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Detoxify Your Thoughts
Ever geared up to make a positive change only to find your efforts derailed weeks or even days later?
Perhaps this was the year you planned to practice yoga or add in an exercise routine. Maybe you were ready to learn a new language or run a marathon or take a cooking class. Could be you were committed to living with greater compassion for yourself and others.
Chances are (and I’m writing from experience here) that you planned and prepared and set out with good intentions and plenty of enthusiasm to make these changes stick and accomplish your goals. Yet within weeks, that enthusiasm waned and left you feeling stuck right where you started.
If that experience sounds familiar, no doubt you were sabotaged by your own limiting beliefs — beliefs that many of us don’t even know we have.
Time to detoxify. Just as cleansing and detoxifying your body can be important to maintaining physical health, cleansing yourself of limiting beliefs is the key to creating vitality and wellness that will steer you toward greater success and happiness.
“A lot of times, when you change some core unconscious beliefs, you then have a chance to adopt the conscious beliefs that will serve you in your life,” says Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., psychologist and Gaiam University faculty member and the author of numerous books including The Big Leap.
How Beliefs Work
Beliefs are simply thoughts or ideas repeated over and over until they become tethered to every aspect of our lives. We take them as truth — even though they are merely illusions. We act from them. And, as a result, they are reflected back into our lives as tangible results. Empowering beliefs can support us en route to our greatest potential. However, often we are saddled with limiting beliefs that narrow our possibilities and keep us from the things we most desire.
Parents, teachers, friends and even television programs influence our limiting core beliefs, many of which we absorb unknowingly as children. They become embedded in our unconscious and affect everything from how we feel about ourselves to how we interact with others, succeed in our careers and accomplish our goals.
The Universe, Hendricks says, delivers what we focus on and think about. So, if you hold the belief that you aren’t lovable, you will act on that and draw people and circumstances into your life that repeatedly support that belief by treating you poorly. Believe that there are no good jobs available? Your belief will keep you from seeing the exciting opportunities that are out there.
Yet, by identifying and exploring our unconscious beliefs, we can release those that are sabotaging our success and replace them with conscious beliefs that support, inspire and empower us toward our greatest selves.
How to Identify a Limiting Belief
1. Notice what you complain about. If you are constantly frustrated or complaining about the same thing — three times or more — congratulations, you have uncovered an unconscious belief, Hendricks says. If you are always complaining that you feel criticized by your boss or spouse, for example, which belief do you hold that suggests you deserve to be criticized? If you complain about how little you have, what belief do you hold that indicates you don’t deserve more?
2. Look clearly at your current circumstance. You say you want to lose weight, but your cupboard is filled with cookies and chips. Perhaps you think you’re ready for a loving relationship, yet you work so much that you leave no time to date. Your current circumstance is a physical representation of the beliefs you hold. If you aren’t moving toward what you want, chances are an unconscious belief is catching you up. Often, Hendricks says, we don’t recognize our core beliefs until they create some negative results. Look closely at the results you’re getting — if they aren’t what you want go deeper and explore the beliefs behind them.
3. Pay attention to the self-talk. What is your inner voice saying? Is it encouraging and helpful, or does it sound narrow, constrictive, even guilty? The words we use with ourselves (and others) are powerful and often evolve from the unconscious beliefs we hold. Next time you’re in a situation that feels stressful or scary or difficult, stop and pay attention to that inner voice, then cross-examine it. Awareness can diffuse the power of that negative self-talk and allow you to choose language that works with you rather than against you.
All of these techniques require an openness and a willingness to explore your own thoughts and experiences. That isn’t always comfortable, Hendricks says. Go easy. Take on these beliefs with gentleness and plenty of self-compassion.
“In order to change, we don’t need to beat ourselves up or criticize ourselves,” Hendricks says. “In order to change, it’s important to love and accept the very thing we’re here beating up on.”
How to Boost Your Belief System
Once you’ve identified the beliefs you want to change, recognize them for what they are — repeated thought patterns. Bad habits. With practice and commitment, you can trade out the bad beliefs for better ones. Here’s how to do it.
1. Stop the behavior pattern. Become aware of your behavior. If, for example, you catch yourself buying doughnuts when you want to lose weight, or you’re surfing the web instead of developing your resume for that dream job — STOP. Take three deep breaths and notice that your behavior is coming from your unconscious limiting belief and it’s sabotaging you. Now, put the doughnuts back, click off of Facebook, or pick another, better behavior that aligns you with a more empowering belief.
2. Develop a new conscious belief. Next, choose what you do want in your life and develop a belief to support it. If you want to have a healthier body, replace your limiting belief of “I can never lose weight” with a better one: “Each day I make healthy choices for my body.” Go for greater abundance by replacing old beliefs such as “I don’t deserve it” with “I appreciate and embrace all the abundance in my life.” Repeat your new belief often. Practice it. Write it down. Consciously take actions that support those new thoughts. In time, you’ll form powerful new habits around your empowering beliefs.
3. Cultivate support. “One of the reasons people stay the most stuck is that they have a group of friends around them that support their victimhood,” Hendricks says.
If you now subscribe to the belief that you are talented and competent and ready for that big promotion, it’s not easy to be around people who don’t take you seriously or claim that you’re not qualified. Just as living with a spouse who makes mac and cheese every day can be hard on your weight loss plan.
As you and your beliefs evolve, it’s important that you have a support group that does the same. Talk to the people closest to you. Tell them what you need and desire, and ask them to support you in that. But know, too, that often when we drop our limiting belief patterns, we must also release the friendships, habits and other things in life that don’t align with our new way of thinking and living.
4. Make a commitment and take action. Commit to your new belief and support it with consistent and specific action.
If, for example, you replace your limiting belief that you don’t deserve a loving marriage with a better belief that you are deserving of a loving relationship, you’ve got to start acting on that belief. Perhaps that action inspires you to marriage counseling. Maybe you will behave more lovingly toward your partner by openly appreciating him three times a day or doing three things to support your relationship.
Changing your beliefs will alter your actions and that becomes life changing. When you uncover and detox from the unconscious draining beliefs that are keeping you stuck, your life will open up and expand. You’ll be free to adopt better beliefs and behaviors that will help you grow into your greatest self and create the life you desire. Believe it!
We asked experts, authors and readers like you to share their stories of Hope. Every day for the next month, you'll find new tips for optimism on Gaiam Life, the Stream of Consciousness blog and our social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And don’t miss the GaiamTV.com Hope Film Festival, with FREE films all month long.