Our thoughts are powerful – for better or worse. Thoughts can set off chain reactions that build self-esteem or undermine it. Authority over our mind is the ultimate power. “Mind is everything. What you think you become,” said Buddha. Thoughts affect not only our mental health, relationships, and the ability to achieve our goals, but also our physical health – our digestion, circulation, respiration, immunity, and nervous system.
Next are our actions. Change begins in the mind but is manifested and amplified by our actions. How we behave can change our thoughts and feelings. They change us. Spend 15 minutes doing the following each day, and watch your whole life change:
Mindfulness brings awareness to our thoughts. It’s merely the ability to observe our thinking in a dispassionate, neutral way. Research has shown that mindfulness meditation has numerous benefits, including:
- Reduced rumination
- Reduced stress
- Increased working memory
- Increased ability to focus
- Increased empathy
- Increased self-esteem and self-compassion
- Reduced reactivity
- Increased cognitive flexibility
- Increased relationship satisfaction
- Increased speed of information processing
- Other benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to enhance self-insight, morality, intuition and fear modulation, and other health and brain functioning benefits.
Shining the light of consciousness on our mental process differs from being caught up in thoughts and the stories we create and react to as if they were true. Observing thoughts tends to dissipate unhelpful, repetitive ones and helps free us from self-judgment and the need to control. Mindfulness also brings us into the present moment, in contrast to the focusing on achieving or fixing things or being lost in obsessive thoughts about other people, the past, or future. It increases our ability to question, challenge, replace, or stop our thoughts and actions. In this way, we’re better able to make constructive changes and avoid repeating past mistakes.
Mindfulness also changes how we perceive reality so that events don’t automatically affect us and our self-concept. We develop the ability to experience reality in a non-evaluative manner and less reactive way. Because our self-worth is less dependent on external reality, we’re able to embrace our inner-self rather than relying on others for validation. There is evidence that high levels of mindfulness correlate with higher levels of self-esteem and more secure self-worth.
This skill represents a higher level of awareness and consciousness. (You can take a quiz to score your degree of mindfulness.) Like learning any skill, it takes practice. Meditation or another spiritual practice can develop mindfulness. There are many types of meditation. Some involve chanting, walking, qigong, yoga, or breathing exercises, described in more detail in Codependency for Dummies, as well as the many other mental, emotional, and physical benefits of meditation.
2. Encourage Yourself
According to research, how you speak to yourself can have a huge effect on self-esteem. Self-talk can improve or ruin your mindset, mood, relationships, and job satisfaction and performance. Self-criticism is the biggest obstacle to good self-esteem. To overcome self-criticism, the first step is becoming conscious of your negative self-talk. Mindfulness helps, but so does writing down your negative self-talk. Start replacing the negative with positive, self-affirming statements. Beware, however, that if you tell yourself things you don’t believe, your efforts can backfire. Your unconscious is very literal and doesn’t distinguish between what you tell yourself and what others say to you.