How Your Mind Affects Your Life: Reclaim Your Thoughts

What’s happening inside your mind? The human mind is powerful. It shapes our perceptions, emotions, actions, and ultimately, our life experiences. Most people have a running narrative happening up there, and don’t give it much thought. It operates on autopilot, influenced by ingrained patterns and the constant chatter of the inner critic. Letting your mind and the inner critic run amok affects your life more than you know. So what can you do? This is where the concept of self-study, known as Swadhyaya in Yoga philosophy, can help you to regain control over your mind and enhance the quality of your life.

The Inner Critic and It’s Influence

The inner critic is the internal dialogue always running in your head. It can shape your self-perception and influence your reactions to what’s happening around you. It often stems from conditioning, adopting the beliefs and values of the people you came into contact with growing up, without questioning where they came from. You grow up thinking these beliefs and values are your own. Some fit your life, and some feel like that stomach roll that hangs over your pants… Uncomfortable for sure! Unchecked, it can magnify your negative thought patterns, leading to self-doubt, anxiety, and limiting your personal growth.

Fear of Failure

If you’ve ever felt paralyzed by the fear of failing, your inner critic might be the culprit. It can be sneaky too… Sometimes you don’t even realize that narrative is happening, but you get easily distracted. It’s a deep internal feeling that success is out of reach, and you’re bound to fail. This fear can hold you back from even trying. It’s possible to overcome this fear, but it takes uncovering them, and then understanding and challenging these thoughts.

One thing you can do when you find yourself stuck in inaction is to challenge the inner critic by writing down your achievements, no matter how small you think they are. Replace self-critical thoughts with self-compassionate affirmations, acknowledging all your progress. Everything you do is a series of steps after all, right? Rather than looking at the big looming goal, celebrate every small step that you take.

Social Anxiety and Fear of Judgment

Navigating social situations can be another challenge when the inner critic is in control. It might convince you that everyone is judging your every move, making you feel self-conscious and anxious. Overcoming social anxiety involves recognizing these negative thoughts, understanding that they’re often unfounded, and learning to be kinder to yourself. By quieting the inner critic, you can experience more genuine connections and enjoy social events without the burden of that nagging feeling of anxiety.

I know personally how crippling social anxiety can feel. Back in my school days, I would sit paralyzed to my chair no matter how badly I needed to use the bathroom, or how dull my pencil was. I wouldn’t get up to sharpen my pencil because I had to walk to the front of the room in front of everyone! I trained my brain out of this… and you can too.

Reminding yourself that other people are often too focused on themselves to notice what you think they’re saying or thinking about you. Challenge these negative thoughts by acknowledging your worth. You belong. You matter. And it’s totally safe to walk in front of other people. I promise.

Perfectionism

Then there’s perfectionism – like a demanding friend who always wants to go do things and never lets you relax. Your inner critic might push you to set unrealistically high standards, making you believe that anything less than perfect is a failure. This mindset can lead to procrastination, increased stress, and a reluctance to take a break and enjoy life. Learning that it’s okay not to be perfect can free you from the shackles of perfectionism, allowing you to enjoy the journey rather than fixating on flawless outcomes.

When perfectionism has it’s claws stuck in you, implement the concept of “good enough”. Recognize that imperfections contribute to personal growth, and we all have to start somewhere. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is a quote that really rings true here. It may be a beautifully finished product now, but there was certainly a messy middle. Take note of your effort and progress. Celebrate every small accomplishment, even if it falls short of perfection.

Self-Doubt

Another way that your mind affects your life is when making decisions feels like a daunting task. Hello, self-doubt! How ya doin? Your inner critic may question every choice you make, convincing you that you’re incapable of deciding for yourself. This self-doubt can create a cycle of hesitation, stopping you from moving forward confidently. Learning to trust yourself can empower you to make choices aligned with your values and goals. Quieting the inner critic is the key to unlocking your decision-making potential. So how do you do it?

Challenge self-doubtful thoughts by acknowledging successful decisions you’ve made in the past. They weren’t ALL bad decisions – I mean, you’re here now, right? So if you can’t come up with any successful decisions you’ve made, I’ll give you one right there. You’re still here, and that’s a beautiful thing! Replace your negative thoughts with self-assurance, emphasizing your ability to make intentional choices.

A woman thinking critical thoughts about herself with a thought bubble that is covered by the "no" symbol.

Swadhyaha (Self-Study) Defined:

Swadhyaha is a foundational principle in Yoga that encourages you to go within and explore the depths of who you are. It involves self-reflection, questioning beliefs, and unraveling conditioned thoughts to reveal your authentic self. It is one of the five Niyamas (guiding principles) within the 8 Limbs of Yoga.

When you study yourself, you create awareness around your mental processes and patterns. You begin to see exactly how your mind affects your life. Can you imagine being able to catch yourself before you overreact to something, recognizing that old pattern you’ve become so accustomed to – and changing your behavior? What would it be like to feel proud of how you handle situations that come up?

I believe the greatest form of self-study is coaching, because it’s structured. Coaches guide you through the process of going within and looking closely at your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, helping you to deeply understand your inner world – and how all of that is shaping your outer world.

Through coaching, you learn to identify and challenge your limiting beliefs, paving the way for positive transformation. You can also do this on your own through journaling, and there are many books out there that can guide you as well.

Awareness is the Key

When you are fully aware of your thought patterns and beliefs, you’ll be more equipped to consciously choose your responses. Awareness breaks the automatic cycle of reactive thinking, empowering you to make intentional decisions aligned with your values.

Through self-study you begin to redirect negative thoughts toward more constructive thoughts and perspectives. You start to see how your thoughts directly impact the results you experience in your life, so you learn to think from a new, more positive perspective. You also learn to view setbacks as lessons, and even find gratitude for those setbacks.

In essence, Swadhyaya is a process of self-awareness, empowerment, and intentional living. By unraveling the layers of conditioned thinking and reclaiming control over your mind, you can live a more fulfilling life aligned with your true authentic self.

Building a Better Life Begins with the Mind

Controlling the mind through self-study coaching reshapes your life for the better life by developing mental well-being, resilience, and emotional intelligence. Positive thought patterns lead to improved relationships, increased confidence, and a greater sense of fulfillment.

The reason this type of coaching is so effective is because it blends coaching with Yoga. Mindfulness, meditation, Asana (poses), and breathwork become additional “tools” that can help you quiet your inner critic and experience a more peaceful mind.

You’ll break free from self-imposed limitations, opening the door to personal growth, and a more authentic and meaningful life. When your mind affects your life this much, I think it’s worth putting the time and effort into the greatest of all subjects – YOU.

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