Your Mind Is Powerful: How Thoughts Affect Your Mental Health
Our Thoughts Create Tracks In Our Brains
I live in a cold country and on a small island where the winters are sometimes long. So much so, that we have a funny island saying that we’re lucky if we get two weeks of nice weather for summer.
And some years, we get a lot of snow… like your-car-is-buried-and-you-need-to-dig-a-tunnel-to-get-out-of-your-house kind of snow.
So cars getting stuck in snow banks is a familiar sight. Tires spinning. Snow flying.
Meanwhile, the car sinks deeper into the snow because the tires are actually creating ruts, making it harder to get out of.
Of course, there are different ways to get unstuck.
(Personally, my favourite is watching my husband push the car while I sit behind the wheel in the warmth of the vehicle. 😉 )
Calling a tow truck is sometimes necessary when you’re really stuck really deep or in the ditch. Other times, some flattened cardboard boxes under the tires might do the trick, giving the tires something to grip on and with a hefty push… away you go!
This is a little bit what our thought life can be like at times.
Because the thoughts we think every day, over and over again, are creating tracks through our brain.
Improving Our Thoughts Can Improve Our Wellbeing
Do you ever catch yourself thinking thoughts you don’t like?
I know I do.
Here’s the good news — we can do something about the thoughts we think. And when we do this, we can improve our sense of wellbeing.
This sounds simple but I’ve noticed something about the women I work with…
The ones who change their thought habits literally change their world.
They are learning how to take their thoughts and intentionally shape them. Like a potter. Or maybe changing our thoughts is a little more like herding cats…
Because Dr. Caroline Leaf estimates that the average person has over 30,000 thoughts a day.
That’s a lot of cats to herd.
Thing is, our thought life affects our emotional and physical health as upwards of 75%-95% of our illnesses come from our thought life.
So, we can’t afford to let our thoughts run unchecked.
A Fun Exercise — Your Thoughts Can Stimulate Emotions
Did you know that our thoughts can stimulate emotions? Pretty cool, eh!
And if you’re unconvinced, humour me a moment and let’s do an experiment together. Choose one of the four sentences below that resonates with you and repeat it ten times out loud.
While you’re doing this, notice the emotions that you begin to feel.
- “Why am I so stupid?”
- “Why can’t I be more like (choose a person you admire)?”
- “I need more (choose something you need. Ie; money, nicer clothes, better job, etc).”
- “(Choose a person you admire) has it all together. Why can’t I be like that?”
Remember to choose just one of these.
Now take a moment to reflect… how did you feel while you said that thing?
Imagine what we would feel like if we said things like this to ourselves day in and day out.
And some of us do!
Now, let’s reframe the statements above:
- “I made a mistake, but I’ve learned from it.”
- “That (name of person you admire), she’s amazing!”
- “I know how to be content with whatever I have and wherever I am.”
- “I will learn to be more (name what you’re struggling with and admire in your friend. Ie; productive, kind, generous, etc).”
Again, choose just one statement to say out loud to yourself ten times. Then after the second time, think about how you felt while saying the revised sentence.
A Great Thought Life Doesn’t Just Happen
In her book, Switch On Your Brain, Dr. Leaf says:
“You cannot sit back and wait to be happy and healthy and have a great thought life You have to make the choice to make this happen.”
Learning how to reframe our thoughts to more positive ones can help us to create new and healthier paths in our brains. Because just like when a car gets stuck in the snow and creates ruts by spinning its tires, the thoughts we think every day are creating pathways or ruts.
And these are easy to fall back into. So we need to be deliberate about how and what we think.
How Can You Be More Intentional About Your Mental Health?
The month of May is Mental Health Month in the U.S. and next week is Mental Health Week in Canada, so it’s a good time to think about how we can be more intentional about being happy and healthy individuals.
What’s one step you can take this week to cultivate a healthier thought life?
Keep in mind, I’m not a psychologist or a counsellor and I’m certainly not suggesting that if you’ve been diagnosed with depression or another type of mood disorder to go off your medications and just heal yourself with good thoughts.
Please do not do that.
But what I am saying is that we can choose the thoughts that we think and they do have an impact on our brain and ultimately on our overall wellbeing.
What helps you to cultivate a healthy thought life? Share a tip you have in the comments below! We love to hear from you.
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