Control your thoughts, feel better, and that lowers your stress!
I imagine I am not the only one that agrees with Stuart Mclean when in one of his Vinyl Cafe stories he describes life as a speeding train.
A train that starts at the town of New Years, whips through Valentine’s Day, pauses briefly at Spring Break, takes forever through Income-Tax Season and Final Exam Jitters, speeds far too quickly through Summer Vacation to get to Back-To-School Shopping, winds through Halloween and Thanksgiving to rush like the bullet train through Holiday Preparations, and Parties to arrive at Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan (or whatever celebratory town I missed …)
And just when one thinks the trip is finally over and one is about the step off the train, one discovers the train has been yanked all the way back to New Years and the crazy trip starts all over again. And then combine the train ride with the ebb and flow of health, relationships and money, and we find ourselves stuck in a huge swirling stress-bucket. And stress has very negative consequences for our health.
Maybe it is not possible to slow the train down, but what can we do to stop the stress of the daily grind from impacting us and find more daily peace? This past year I have been experimenting with a different approach, and I think it is helping.
Firstly, I have been trying to stop the negative self-talk. It is amazing how I am my own worst enemy! I am sure you have heard it said that if someone else talked to you as harshly as you talk to yourself, you would fire them as your friend. Yet somehow it is okay to bully ourselves? This one is tough – I catch myself being mean to me fairly often still, but when I notice, I am now gentle with myself. I tell myself that it doesn’t have to be done this instant, that I am learning and I will get better, that there is only so much time in a day …
Secondly, when I am experiencing negative feelings like depression, anger, or frustration, I try to talk myself into a more positive-feeling place. My goal is to not allow myself to stay in the negative feeling for very long, as I don’t want those feelings to turn into a mood, or into a personality! Sometimes I can accomplish this in a few minutes, usually by distracting myself and thinking about another topic that makes me happy.
Other times this can be very difficult, as usually there is a story attached to those feelings. Since it is often next to impossible to detach an entrenched story from a feeling, the easiest option is to diffuse the story enough to get to feel better. Maybe not to joy and happiness, but it might be possible to talk oneself from depression to anger. Or from overwhelm to disappointment.
Any relief from the negative feeling even if it is to another feeling that is less negative, is moving downstream towards a happier place.
I am not talking about “positive thinking”, as the thought must ring true, or at least feel better. Saying “I am rich”, when you actually feel poor will make you feel worse, not better. Yet acknowledging that there are many opportunities out there and you just haven’t found the right fit yet, may be a more downstream thought.
One of my wisest friends, Mary Ann Gillies, told me that the best approach is to allow oneself to feel the feelings while ignoring the story. If parents made a concerted effort to avoid attaching a story to an incident with their children, their children would grow up with less self-doubt, less fear, more self-confidence, more optimism, and more self-empowerment.
As she puts it, “Think of kids who fall down and bump their knee. It hurts, they cry and if the parent acknowledges the hurt but doesn’t add a story to it by saying “You always fall down, you klutz.”, or “You poor baby – you need to move more carefully so you don’t get hurt”, the kid gets up, stops crying and in short time has forgotten all about the bump and the fear or anger or whatever feeling it generated in addition to the physical pain.”
The bottom line is that our thoughts and our feelings are inextricably linked, and since our feelings determine which neurotransmitters, hormones or peptides are created, our feelings largely determine our health status.
Our mind is the only place we are truly free. No matter what is going on in our lives, it is possible to imagine anything we want with our mind. We can let our minds drift to worst case scenario thoughts, doubt thoughts, generally negative thoughts, or we can actively shift our thoughts to solutions, to fun, to our dreams, thereby infusing ourselves with good feelings, which will improve our happiness and our health.
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Gillies, Mary Ann, personal communication, December 2016.
Hicks, Jerry & Esther The Law of Attraction Hay House, 2006.
Copyright Vreni Gurd 2016