How I Fine-tune the Voices in My Head
I’ll admit to hearing voices — the voices in my head, that is.
We’re all listening to our mental voices. It’s the constant chatter of inner dialogue or self-talk that leapfrogs through our thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas. Mostly the chatter is background noise, accompanying our daily activities and conversations.
My own self-talk rose to a loud roar in the days and months following my diagnosis of ALS. I’d ask myself over and over what I did to cause this disease. I got caught up in never-ending thought loops, imagining worst-case scenarios of my future. Fortunately, my early training in mindfulness soon kicked in.
When I taught wellness during my professional days, the lessons focused on learning how to counter distractions and keep thoughts in the present moment. Little did I know how important these skills would be to me now that I live with ALS.
How mindfulness helps me
At first, I used mindfulness to help me cope with my ALS symptoms. For example, paying attention to my actions helped me avoid falling, choking on food, or spilling drinks. But just as important, being mindful also includes managing one’s self-talk to change the inner dialogue from negative to positive, and even to turn the volume way down low.
Recently, studies have been published showing the benefits of mindfulness for ALS patients, including reducing anxiety and depression and improving quality of life. These all validate my experiences from practicing mindfulness in the 11 years I’ve been living with ALS.
What does “turning down the volume” on your self-talk feel like?
Take in a slow breath and slowly exhale. Wiggle your toes and listen to the sounds around you. Poof! You are in the present moment. That’s how easy it is.
Not all self-talk is bad
I use the power of my inner dialogue to help me write this weekly column. How? I focus on the topic I’ve selected to write about, then let the voice in my head chatter away while letting my fingers fly on the keyboard, typing every word. I feel totally immersed in thought and oblivious to time. It’s called being in a state of flow.
Finally, when my mental voice is exhausted, I review and edit what I typed, and voila! My first draft is done.
Another way I refocus my self-talk is when I’m in bed and the lights are off. Instead of lying awake in the dark, stuck in a negative thought loop, I fall asleep remembering the day’s events and people with thoughts of gratitude. Knowing this is my habit to fall asleep forces me to actively take note of the good things as they happen. Studies show that doing this helps us have positive thoughts when drifting off to sleep, and we can even sleep better.
Paying attention to the present moment, experiencing creative flow, and practicing gratitude are all positive ways I use self-talk to help me live with this challenging disease. Why not try it for yourself? Together, we can learn to live well while we live with ALS.
Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.