This article first appeared on www.mariashriver.com in 08/2016
By Sophia Godkin PhD and Matt Riemann
Who would we be if not for our thoughts?
Our thoughts dictate everything in our lives, from our relationships to our health and happiness.
Thoughts, those rumblings that happen within the confines of our mind, are an indicator of our subconscious beliefs – those things we learned during childhood about ourselves, others, and the world that we simply accepted as truth. These beliefs, and the thoughts they are expressed as in day to day life, influence how you feel and what you do in response to anything in your life.
Remember that person that cut you off on the 405 freeway? Yes, them. Let’s use them as an example and let’s call them “Bob.”
Bob just cut you off on the freeway. It was a close call. You jolted out of your seat a little bit.
You think: “Didn’t Bob see me?” “That’s not fair!” “How could he just cut in front of me like that?”
You feel: Angry and frustrated.
You act: You start honking your horn, maybe even utter a few not-so-nice words, and before you know it, Bob has gotten off at his exit and you’re driving along the 405, fuming from the anger and frustration that has crept up within you. When you get to dinner with your friend, you aren’t very pleasant to be around.
The same situation can go very differently. Bob just cut you off on the freeway. It was a close call. You jolted out of your seat a little bit.
You think: “Oh Bob must be in a rush to do something important. Maybe someone is unwell and he needs to get there immediately to see them.”
You feel: Calm, content.
You act: You let Bob go in front of you. You know it’s nothing personal. You’re happy to help. You meet your friend for dinner as happy as ever, ready to share a wonderful evening.
Different thoughts. Different emotional response, behavioral response, and therefore a different life.
“Bob” can be anyone and “getting cut off on the freeway” can be any event you experience in your life. The most important thing to remember is that what you think is up to you. And what you think determines how you feel and act which determines your chemistry and biochemistry which affect the very fibers of your health and happiness. That’s why positive thoughts truly are the best medicine.
Here are the 3 steps to follow to achieve a positive mental attitude in your own life.
1. Become aware of what you’re thinking. Your beliefs determine your reality via your thoughts and actions. To become aware of what you’re thinking, pay attention to how you feel emotionally. If you’re angry, you’re likely thinking and believing something that you adopted as a child that isn’t quite an accurate representation of who you really are. The quality of your emotion is a good reflection of the quality of your thoughts.
2. Change what you’re thinking. Once you notice the emotion associated with the thoughts come up for you, you can change the thoughts. You can rewrite the story. You get cut off by “Bob” and are feeling angry and frustrated. You acknowledge you’re likely feeling this way because you interpreted his behavior as a personal vendetta so instead, you decide that he had good reason for pulling in front of you. It had nothing to do with who you are or are not as a person. When you perceive the world and things that happen to you differently, you feel and live differently.
3. Make it a habit. Science says that it takes about 21 days of consistent practice to form a new habit. So to make positive thinking a habit, simply practice becoming aware of and regularly adjusting your mental patterns. To support you in this learning process, there are tools that help you get to know how your unique mind naturally works, like Shae, so that instead of responding to something that happens to or around you, you can start to change the habits that exist within. And over time your perception of yourself and therefore of the world becomes very different. And very beautiful.
Simply put, positive thoughts are a much more accurate indicator of what’s actually going on in our world and life than our negative thoughts let on. And the more we practice not believing the thoughts that are based in fear and insecurity, the more we can feel happy and healthy, which is what we’re all here to experience.