Sometimes life can get hard and the negative mental chatter can become overwhelming (especially after the last couple years). Luckily, author, coach and founder of The Rao Institute, Dr. Srikumar Rao, aka The Happiness Guru, taught us his methods on how to stop negative thoughts and silence your inner critic.
Lesson #1 – Observe your thoughts. Don’t become your thoughts.
Dr. Rao teaches us to be aware of our mental chatter so that it doesn’t destroy us. He calls it “shooting the 2nd arrow.” He explains this lesson through a Buddhist parable. The Buddha asks a student: “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replies that it is. The Buddha then asks: “If the person is struck by a second arrow in the same spot, is that even more painful?” The student again replies that, of course it is. The Buddha asks, “Why, then, do you shoot the second arrow? Thus, when something bad happens in life, you should not shoot a second arrow at yourself to deepen your wounds. Meaning, don’t further beat yourself up! Rather, you should practice being kind and compassionate to yourself when something goes wrong, to begin the healing process. Its hard to silence your inner critic, but you need to as kindly to yourself as you would to others.
Lesson #2 – Good Thing, Bad Thing, Who Knows?
If you are ever in a crisis and are trying to escape that panicked state, Dr. Rao suggests repeating the mantra “Good Thing, Bad Thing, Who Knows?” We can all think of something in our lives that, at a time, we thought was horrible but actually turned out to be a great thing. A blessing in disguise, if you will. Next time you’re facing something that you deem “bad” in the moment, ask yourself if there’s any possibility that you could deem this “good.” Then, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do proactively, right now, to make it good. This simple practice will allow you to move “seamlessly from the realm of despair to the realm of possibility,” as Dr. Rao says. Good thing, bad thing, who knows 😊
If you are having a hard time wrapping your head around this, the parable Dr. Rao told us will help. The parable follows a father and son: One day the father decides he is sick and tired of him and his son living in poverty, so he borrows a stallion from the neighbors to begin raising horses to sell, but he winds up losing the stallion, owing the neighbor money and finding himself even more poor. Low and behold, the stallion falls in with a group of local wild horses. And they come back; so the father and son end up with multiple horses for free. While the two are breaking the new horses to be sold, one of them severely injures his son. After his painful leg injury, the country ends up going to war––and the son, though injured, does not have to be drafted. Although living in poverty, losing the first horse, and the injury all seemed like bad things, they wound up protecting this small family from a bleak future. Of course, this all goes back to having a balanced, yet overall glass-half-full outlook on life, and believing that these things happen for a higher purpose.
Lesson #3 – Are you feeding the dog or the wolf?
Lastly, we have the parable of the wolf and the dog. Coming from Native American tradition, Dr. Rao tells the story of a young tribe member about to join the ranks of the adult tribe members. The final step before he joins is to have an interview with a medicine man. The medicine man says, “Here is a dog. It is intelligent, loving, kind and trustworthy. And here is a wolf – malevolent, vicious and ready to kill. The dog and the wolf are fighting and they are both inside you.” The young man asks which one will win, to which the medicine man replies, “Whichever one you feed.”
Put into practice, this reflects your positive and altruistic side and your negative and self serving side. Identify which of your impulses fit into each category, and try your best to selectively feed the dog and not the wolf. The same applies for everyone you interact with. Commiseration and venting can be helpful, but you also may be feeding the wolf in both yourself and others. It can fostering and spreading this negative energy.
In every encounter, ask if you have fed the dog or the wolf in yourself and in the other person or people involved. Know by feeding the dog you will improve the lives of yourself and those around you.
Listen to the full interview here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/better-together-with-maria-menounos/id1320060107?i=1000527485175
For more, check out Heal Squad X Maria Menounos, your Life Improvement Series. Subscribe to YouTube, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.