Change How You feel At Anytime
How you feel is determined by what you’re thinking in this moment – what you’re focusing on – good or bad. Most of the time we let our thoughts control us. We can choose at any time what we focus on, and we can decide what thoughts we are going to pay attention to.
Deepak Chopra says “It’s estimated that we think approximately 60,000 thoughts a day and the disconcerting thing is that 95% of the thoughts we have today are the ones we had yesterday.”
This shows we are habitual thinkers so whether you’re in a habit of critical or judgemental thinking, or upbeat, creative thinking, you can see how often you are thinking those kinds of thoughts and therefore what kind of effect they are having on your mood and your body.
Whatever happens to us we are choosing our response in any moment – either consciously or unconsciously. The key is to become aware of what we are thinking and then choose how we want to feel and react, rather than be triggered by the same circumstances into predictable conditioned behaviour. For instance do you regularly become frustrated and angry, or do you feel optimistic and in harmony with events or experiences?
If you are often anxious or uptight look at what you’re thinking or focusing on. Imagine your mind as a television – if you don’t like the channel you turn it over. You can do the same with your thoughts. Notice them, tell yourself you don’t need to think that thought anymore and you are choosing a better focus.
Certainly there are things that happen to us that are shocking, even tragic. These are the times when we need to pull on every ounce of strength to not stay victim to the event by maintaining a flow of destructive thinking (internal dialogue), and of course you may need to seek support to manage that, but there most definitely is a way out.
Our thoughts create our feelings and how we feel determines our behaviour.
The other important thing to realise is that our thoughts create chemical reactions in our body, sending signals through our nervous system that actually affect cell activity, adjusting the function of the cell.
Stressful thinking creates cortisol and adrenalin in our body, both of which suppress our immune system. This goes back to the fight or flight instinct from millions of years ago when we constantly had to be aware of things that were out of the ordinary because they could be a threat to our survival. We needed to have a flight or flight instinct to stay alive. These days the fight or flight instinct is no longer triggered by sabre toothed tigers, but by work, spouse, families, daily news etc. Stress hormones are injected into people receiving an organ transplant as they shut down the immune system so the organ doesn’t get rejected. That is how damaging stressful thinking can be.
If you keep thinking the same thoughts and having the same beliefs and expectations – beliefs about life, about yourself, about the way things should be - then you are going to keep getting the same result because you are taking the material (external conditions, triggers, events, information) and translating it accordingly (deciding what it means to you based on your perception).
It’s like following the same recipe. You take the same ingredients and keep coming up with the same dish because you use the same recipe. However you could have all those same ingredients but choose a new recipe and come up with something completely new and exciting.
Next time you feel anxious, low or stressed, first of all notice what you’re thinking. What are you saying to yourself, what are you picturing in your mind, where’s your focus? Inevitably all of these will be unhelpful or fearful words or pictures. In that moment you have a choice:
· Change your focus – tell yourself you are no longer thinking that thought and choose something better. This gets easier with practice!
· Change the meaning you have given something – “she snapped at me she’s nasty”, could be “she snapped at me, gosh she must be having a really bad day”
· Go and do something calming or fun – play music, dance, call a friend
Whatever your interpretation of events, the meanings you come up with, you will feel and that affects your mood, your behaviour and your body biochemically. Becoming more effective at interpreting life experiences so that the meanings you create are empowering in terms of your emotions, means you are going to have control of how you want to feel, the way you want to act and your overall health.