Shine A Light On What Moves You

I woke up this morning and instead of rushing off into the kitchen to make breakfast and sitting down to work, I lay in the warmth of my bed, staring up at the ceiling, allowing my thoughts to wash over me as I noted their quality.

In my month-long self-care challenge, I've been relearning how to hit the breaks on bad habits by incorporating mindfulness back into my everyday life. So instead of moving on autopilot through my daily routine, I'm using mindfulness to slow down and check in on myself. In particular, to check the quality of my actions and thoughts to see if they support creativity, kindness and self-trust.

We all know that it's easy to get swept up in the busy-ness of life, but the truth is, the future is made by the decisions we make in the present moment. And if the present moment is clouded by decisions made on autopilot, then we are missing the opportunity to direct our life onto a more meaningful course.

So in my moments of mindfulness, when I am noting the quality of my thoughts, I'm untangling myself from thoughts fuelled by anxiety and false feelings of inadequacy - those sticky thoughts that tend to be deep-rooted. I'm reminding myself that I am not my thoughts nor my feelings and that I have the power to choose what moves me and to change what doesn't.

But this is no easy task.

Mindfulness requires the willingness to let go of patterns that keep us cocooned in our comfort zone. It means tossing bad habits into the fire and shedding the narratives that no longer work for us. It means reclaiming our creative power and choosing not to create what harms us. In the end, it means respecting the interconnectedness of all things by doing what is good and sustainable not only for ourselves but for others.

After having not practised mindfulness as a daily routine for many years, I'm taking small steps to rebuild my practice and those steps are making all the difference to my quality of life. Perhaps the most important result at the moment is that it is helping rebuild a more mindful relationship with myself and this is encouraging me to feel more grounded at a time in my life when I feel swept out to sea.

The truth is, when I left Bari it was to repair my quality of life. In Bari, I was living life looking forward to simply surviving the workweek. Very little brought me joy and because of the nature of my job, I found myself being expected to work overtime without being paid for it. So after three years, I opted out of my full-time contract to create more time to do the things that matter. It's a bit scary because I'm not really sure what's next but that's part of the journey. If we change nothing, nothing changes.

It was while going through this transition and being mindful that I realised that I have the bad habit of overthinking almost everything.

Tracing my decisions back to their source, I realised that they are rooted in fear and not in self-trust. And because of this, my overthinking encourages me to either imagine the worst possible outcome or to ruminate about the past, beating myself up for what I could have or should have done. What it doesn't allow me to do is make clear decisions aligned to my innermost wholehearted values.

In short, overthinking allows for negative self talk to build up in our mind, either leading to decision paralysis or to indulging in patterns that bring temporary comfort, both of which stop us from enacting meaningful change.

So if like me you're struggling with overthinking, here's what I want to encourage you to do today:

Identify your destructive thought patterns.

Become mindful of the way you make decisions. Is there anything holding you back from doing what you truly want? Dig deep to discover what is at the root of your decisions. Sometimes we need to sacrifice what we want to show up for others and that's ok but, if in the end if what we are doing doesn't align with our deeper values, it's time to rethink our decision-making process.

Learn ways to manage your story.

It's easy to think that we are the sum of what we've done in the past and how we feel but that isn't true. The only constant is change and in every moment we have the opportunity to change our story. Look back on your life and trust that you made the best possible decision you could at the time and move on to making better decisions in the present. This leads us on to the next point.

Let go of the past.

It's important to respect the past but at the same time not to indulge in the comfort of nostalgia. The past is never like we imagine it to be. Reflect but also let go so that you can bring yourself back to being present in the moment.

Identify overthinking before it spirals out of control.

Sometimes it's difficult to know if we are overthinking something or not because it is normal to think more about some decisions than others depending on the impact they have on our life. But overthinking leaves us feeling overwhelmed, confused and stuck and if you find yourself feeling this way while trying to make a decision, seek help. My husband was the first one to notice it in me. He saw how anxious I would get when making work-related decisions and decided one evening to share his concerns and help me create a plan to start dealing with it.

Focus on solutions and not the problems.

I think this has helped me the most. Instead of ruminating on the problems and the negative talk in my head, I make a list of solutions to my problems and focus on actioning them instead. Seeing positive results no matter how small is very motivating.

Are there any bad habits that you struggle to manage? Or any that you have recently overcome? I would love to hear your story. Please share in the comment section below.

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  • Manja Maksimovic says:

    "If we change nothing, nothing changes." Yeah! Good luck with your thoughtful path to self-improvement.

  • Stuart Aken says:

    Thank you for this, Martina. It comes at a time when I felt in need of solution to some problems in these dreadful times we are all currently experiencing. I've copied your post so I can return to it at need.
    If I may make a suggestion? Your site contains no 'share' buttons, which makes it difficult to pass on your material to others who may be interested. They're usually free and easy to install. If you simply Google 'Free share buttons' you'll find a multitude of places that provide them along with instructions about how to place them on your site.

    • Martina Azkoul says:

      It is indeed a dreadful time. These days I'm finding it increasingly hard to find the right words to say anything or to even think straight. I'm glad that something I've said has sparked a feeling of hope in you. Keep tending the light within and spreading warmth and kindness as much as possible. I hope that all this will be over soon and that you and your family are safe. Thanks so much for your message. (As for the sharing buttons, I can see them underneath the like button - they should be just there underneath the post.I doubled checked this morning. Thanks so much for the heads-up - I appreciate it.)

  • mytiturk says:

    Thank you, Martina, for visiting my site. It began with a strong desire to “change the world” and mellowed after I hit my 70’s into a more casual, but sincere, caring… Your recent decision to move from a secure position in Bari that was demanding things that it shouldn’t was wise. I look at life as an adventure and thank you for the reminder to take the time to focus on the things that move me most. My wife and I have visited Italy three times beginning with 1970, when we took just a half-day trip to Venice from Lugano, Switzerland after visiting a Swiss friend of hers whom she met while they trained as nurses in England. I look forward to following your journey…

    • Martina Azkoul says:

      Thank you so much - I look forward to following yours 😌