“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” —Mark Twain
Improving the tenor of our thoughts may seem to be a modern idea, but as Twain’s quote indicates, the fact that we can make our own misery by what we dwell upon is an age-old concern.
Why We Should Care About Our Thoughts
According to the Stress Confidential Helpline, scans on patients' brains have indicated that the types of thoughts we have influence the balance of brain chemicals. So by learning to think more positively we can cause chemicals to be secreted that boost our psychological and physical health.
Indeed, it’s well-documented that among the ill, those who remain hopeful and have a positive attitude, tend to do better.
Also, when we focus on the worse aspects of a situation that has happened to us, we ensure that our experience of it will be the worse it could be. Fortunately, the reverse is true as well.
How Do We Change Our Thoughts?
Try this technique, which was inspired by Ask and It Is Given, by Esther and Jerry Hicks.
1. Become Aware of Your Thoughts
We have to know what we’re actually thinking in order to intervene. Sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breath as it flows in and out. As thoughts arise, notice them, and then return your attention to your breathing. Do this for 20 minutes once or twice a day. It may sound simple, but awareness, purely by itself, effects subtle changes that grow.
2. Acknowledge Your Feelings
When you find yourself thinking something unhelpful, perhaps imagining losing your job, acknowledge your fear and worry. Even if you’re magnifying the problem, your fears are likely based on actual possibilities or events. They deserve your respect.
3. Soothe Yourself and Imagine Something Better
Once you acknowledge your feelings, they may shift on their own, but in any case, say something soothing to yourself while reaching for a better thought or scenario that you actually believe. If you don’t really believe it, you won’t create a genuine impact. For instance, you might recall your healthy savings account and remind yourself, “If I lose my job, I’ll be fine for six months. Financial experts say that’s a good enough cushion for job hunting.” Notice the relief you now feel.
4. Keep Going
Now escalate your better-feeling thoughts by reaching for an even better positive thought. You might consider the wealth of your experience, your great contacts, or that, gosh, you’ve always wanted to travel. You might get to a place where you can say—and believe—“I don’t want to lose my job, but if I do, I could travel and then return and find an even better job!”
In a short amount of time, your fear has transformed into hopeful excitement. When you practice this technique, you demonstrate to yourself that regardless of what happens in your life, you’ll be able to thrive.