Maggie Reynolds, LCPC, NCC

We often talk about our creations, our decisions, our opinions, and our beliefs without looking further into the processes that led us there. Mindfulness has become a big part of mental health treatment and life for many people. An important component of mindfulness can be identifying and understanding the way your mind works and not just what thoughts or emotions you may be experiencing. What follows are some common mental processes:

  • Concentration
  • Flow
  • Rumination
  • Reasoning
  • Evaluating
  • Discerning
  • Creating
  • Brainstorming
  • Denying
  • Rejecting
  • Resting
  • Solving
  • Obsessing
  • Projecting
  • Strategizing
  • Observing
  • Appreciating
  • Meditating
  • Contemplating
  • Connecting
  • Regretting
  • Remembering

Being able to identify your thought process can be especially good when your current process is not helpful to accomplishing the task at hand. By taking a few moments to recognize when, for example, you might be ruminating when you want to be reasoning, you have more control in changing your thought patterns. This can help you talk to yourself more compassionately. For instance, if you found yourself feeling down about a previous project that wasn’t as successful as you had hoped when you have another project to work on, you might talk to yourself in the following way:

“I keep finding myself ruminating about the last project and what went wrong. It keeps playing over and over in my mind. That makes sense. I was disappointed. I am disappointed. And I’m scared of doing poorly again. But I have a new opportunity now. So as I look back one more time, what is the number-one lesson I learned? I learned that I should speak up when I need more help and that I need to communicate more with my team. How can I apply that lesson now?”

One of the key features of the thoughts above is that there is no negative judgment or sense of shame about the thoughts or the way of thinking. There is trust that the mind will use its own processes to help itself. Once you notice how your brain is operating, ask why it is. Be curious. Are you seeking understanding? Are you responding to stress or a perceived threat? If so, is the threat real? Are you trying to make meaning? Are you weighing a decision?

If you are having trouble identifying and understanding your mental processes, consider speaking to a trained therapist about it. When the mind is impacted by trauma or mental illness, sometimes our emotional states become so overwhelming that we struggle to find a balance between emotional and logical information in determining our behavior, and our mood can suffer. A therapist can help you learn about how your mind works and develop skills to improve your mental and emotional well-being.

If you are interested in setting up a consultation or appointment with one of our experienced therapists at Symmetry Counseling in Chicago, you can call us at 312-578-9990.