When Old Thought Patterns Attack

negativethoughtsOnce upon a time, I smoked cigarettes. I know—gross, gross, gross. I smoked for many years, starting by sneaking my Mom’s True Blue 100s when I was 15. I didn’t fully quit until I met my future husband who is an adamant non-smoker. Life on the cigarette wagon went great for the first several months. Then I took a road trip—riding in the car had always been one of the places I really loved having a cigarette—and all those cravings came rushing back. Situational memory, I reckon.

I recently had another attack of situational memory. This time, it was at the gym. And I wasn’t craving a cigarette. I was experiencing a severe attack of glute envy.

Before a couple of weeks ago, I had not been to a gym since 1998. In the 13 years since then, I have patronized yoga studios or practiced yoga at home. My non-gym life was really working for me (and my waistline) until I went and had two babies in a little over two years, and developed quite a potbelly in the process. Practicing yoga in my living room has done a lot to save my sanity, but the belly remains. And I want my clothes to fit. Hence, the gym.

While I’ve loved working up a bonafide sweat and feeling that twinge of soreness the next day that indicates that I really did move out of my comfort zone, I have been surprised by the old, pre-yoga thought patterns that have come rushing back. My inner commentary has been so unloving. I’ve caught myself getting horrified by glimpses of my belly bouncing around during Bhangra class. I’ve heard myself thinking “everyone else is in better shape than me, so why even bother?” Ew.

Hearing and acknowledging those thoughts has not been easy or fun. But I’m going to keep going. Maybe the gym didn’t trigger these thoughts, after all. Perhaps they’ve been floating under the radar all the time and the gym just brought them to the surface. Which is a blessing of sorts, because you can’t change a habit you don’t realize you have. Continuing to go to the gym will give me lots of opportunities to acknowledge those thoughts and then choose to focus on something else (such as a tricky Bhangra move) so that they can pass without my accepting them as truth. My hope is that by continuing to put myself in the situation, I can use the tools I’ve learned through years of yoga and meditation to get to the point where I forgive myself for having those thoughts in the first place. Then I’ll have truly re-written that situational memory.

Speaking of, I’ve got to get my stuff together and head out. There’s a cardio and conditioning class in 45 minutes!

What triggers your monkey mind?
Are there places or situations where you notice your inner critic really going to town? How do you cope with those thoughts? What practices help you get through those times when your thoughts are ganging up on you? Leave a comment and if I publish it in the next Vegimental, I’ll send you some lovely new products from Rescue Remedy.

Take care and keep breathing,


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7 thoughts on “When Old Thought Patterns Attack

  1. I find I get wreaked with bad thoughts when in the gym in front of a mirror. Why are there so many guilt inducing mirrors in gyms? So I stopped going to the gym. I started going back to nature. Running in the forest, paddleboarding on lakes, in rivers or on oceans, and playing tennis. Anything that keeps my mind off the exercise while I am getting loads of exercise not only gets my body in shape but my mind as well. I am either too engrossed in my beautiful surroundings to take in the largesse of what I believe to be flabby thighs or too into competing to think ugly thoughts. My feeling is the more fun I am having the more benefit I get, mentally and physically.

  2. There are definitely times I feel a meanie attack coming on. I find myself going off on myself mentally most times when I face myself in the mirror. Like auto pilot, my thoughts start running to the negative, what I have wrong with me lookswise, from a big butt (I’ve been trying to lose weight for a few years now), to thin hair to..you name it. There are 2 things that help me with kicking the mean thought monster inside me down. The first thing is drinking a cold glass of water, a technique I have used since childhood when I’ve been crying or freaking about something..it seems the coolness of the water cools off and soothes your insides..which connects mentally also..besides that, I made up a song, that I sing to myself, whenever I am feeling low, or sometimes for no reason, to help me feel good. I would think everyones song would be different, but mine goes..”Every Day..I’m happier and happier, Every Day..I’m slimmer and healthier, Every Day..life’s More and More OK…Every Day..things are going my way.” Its a simple song, in an upbeat tune, kind of a sung affirmation. and makes me feel better and more confident without fail.

  3. Dear Kate,
    Have you heard of the Gabriel Method? It is a wonderful book about creating the body you desire, in a loving way. No diets that don’t work anyway, no self flagellation, only the most sound advise and support I have ever heard on creating our ideal body. It is slow, but I would rather work through a loving approach than the ‘other’ any day!!!
    As for my monkey mind…. I could join you in having committed less than positive inner dialogues referring to my body, but for me my monkey mind has needed drastic taming in the arena of my creative expressions. I am just emerging from a 9 year block that began slowly and snowballed. The longer it got the worse my critic would yell and the more I would recoil and pull my blanket over my head. What’s helping? It’s hard to say. Are the batteries on my inner critic just wearing down over time? It is true that I am getting better at seeing it as a 2 year old having a tantrum- you don’t take them seriously and the less attention you give it the sooner they calm down. Sometimes a nap is needed. Also I have been focusing on taking small steps with my art, breathing deeply, and only working on what feels fun or feeds my heart. I’m finding that the more heart centered I am in all my actions and decisions, the better I feel. I think my monkey mind gets defused through inner hugs, self-loving thoughts and cocoa. Of course that is with marshmallows…. for we are both just kids at heart.
    All my best~ Jane

  4. Merrill, I love it! So smart. I know, I don’t really like gyms either because they really seem to focus only on how the body looks, not on how you feel. I hate the thought of people riding the stair climber while watching CNN. It sounds like torture, doesn’t it? The thing I do like about the gym is the classes. You can try a million different workouts and all you have to do is show up and do your best. You’ve really got me intrigued about paddleboarding. But I also want to know, what do you do in the winter or when the weather is gross?

  5. Melanie, love your tricks for taming the monkey mind! That is so cool you’ve been using a trick that you discovered as a kid. And the song! Brilliant. Perhaps you can record it and become a You Tube sensation with it.

  6. Hi Jane, I haven’t heard of the Gabriel method but I am going to check it out. It sounds totally up my alley. Thanks for the tip! As for the creative block, sorry to hear about the duration, but I love your approaches to it. I do think that when you take your attention away from your inner meanie it does get bored and shuts up. And I think that doing only what really calls you will lead you to fabulous places you couldn’t even have dreamed up with your rational mind. Keep going. And keep breathing!

  7. HI Kate
    LOve your site dream of getting into yoga I need a way to calm my mind and want so much to be healthy I am on that path now but it is not going to be an easy one I chose to try the 7 pillars of health . along with good exercise I can not do aerobic exercise because of knee pain but walking yoga and weights works well as for those crazy thoughts that come into our minds I get them often just the other day I spent time with my niece who is smart and beautiful has a great figure I loved our day together but I felt so unattractive and overweight by the end of the day. when these thoughts come I try to and most times suceed just not this day to focus on the things I have to be grateful for and the next day set a good health goal for that day Like drink more water. We can take these thoughts or people who make us feel (unintential of course) less beautiful and make it a moment to be grateful or say hey I love her hair I am going to get something done with mine Turn it around.
    we are all on a path to be better mine is no longer to look like someone else but to find my own beautiful healthy self and commit to a life of Wellness

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