There was a time in my life when I suddenly realised my thoughts were killing me.
I’ll take you back. You tell me if this sounds familiar.
I went through a brutally stressful time in my life. I was living abroad and went through a breakup. Was made homeless. Staying in a rotten motel with stains all over the walls. Had no money. Knew next to no one. It was hell.
What made this horrible situation so much worse were all the negative thoughts in my mind. I thought things like, “My life is over”, “I’ll never make it back home”, and the recurring thought, “I’m f***ed”.
My Thoughts Were Killing Me, Literally
When I say that my thoughts were killing me, I’m being dead serious. My thoughts were making me ill. I was chronically shallow breathing, I had developed severe eczema, and yes, I did think about ending it all, on several occasions.
It’s well known that negative thoughts can have severe health consequences. Obviously they can cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression. But they can also cause physical health conditions like brain diseases, digestive issues, cardiovascular problems, and more, according to Marque Medical.
Personally, I felt the cardiovascular problems the most. My shallow breathing made my body ache like hell. I did have some problems with my gut, but that was partly because I couldn’t afford to eat anything.
For a long time I wallowed in self misery. Some days I didn’t even bother to get out of bed. But one day it hit me that if I didn’t solve my problems, this would be my life. And good Lord I not want that.
And so I chose to heal myself.
How I Claimed My Life Back And Changed My Thoughts
In the motel room, broke, alone, and thousands of miles from home, I knew I had to find a way to take my life back.
My goal was to get back home to England. But there were a lot of problems with this. One problem was financial because there was no way in hell that I could afford a flight.
The other problem was psychological. To be honest with you, I felt like giving up. And I was worried what my family would think of me.
But more than anything I had this crippling sense of despair that felt like a black hole in my gut.
There were, however, a couple of things that I knew for a fact, things that would help me get through this nightmare.
I want to share those things with you because I believe they are vital.
Here are the few things I knew for certain when I was at my lowest.
- I knew that all those painful thoughts were only thoughts. I knew they were not real but were just symptoms of my broken mind.
- I believed, and still believe, that it is always possible to change.
- I knew that if I could fix the problems with my mind, I would begin to take control of my life.
And so my mission became this: To heal my mind to the point where I was psychologically able to get back home and get the help I needed.
How I Stopped Those Killer Thoughts & Made It Home
To make it back home, I needed to pull myself together at least to the point where I could find a way to get on a plane headed back to England.
And to do that, I had to heal my mind and change my thoughts.
I’ll be honest. This was hard. But I did at least know a lot about psychology, and I knew many ways to stop bad thoughts and heal a broken mind.
Here’s what I did.
1: Just breathe
My first goal was to clear my mind to a degree where I could at least see clearly. Until I did that it would be hopeless.
So I let myself lie on my bed for hours on end. And the only thing I did was focus my mind on my breathing, basically doing breathing meditation.
It took time. But gradually my thoughts began to quieten and I felt like I could talk to myself in a productive way. And that meant that I could start to stop those intrusive thoughts.
2: Challenge Negative Thoughts
After I had cleared my mind I was in a position to challenge negative thoughts. And I did this in a specific way: By being real.
Some people try to force positive thoughts, pretending everything is perfect. True, there are some excellent exercises for positive thoughts. I didn’t do that. I was very rational. I used some cognitive behavioral therapy. That is, I made negative thoughts more realistic. So instead of thinking “I’m f***ed” I’d think “I have a problem in my life right now, but I can get through it”.
This was vital because studies show that ignoring negative thoughts doesn’t work, nor does forcing positivity. The best way to work with your mind is to have both a positive and negative mindset.
3: Step Outside
I knew that at some point I would need to face the world. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in a rotten motel room. I needed to get outside.
It was hard stepping out and facing the world because so much had changed. Everything felt so alien. But I had to face the world.
So I walked… and walked… and walked.
Most people already know that walking is good for getting Vitamin D. But you might not know that walking outside in nature is actually one of the best things for mental health and especially for depression.
So I let myself walk. And being exposed to nature definitely helped me to escape those negative thoughts that were killing me. The fresh air, the sunshine, the exercise, it all helped me to feel alive again.
4: Called my family
I finally felt calm enough to call my family. And I’m so glad I did. The people we love, and whom we love, are some of the best medicine in the world. They challenged my negative thoughts and made me feel hopeful. Plus, they called British Airways for me and managed to finagle a really cheap flight so I could get home.
I made it home. And although I had a long healing journey ahead of me, I was in a place where I could gradually piece myself together again.
This entire time was hell. But it has had a big effect on me. It is only because I went through hell that I found my calling. I trained for years and became a meditation teacher. And today, the greatest feeling in my life is helping people through personal hell. And I love it.
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison