the media.

And, despite Eastern philosophies having embraced the power of ‘mindfulness’ for centuries, it is only more recently that it has become a hot topic in Western psychology, too. It is now being recognised as an effective way to reduce anxiety and stress, raise self-awareness, and undermine destructive emotive, cognitive, and behavioural processes that come from those pesky critical inner voices.

But what exactly is mindfulness?

mindfulness
noun
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

JFC Mindfulness
For some reason, I associate mindfulness with being near water…

Many people think mindfulness means meditation, but this is not the case. Mindfulness is a mental state of openness, awareness and focus. We can achieve this state in many ways – meditation is just one way.

And frankly, this is a huge relief to me because I really struggle with meditation!

I’ve been exploring different ways that I can achieve this seemingly wonder state that is mindfulness. I’m still a work in progress! I’ll be talking more about this is upcoming posts.

How does your inner voice talk to you?

I’d really love you to listen out for your inner voice today.

Check in with how you talk to yourself. Do you talk to yourself with love and respect? Or, are you hyper-critical about mistakes and errors in judgement? Do you ned to teach your inner voice some manners?

Oh, and if you feel comfortable, please let me know how your inner voice talks to you in the comments section? I’d love to know.

(i) Medical Express
(ii) Anxiety and Depression Association of America
(iii) (iv) Act Mindfully

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Comments (13)

Great post! I have been struggling in my own life due to major changes brought on my health issues, among other things. I am finding that I am not only my own motivator but also the strong voice for my adult children who are constantly struggling with everyday events like job searches. Like you, I find myself getting quite negative and seek my husband’s grounding and calming perspective.

Once a Mum, always a Mum. (I still go to my Mum with ‘stuff’ and I’m 45!)

Have you found a mindfulness practice that works for you?

I love this post, Joanna! So vulnerable and so wise. Mindfulness is such a powerful thing. I’ve actually set myself a challenge to stop complaining. I don’t see myself as someone who does that a lot, but when I start to pay attention, I’m shocked at how often I can get into Negative Nellie mode. Here’s to mindful and positive change!

Eileen – you’re always make me smile.

I admit to finding it hard to imagine you as a complainer. My issue is not how I see others, or even the world. It is more how I talk to myself.

And yes! – Here’s to mindful and positive change!

Thanks Jo, there are some great points in there. I usually try to encourage others, but your comment about teaching your inner voice “some manners” really resonated with me; mine could use some kindness! I would never speak to others so harshly! Note to self, be gentle and encouraging; if it’s good enough for my friends, it’s good enough for me. Thank you!

Jane – Yes! I love that thought: be kind to yourself.

There’s a thought bomb doing the rounds on social media at the moment that goes something along the lines of “treat yourself as you would someone you love very much”. As a rule, I’m not the most ‘rainbows and unicorns’ type of girl (and this is nudging pretty close to that) but I think we should perhaps take note! What do you think?

My inner voice used to be so rude… she was always complaining, calling me a coward, or selfish, or lazy. But the main problem is I always listened to her. After learning I had some health problems I started following a paleo diet, I started feeling more energized, I started losing some weight, and I stopped worrying. My inner voice is still saying all those things she used to say. But the truth is I don’t really care anymore. I know now that she’s just scared & I have to show her there’s no reason to be 🙂

Hi Marga – thanks for stopping by, Possum!

I need to take a leaf out of your book, I think… 🙂

It’s worked wonders for me, I guess I just had to learn to get to know myself 😀 Nice to be around here!!!

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