By Linda G. Ritchie, Ph.D.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare
Have you ever noticed how tense and uptight you feel when you are caught up in your own thinking? Thinking has a snowball effect. You have one thought. That thought leads to another, which leads to another and then another, and pretty soon your thoughts are spiraling out of control. Now, if these spiraling thoughts were positive in nature, it might not be a bad thing. However, typically, spiraling thinking tends to be negative in nature rather than positive.
For example, you might be driving to work and remember that you forgot to get milk when you went grocery shopping yesterday so you need to stop by the store on the way home to pick some up. Then you start berating yourself for having forgotten the milk in the first place. Thoughts such as,” I’m such an idiot! If I had gotten it yesterday I wouldn’t have to make any stops on the way home. I should have made a shopping list. Why can’t I be more organized like everybody else. I don’t have time for this. I can’t believe how busy I am and now I have to stop on the way home and get milk.” Then, you start thinking about all the other things that you need to do that evening. So you start making a to-do list in your head, adding all the small tasks. You find yourself thinking, “I can’t believe how much there is to do. I will never get it all done. If I were more organized I wouldn’t have all this stuff hanging over my head. Why can’t I be as organized as other people are?” Before you know it, your feeling anxious and overwhelmed. The more you think about the specifics the worse you feel and you become incredibly irritated and agitated with everything and everyone around you. Needless to say, it’s impossible to feel relaxed and happy if your mind is full of concerns and irritating thoughts.
We are always ‘on’; always thinking. According to behavioral research scientists, we have approximately 60,000 thoughts a day. That’s one thought per second for every moment we are awake! Scientists also tell us that a full 90 percent of the thoughts we have today are the same thoughts we had yesterday and the day before, and the day before that. These thoughts come to us automatically. This is how our beliefs are formed. A belief is nothing more than a thought we have over and over again, to the point that we no longer question the validity of it. What is really alarming however, is the fact that as much as 77 percent of the thoughts we think repetitively will be negative, self-depreciating, and counterproductive. That’s over 42,000 negative thoughts a day. Wow!
This is scary when you stop to realize that the human brain is very much like a mental computer and every thought we have is literally being recorded, chemically and electrically, in neural pathways in our brains. Many of us will think thoughts about ourselves, in other words, say things to ourselves, that we would never say to another person because of how it would make the other person feel. Yet, we say these things to ourselves over and over again, without realizing the effect it is having. We are literally programming our brains for negativity. Is it any wonder that 42,000 adult Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder in any given year?
The solution is to pay attention and notice the thoughts going on in your head before they have a chance to build momentum and snowball. Your thoughts are your self-talk and if you pay attention to what you say to yourself, you can make a choice to think deliberately rather than automatically. By deliberately choosing your thoughts rather than letting negative thoughts run rampant, you can minimize the negative programming which will have a profound impact on how you feel and experience life.
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