We tend to view our minds as our whole being. But through meditation, we learn to watch our thoughts as if they were leaves floating by on a river. You can’t watch yourself, so that must mean that your thoughts aren’t all of you, but rather, a part of who you are. Even still, our thoughts undoubtedly shape our mental state.
Another side effect of watching your thoughts through meditation is the realization that your thoughts are cyclical, meaning the same thought patterns run in and out of your mind multiple times on a daily basis. As a result, negative thought patterns can feed unhappiness.
What’s your attitude toward life, and is it holding you back from finding peace and happiness on a daily basis? Here are 10 thought patterns that may do just that.
1. Obsession With Perfection
Are you obsessed with perfection? If you’re constantly thinking that everything around you needs to be improved, then you’re likely never satisfied with what you have. Sometimes good enough is just fine, and it’s our ability to see this that brings us happiness.
2. Comparison Thinking
“Why am I not married?” “Why don’t I have children?” “Why don’t I make as much money as so-and-so?” These are examples of comparing yourself to those around you—a toxic thought pattern that will almost always bring you down.
3. Polarized Thinking
Looking at issues and opinions as black or white is ineffective because it’s largely inaccurate. You’ll often find shades of grey hidden between the lines. Try to truly put yourself on the other side of issues and understand where those around you are coming from, even when it’s not so easy.
4. Taking Things Personally
It’s toxic to think that everything that doesn’t go your way in life is a slight against you. So you didn’t get the job you wanted. You’ll likely assume that it’s because you weren’t qualified or you’re not smart enough, when in reality it’s because the boss’s daughter needed a job, or the position was filled by someone in-house. Don’t assume that everything bad that happens is a cut against you personally.
5. Always Looking for Problems
Similar to being a pessimist, looking for problems in people or situations when there are none is equally destructive mentally. Optimists are happier and healthier than pessimists. For example, you’ve just met your best friend’s new boyfriend and instead of loving the guy because your best friend chose him, you’re already finding faults in him. Give people, and life, a chance.
6. The ‘All or Nothing’ Mentality
You’re constantly setting yourself up for failure because you’re extreme in all your views. You’re either fasting or binging, on the couch or training for a marathon. Meet yourself where you are and see your progress, not your shortcomings.
It’s the result of comparison thinking—being jealous of those who are where you want to be in life. Be happy for those around you instead of being envious. If you want to make changes, don’t waste energy being jealous—get to work.
8. Stop Thinking, Start Living
Learn to be in the moment rather than in your head. We’re often down in the dumps when we think too much. Meditation and yoga are two great tools for living a more mindful existence.
9. Coming to Conclusions Without Evidence
This is another means of judging those around you. For example, when your coworker is late to a meeting, you automatically assume they’re lazy, when what you didn’t know is that they were at home taking care of a sick child.
10. ‘If I Could, I Would’ Mentality
Don’t make excuses for not getting what you want out of life. If you’re not satisfied with where you are, do what you need to do to get there. If you love to travel but don’t have the cash on hand, start a travel fund. Lay out how much a trip costs and how much you need to put aside each week to save the money. This way, you’ll start reaching for what you want in life and getting it. Those that feel empowered in life tend to be happier than those who feel powerless.
Sara Novak specializes in health and food policy writing for Discovery Health. Her work has also been featured on TreeHugger, HowStuffWorks.com, TLC Cooking, and Animal Planet. This article was originally published on Naturally Savvy.