Metacognition: Hmm.. What's That?

Metacognition: Hmm.. What's That?
Photo by That's Her Business / Unsplash

Isn’t our brain an amazing organ? Regardless of what and how much happens in real life, many things can happen inside our brains. Our complex thoughts are woven into the intricate channels of our brain, allowing us to experience a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative. It is no surprise that our thoughts drive our emotions and feelings. On some days, our thoughts lead to an abundance of positive emotions like love, happiness, optimism, hope, confidence, etc., while on other days, we may find ourselves weighed down by the burden of negative emotions like anger, guilt, disappointment, frustration, anxiety, and sadness. It’s perfectly normal for us, as human beings, to navigate through this emotional spectrum. Yet, for some reason, we feel the pressure that we should constantly be in a state of positivity.

The other day, my thoughts leaned toward the negative side of the spectrum, leading to feelings of pessimism, anger, and frustration all at once. In the past, when I grappled with such negative thoughts and emotions, I would have been critical of myself and asked, “Why am I feeling like this? I am supposed to be the ever-optimistic “sunshine” exuding positivity all the time”. However, ever since I learned about the concept of “Metacognition”- the human ability to think about our own thoughts- it has transformed me. I have come to terms with the fact that I am not defined by my thoughts. Thoughts are merely one of the many possibilities that my brain generates in that particular moment, and that moment can last for only a few seconds, minutes, or days. So, my thoughts do not entirely define who I am. It’s perfectly okay for me to have negative thoughts from time to time.

Since I learned about the concept of metacognition, I’ve practiced the ability to reflect on my thoughts. Having negative thoughts doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to fight or dismiss them. Instead of applying quick fixes to my negative thoughts, I acknowledge them and allow myself to experience them without resistance. This approach provides me with an opportunity to delve into why I’m experiencing negative thoughts in the first place, to understand their origins and the triggers that lead to such thinking.

This deliberate practice of sitting with my thoughts and reflecting on them has empowered me to make peace with many negative thoughts, preventing them from resurfacing in the future. Most importantly, it has enabled me to be honest with myself and confront negative thoughts without judgment or self-criticism. I have experienced a great deal of self-compassion and my approach to dealing with my thoughts has significantly evolved. In simple words, it has saved me a considerable amount of time and energy by allowing me to embrace my humanity.

The intricate interplay of thoughts, emotions, and feelings is what makes us human! We are not robotic beings programmed to radiate positivity all the time, although that’s often the expectation we place upon ourselves. Moreover, the portrayal of “perfect” happy-go-lucky lives that everyone showcases on social media only adds to this pressure. It’s okay for us to experience the full spectrum of human emotions, from positivity to negativity and everything in between. In fact, it is an essential part of our being, and as long as we acknowledge and maintain a sense of balance with these emotions, that’s how it is supposed to be. So, let’s free ourselves from the burden of having to be perfectly happy and positive all the time.

So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts that lead to anger, resentment, distress, grumpiness, frustration, or any other emotions, don’t fight these thoughts or emotions. Instead, confront them in a way that allows you to find inner peace. You can take a walk, write in a journal, or simply sit with your thoughts and emotions and reflect on their origins.

Here are a few techniques that can be effectively used to manage negative thoughts and emotions:

Mindfulness Meditation: Research indicates that mindfulness meditation can lead to lower repetitive negative thinking and higher levels of self-compassion.

Journaling: Expressing your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help alleviate the cognitive burden. Emotional journaling can also help you identify your patterns and manage your thoughts and emotions over time. Enrich your emotional vocabulary to identify your feelings.

Physical Activity: Regular exercise has been proven to boost mood and reduce the feeling of anger and frustration. Aim for a 30-minute walk daily, if possible, as even a short amount of exercise can help in managing negative thoughts and emotions.

Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing can calm your nervous system and reduce feelings of distress. Make a conscious effort to take at least three deep breaths every couple of hours. You can set reminders on your phone, or laptop, or place them on your wall until it becomes a habit.

In conclusion, our brain is a complex landscape of thoughts and emotions, and it’s perfectly normal for all of us to experience a multitude of human emotions. Only by acknowledging the intricacies of our thoughts can we fully embrace the beauty of human emotions. Therefore, let us release the unrealistic burden of perpetual positivity and embrace the beautiful complexity of the human experience as a whole.