How many times has someone said to you, “just don’t think about it”? It’s simple to say, but not always easy to do! Thoughts are powerful, so it is important for us to know how to control them. Julaine and I visited Niagara Falls recently and we were in awe of the power of water falling 175 feet, sometimes moving rocks, but always pulverizing or eroding soil, vegetation, and rocks. Thoughts have every bit as much power, and if they are not controlled, they can cause serious damage to ourselves and others.
Thoughts, whether negative or positive, are what generate feelings, attitudes, reactions, body language, tone of voice, and behaviors. Nearly everything we (and others) see or feel starts with a thought. How aware are you of your thoughts? If you became fully aware (as much as humanly possible) of your thoughts, how could that impact your view of yourself, others, your work, your marriage, or life in general?
In her book, “Switch on Your Brain,” Dr. Caroline Leaf shares results from her research, as well as that of others, which shows biological changes occurring from thoughts. She states that “The design of the brain allows us to capture and discipline chaotic thoughts. Research dating back to the 1970s shows that being introspectively aware of our thoughts in a disciplined way, rather than letting them chaotically run rampant can bring about impressive changes in how we feel and think. Purposefully catching your thoughts can control the brain’s sensory processing, the brain’s rewiring, the neurotransmitters, the genetic expression, and cellular activity in a positive or negative direction. You choose.” So, how we choose to think has a powerful impact on physiology and our own well-being!
Dr. Leaf also shares that “God designed humans to observe our own thoughts, catch those that are bad, and get rid of them. The importance of capturing those thoughts cannot be underestimated because research shows that the vast majority of mental and physical illness comes from our thought life rather than the environment and genes.”
Dr. George Pransky states a similar thought in a different way in “The Relationship Handbook.” “A change of heart is always preceded by a moment of truth. Just before change occurs, our thinking quiets down to allow a moment of inner silence. In this moment, we see life anew; our old thinking drops away and we can take a fresh look at our circumstances.” He goes on to say that, “Change of heart is the mechanism for saving and improving relationships. It enables a marriage with a painful history to achieve a permanent new footing overnight. A change of heart by one party, however slight, is usually enough to create a positive spiral in the evolution of your relationship.”
You can’t help but to “think about it” because that’s the way you are made, but you can catch your thought and change it so that you may have better relationships! Now that you have a glimpse of the impact that thoughts can have, you can choose to continue to think about whatever “it” is, or you can choose to change your thought. Both choices have consequences, positive or negative.
The next time you notice (“catch”) yourself getting worked up, worried, fearful, angry, or having some other undesirable emotion, reaction, or behavior, identify the core thought. Then, consider letting go of that thought and finding a different thought that will take you a better place. Better yet, notice those situations that occur over and over in your work or personal life and identify the underlying thought that is eliciting an undesirable reaction. Then, think about another thought that would give you a different and positive perspective. Make it a point to shift to that thought the next time you are confronted with the same situation again. This is a proactive way to change the outcome by planning a new thought in advance. It will take effort and intentionality on your part, but it will be worth it in the long-run.