How to build awareness of your habitual thought patterns

person sitting on a row of chairs staring out at the horizon over water

You may be aware by now of the following inconvenience of being a human with a brain: your own thoughts and thought patterns can be at the core of a lot of your suffering and unhappiness in life.

meme of man looking confused & overwhelmed.

That’s not to say that all your habitual thought patterns are bad — that they all consist of overthinking, overcomplicating, oversimplifying or causing you unnecessary pain.

But in many cases if you’re feeling stuck or dissatisfied with life, it’s worth expanding your awareness into your thought patterns.

There are likely some negative patterns or default ways of thinking that you’ve outgrown & need to start working to move past.

What are habitual thought patterns?

When I say habitual thought patterns, I essentially mean any sequence of thoughts that have come to form your beliefs about yourself and life itself.

They are also the thoughts you most frequently & consistently pay attention to.

That may sound odd, but that’s how thoughts work.

In order for them to drive the narrative of your life, you would have had to feed them continuously. The more you pay attention to them, the more you notice them and focus on them, the more they blind you from seeing the possibility of anything else.

They become your habitual thought patterns, yet at the same time they come so automatic that you don’t even question you have the power to create a new reality.

How to break free?

Glad you asked. You’re in the right place.

How to build awareness of your patterns

To build awareness of your habitual thought patterns means to break the cycle of autopilot and notice trends.

As with most topics I write about, we’re interested in habitual thought patterns that keep you stuck or hold you back from the person you wish to be and the life you want to live.

In other words, negative thought patterns. Some ways to build awareness include:

1. Pay attention to your triggers.

When you feel a subtle but definite dip in your mood, pay attention to the emotions you are feeling, and what occurred just before.

Name the emotion, and see if you can pinpoint what about the events that just occurred might have caused a shift within you.

The more specific you can get when naming the emotion, as well as getting to the root emotion (not anything it might be disguised as…for example fear disguised as anger), the better.

Triggers are incredibly powerful teachers about our internal state and the thought patterns that shape it.

Make a commitment to learn by dedicating some time for self-reflection or journaling after you’ve had some time to regroup. Over time, this practice alone will sky rocket your self-awareness.

And beware — it will feel uncomfortable. Your mind may resist the feelings of vulnerability for a while before you feel like you are starting to make any progress.

2. Name the “song”.

Once you’ve worked on analyzing what triggers bring up, you can start to notice patterns. We will call common patterns you identify “songs.”

Let me explain.

A common trademark of habitual thought patterns is that we tend to ruminate (fancy word for obsess over). We think the same thoughts over and over.

The same worries, same problems, and same concerns come up to form our narrative.

One way to identify areas for improvement and to make the process of building awareness more lighthearted is to think of our mind as a radio station that plays the same handful of songs on repeat.

(I heard this idea on a Calm meditation, and it’s been a great addition to my toolkit! I highly recommend the app or other guided meditations!)

Your habitual thought patterns are “songs” playing. Once you notice one of your “songs” is playing, you can pause and say “hey, it’s one of my songs playing again!”

The act of noticing, of calling out your song and INTERRUPTING it is a rep that strengthens your concentration muscle…your awareness muscle.

Each time you call it out, you’re strengthening your ability to be present during uncomfortable moments (triggers). And that presence is what enables you to actually learn and make lasting changes.

3. Build your tolerance for patience & resilience.

Your conscious mind will resist. It will find it so uncomfortable that you are questioning it’s low-effort status quo way of getting through life.

Your mind will try to rationalize the thought pattern. It will try to soothe you in the ways you know best — your past track record…even if this is precisely what you’re tryin to grow out of.

It may look for any excuse, another person, another circumstance to explain why your current thought pattern is easier, best, or just the way life is.

You must be resilient. You must commit to taking the harder path until the harder path one day becomes the easier path. The newly established norm.

It becomes easier if you accept up front that to be resilient means you will fall, or feel like you’re failing multiple times before you start to feel the break through. It means embracing that that’s part of the process, and that regardless, you will choose resilience.

Once you build awareness, the next step is to start consciously creating new patterns! I will be sharing a series of tips on how to do so in my email newsletter. Sign up below to make sure you don’t miss out!

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