“Within the privacy of our own consciousness — in the theater of our mind — we create our own sense of reality, which we inhabit as our role in the great drama of life. It is a complex structure, like a skeletal system for our consciousness.” Judith Johnson
This is an interesting topic that warrants a closer look. How much of the world in which we live, has been created by our minds? For good or for bad, the mind is a powerful thing. Every minute of every day we make judgments in how to navigate the day; the world. We have to in order to survive, but how do we keep ourselves from making errors in judgment?
While we clearly aren’t the experts on this topic, there are some common sense things we can consider. The reason this is so important is because the effect our thoughts have on our mental wellness. Every day in the clinic, we see you facing your mountains of adversity, fighting against depression, anxiety, addictions and many other coping strategies we adopt to get by in this frantic world of information; a world in which news ceases to exist and in its place, we read about what ifs and maybes, even could bes.
Neuroscientists have studied the brain in countless ways and have determined that repetitive thoughts form neural pathways in which the neurons become linked together, thereby strengthening the thought. When have the same thought over and over, it becomes a pattern in our thinking…our go to thought. If we never challenge the debilitating and negative thoughts, they continue to gain traction in our minds. It’s the thought process that molds a person, a family, a community and so forth.
The good news is, we can change those pathways and in so doing, change our experience and reality.
Here are some simple ideas to change the thoughts in your brain that no longer serve you well.
- First, ask yourself if the thought is true. Is it 100% true and can you know for sure it is true.
- Is the thought authentic and meaningful for you? Just because everyone is thinking it, doesn’t mean you should too.
- Be careful where you spend your time. If negative people impact your thoughts, avoid the negativity by lessening your exposure. The same holds true for social media and news outlets.
- Decide on some healthy boundaries.
- Focus on the things you know to be true.
- Reframe the situation to focus on the positive parts. There are several perspectives to take for any one situation, explore your options.
I love the story of the farmer…“An old Chinese farmer saved up small amounts of money over a year to buy a new horse. Just a day after the farmer bought the horse, it ran away. His neighbour expressed grief, but the farmer himself was calm. “I hope you can get over this bad news” said the neighbor. “Good news or bad news, can’t say” replied the farmer.The next day, the horse returned to the farmer’s house by itself, and brought another stray horse with it. “Cheer up, we’re going to multiply our farm income. That’s great news” said the farmer’s son. “Good news or bad news, can’t say” replied the farmer and carried on with his work.A week later, the farmer took the first horse to his farm and his son took the second horse to follow his father to work. On the way, the second horse pushed the boy down and ran away. The boy’s leg was fractured badly. That evening back home, the farmer’s wife groaned “We will have to spend all our extra savings on our son’s broken leg. What a terrible news”. Once again, the farmer replied: “Good news or bad news, can’t say.”A month later, the farmer’s King announced a war on the neighboring nation. Citing a lack of foot soldiers, the King ordered all able-bodied men in the nation to get drafted into the military without excuses. The farmer’s son was spared because of his broken leg. Later, the inexperienced soldiers got slaughtered in the war. “You are lucky that your son did not get drafted. Mine returned with severe injuries. Many have been handicapped or killed” complained the farmer’s best friend. Unabashed, the farmer responded: “Good news or bad news, can’t say”.Life can take on so many different meanings and as humans, we rush to put meaning on things faster than we should for our own good. One of my favorite techniques to control my thoughts is to allow a situation to simmer in my mind for a while before passing judgment on a thing. Often, I find that the thought I would normally have is much worse than what really happens.
If you are a person prone to depression or anxiety, this is a good thing to work on. It’s not a band-aid, but a tool, just one of many we can use to help us get through these difficult times.