Change your thoughts, change your life
Have you ever noticed that sometimes your mind has a mind of its own? Do you often find yourself thinking about things you would rather forget, spinning stories about your circumstances and making them appear worse than they are, or thinking about others in ways that are not helpful? Me too.
Conversely, your mind can be your greatest ally. In thinking about people like Nelson Mandela, we can only imagine how strong he must have been in his mind, not to let the circumstances in which he found himself get the better of him.
Our minds can be our best friends or our worst enemies.
But there are ways we can tip the balance towards getting our brains to be our best friends. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to rewire itself and one of the tools it uses to do this are thoughts. Neuro-scientists tell us that if we take control of our minds i.e. we take control of our thoughts, we can actually rewire our brains.
The most powerful way I know of taking control of my thoughts is to use declarations. A declaration is simply a statement that you repeat, usually over and over, to yourself in order to silence unhelpful thoughts. This action redirects your thinking and in time changes your neuropathway so that you begin to think and feel differently.
Here are my five top declarations and stories about when I have used them to turn my negative thoughts into positive affirmations.
“I build bridges not wall”
I first used this declaration as I drove to a meeting at which I was the only woman attending, and for which it had been made very clear to me that this was ‘men’s business’. I knew that with this group, going all feminist would only serve to balkanise their position, and so I drove, gripping the steering wheel, saying over and over again “I build bridges not walls”. I said it enough that by the time I got to the meeting I had my bridge-building tools at the ready rather than the bricks and mortar I had initially planned on using! “I build bridges not walls.”
“I don’t have to like it, I just have to do”
I have used this one for years when faced with, mainly household tasks, that I don’t enjoy doing - think ironing, dusting, vacuuming - “I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.” And once you get started and see the effect of your work it is easier to keep going and finish the job. “I don’t have to like, I just have to do it.”
“This too will pass”
I use this one if I am going through a time of extreme busyness or unpleasantness such as when work starts to get on top of me, I experience turbulence on a plane or I have a short-term illness such as a head cold. “This too will pass.”
“I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future”
This is the one I use whenever my mind reminds me of things that have happened to me in the past, especially the things which weren’t fair or my fault but nevertheless happened. “I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future.”
“In three weeks time this will look different”
I first used this declaration when I was managing a couple of significant things that looked like they were going to explode in my face. By reminding myself that in three weeks time they will look different (i.e. they will no longer be the present crisis) I was able to calm myself down and figure out my next best step. “In three weeks time this will look different.”
Remember that with declarations you can either ‘borrow’ them off someone else (and feel free to use or adapt my ones) or you can make up your own. You also need to remember that they work at two levels. Firstly they silence your mind’s unhelpful commentary and secondly the more you say them the more your brain rewires itself creating positive neural pathways.
I’d like to finish this week’s post with a Native American Cherokee Story (author unknown)
The Two Wolves
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
‘A fight is going on inside me,’ he said to the boy. ‘It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.’
He continued, “The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Let’s keep feeding the right wolf.
'Til next time,
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