Life is an endless cycle of actions and reactions. Every moment of every day we make choices based off of the information in front of us. Each decision leads to another. On and on we go, living out the consequences of these choices. But what if, instead of constantly making these knee-jerk decisions, we took a step back and thought our choices through?
Emotional Versus Rational
While we tend to think that we are always rational, the truth is that many of us are ruled by our emotions. Your emotional brain wants to make quick decisions that are not thought through. However, your rational brain wants you to step back and evaluate the situation. Most of us are familiar with the term 'sleep on it'. This is an example of your rational brain. Taking time to consider your options, evaluating the evidence or pros and cons, gives you the ability to make the best decision possible. In highly intense moments, the emotional decision is rarely the best one.
Practice Makes Perfect
Making small changes to your behavior can help you get better at taking a step back. Here are some tips for practicing taking steps back:
- Count to 10. When you find yourself in an intense conversation where emotions are running high, try counting to 10 instead of blowing up. Many times stepping back even just a few seconds can make a big difference in how you choose to react to a situation.
- Catch the Thought. Catching the thought is a concept that is introduced in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The idea is that instead of reacting with your first thought, catch it (identify it), and then let it go without giving it a reaction. With practice, it becomes easier to identify these first thoughts. You can then start to think about why you have these thoughts and change your way of thinking entirely.
- Meditation. Okay, no one is expecting you to criss cross your legs and chant 'Oommm' for hours a day, but taking up simple meditation is wonderful for your mental and physical health. There are various free meditation apps you can find on your phone and tablet. Taking even five minutes a day to meditate and reflect on positive things in your life can improve your mood, reduce your blood pressure, and improve sleep.
Life is all about choices and it's important that we take those choices seriously. Take your time and think it through the next time you're in an intense conversation. Step back and allow yourself to think clearly.
If interested in learning more about this and related topics? Visit the Self-Improvement section of our blog.
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