I can’t think of many topics I get more excited talking about than the power of our thoughts. In my meetings with clients, I often find myself sitting on the edge of my chair passionately drawing trees and flow charts trying to explain the logical progression of a thought, especially when cumulative, and how it ultimately creates our feelings and reality. If I look back at just today alone, in most of my meetings, whether it was entering one man’s pit of anxiety or a woman’s cyclone of shame, we went digging together— looking for the harmful inner thoughts at the root so that we could heal and transform them.
Because we typically can’t see our thoughts, or hear them, we grossly underestimate their importance — for how we feel about ourselves and our life, for our physical health, our mental well being and our relationships. Furthermore, to some degree, most of us assume we can’t really control our thoughts. Yes much of the time, without any effort on our part, our thoughts seem to think us — I call this thunking. But the truth is, we decide which thoughts we keep and feed, which ones we burn, and which we choose to make as a foundation upon which to build our lives.
We all derive greater motivation when we learn what is at stake, aka what’s in it for me. Not just a fluffy puffy concept, here are a few truths and facts about the impact of what we allow to dominate our minds— drawing from both science and ancient spiritual wisdom. Then we’ll bring this into practice, with tips and suggestions for taking charge of our mindset.
A recent body of research has gained considerable attention due to the impact found of our destructive thought patterns on our physical bodies, more specifically aging. These outcomes studies are good news, because reaching the physical level is often what it takes for the masses to pay attention. People who scored high on negative thoughts associated with depression, hostility, cynicism, rumination, pessimism, avoidance, and suppression were all found to have shorter, and therefore weaker, telomeres — which is a cellular structure responsible for hastening of our body’s aging process. As Earl Nightingale said, “We become what we think.”
Louise Haye, who was a revered pioneer in the mental atmosphere movement, cites fascinating research by Candace Pert regarding the poisonous impact that negative thoughts have on our immune system. Louise explains, “Every time we think or speak, we produce chemicals that travel all through our bodies, touching every cell and depositing a bit of that chemical in it.” As such, fearful, angry thoughts depress our immune system; loving, optimistic thoughts enhance our immune system.
Okay now that more people are listening to what the sages have been saying for 1000s of years, let’s go a little deeper. I recently learned something beautiful from Michael and Monica Berg in their seminar, The Power of Thoughts. Our thoughts exist in an unlimited realm, not yet manifested in this world. Because they are connected to this limitless force, we have a limitless ability to use our thoughts to connect to blessings (even more influential than our words and actions). As Monica puts it, “The way you think about your life, and the way you think about yourself, is ultimately what you will manifest, because thoughts are that powerful.”
The logic is quite simple: thoughts (seed) —> feelings (trunk) —> words/actions (branches and leaves) —> our reality (fruits). If we want a life of great joy and blessings, it’s up to us to plant the best seeds. Creating the life we want through mastering our thoughts is two-fold and requires one commonality: EFFORT. We must rid our negative thoughts, and invest great effort into meticulously planting positive thoughts.
CATCH AND REMOVE THE NEGATIVE
1. Get To Know Your Thoughts: Ladder Down
We can’t change what we can’t see, or hear. Much of the time, we aren’t even aware of the poisonous whispers of negativity that are causing us great emotional anguish and reactive behaviors that manifest into a negative reality in our lives. As I shared above, I find it so important to carefully break down the emotions coming up and the presenting struggles, laddering down and down, till we find the root thought(s). I encourage actually writing down the negative thoughts that come with your feelings and struggles. Then keep going deeper, asking, "What thought comes with that, then what thought come with that - especially about myself." We typically discover feelings of failure or guilt, of not being enough, of shame or not feeling worthy of love. Many times limited and fear-based beliefs about life itself expose themselves (e.g., I won’t ever have it better (albeit she’s abusive)).
2. Catch and Destroy Those Negative Thoughts
As soon as you spot a destructive thought, nip it in the bud as quickly as you possibly can. Pluck that thought like a nasty weed. Burn it up in an ever-going flame waiting to consume the lies your fears and ego feed you. Without judging yourself, which is often the root of the negative thought in the first place, appreciate the urgency of stopping the negative, unhealthy thought pattern. We can't afford to build a life on top of lies, which is the truth about about any fear-based, limited thought. Remember: We become the ruler of our life when we rule our thoughts.
3. Create Turnarounds
As Louise Haye was known for saying, “It’s only a thought and a thought can be changed.” Once the underlying thoughts reveal themselves, it’s usually startling and we can begin to grasp the serious damage our limiting thoughts cause. Sometimes, people still believe the negative thoughts. Either way, we go about transforming them or creating turnarounds. A most satisfying endeavor. Here are examples of some negative thoughts and their turnarounds
- Negative thought: She left me, I must not be enough
- Turnaround: No one person is my source. My self-worth comes from within.
- Negative thought: If my parents aren’t happy, and I can't fix it, I feel guilty.
- Turnaround: All I can do is my best. I let go of the rest. I set good boundaries so that I can be more loving.
- Negative thought: My only worth is my performance.
- Turnaround: My worth is so much more than whatever or however I'm doing.
PRACTICE AND INCREASE THE POSITIVE
1. Practice Constant Positive Thoughts
When we practice positive thoughts day by day — like appreciation, kindness, certainty, self-compassion, desire to share — this consistency builds our mental muscle and ability to elevate our mind. Then when struggles come or darkness sets in, we are less likely to be thrown off course by negative thoughts. Think of an athlete who trains for the big game, or a pianist who prepares for the showcase performance. Without practice, the muscle memory just isn’t there when the pressure is on. As we practice choosing positive over negative thoughts, we build our muscle for healthy thinking, then eventually we will see everything from this higher consciousness. (See link for The Power of Thoughts above.)
2. Keep A List Of Your Favorite Affirming Thoughts
I always say I'm an affirmation nerd, collecting and sharing them every chance I can. It’s helpful to have certain thoughts that resonate with you ready in your “back pocket.” Like at a stop sign, you know what to do without much thought. Similarly with affirming thoughts that hit the spot and lift your consciousness. Be ready - for times of frustration, anxiety, sadness, doubts - with your bull's eye affirmation, which can change as you change. I remember during some challenging teenage years with my kids, I found "I love and approve of myself" a catchall thought that truly soothed me and kept me from taking their hormonal reactivity too personally. Click Here for Affirming Thoughts for Inner Strength
3. What Would You Tell A Friend (WWYTAF)
If you’re struggling with how to transform your negative thoughts, ask yourself, “What would I tell my dear friend in this same situation who is having these negative thoughts?” We are pretty wise when it comes to opening our hearts to those we love. Now it’s time to direct this love within.