Why we should never label thoughts as “good” and “bad”

Why we should never label thoughts as “good” and “bad”

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It’s just one of those days.

Your mind goes round and round in circles. It chirps endlessly-like a radio station stuck on scan. Some thoughts are tolerable. Others, well, meh…

Naturally, you want to throw those thoughts in two piles: the good and the bad.

But here’s why you shouldn’t.

Through mindfulness, we learn that there’s a difference between unhealthy thought patterns and actually labeling thoughts (as in the “good pile” and the “bad pile”).

This difference is slight, but highly important. And sometimes these two concepts are rather connected.

Unhealthy thought patterns are often rooted in what we call autopilot thinking.

Autopilot is when the mind takes off on its own – thinking about the past, the future and anything in between.  Autopilot isn’t good or bad. It’s just the way the mind works.

That said, many of these thinking patterns are, well, less than helpful.  They carry us away when we don’t even realize it. In short, it’s what you’d probably refer to as monkey mind.

Here is where autopilot connects to thought labeling. 

The goal of mindfulness is to allow these thoughts to arise and pass-without judging them. But when we assign value to these thoughts, we do the exact opposite.

It goes a little something like this…

“Why am I thinking this way?” “I shouldn’t be having these thoughts.”

Sound familiar?  This is thought labeling.

By labeling thoughts, we feed into attachment.  That causes these thinking patterns to grow and expand. They spread, like cancer.

In contrast, just recognizing that a thought is or isn’t helpful right now is much more neutral.

“Oh, I’m having feelings of (fill in the blank with your own story) right now. I don’t like it, but I can accept it and move on. I don’t need to judge my feelings.”

That’s the neutral, mindful approach.

Mindfulness is about the compassionate acceptance of whatever exists in the present moment. This means compassionate acceptance of everything in our lives-autopilot thinking included.

With acceptance comes the ability to be fully present with all thoughts and emotions.

The result is pretty amazing. As you will discover, simply letting negative thoughts and unpleasant feelings “just be” often results in a fading effect.

In fact, these thoughts and feelings are much more likely to fade away if we give them permission to simply be there-present in the moment. If we try to push them away, they will usually spring back into action.

See if this is true for you as you begin to notice this concept.

I think you might be surprised at how true this really is. And I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

In closing this post, I want you to remember something. When we judge, we cross the line from accepting autopilot to labeling our thoughts. Thoughts aren’t good or bad. After all, they’re just thoughts! Thinking is what minds do.

To your mindfulness,

Dr. Marchand



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