Author: Ann Grandchamp, Mental Health Editor
Let me tell you a story. It’s a true story but I’ve changed the name. Imagine a woman in a new country. Her name is Alicia. She and her husband started a business just weeks before the birth of their first child. They have almost no money so he has to get back to work barely 24 hours after the birth. She doesn’t know many people. She’s alone with her new baby and her thoughts…
Why did we move? We were so much better off in Switzerland. Why don’t I have any friends here? No one loves me. If my husband really loved me he would find a way to be with me more. What am I going to do with this baby? Why is she crying? I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I’m never going to get through this. It’s too hard. I want my own Mum. I need help. But I always wanted to be a Mum. I should be able to do this. Why is it so hard? My nipples hurt. I’m so tired. This will never end.
Do you also feel like you’re a victim of your thoughts? Like you can’t control them? Or do you feel like you can influence them? Today I will be giving you some tips to start ditching those unhelpful thoughts.
A bit of neuroscience first
There is a very important thing you need to know:
Your thoughts create emotions, and your emotions create your (re)actions. And your (re)actions create your reality. And your reality creates your thoughts.
Round and round we go. However, your thoughts change your chemistry and are making you sick. Your thoughts have the same effect on your biochemistry as a real threat like a near-accident or being attacked. And so your thoughts, whether they are right or wrong good or bad, positive or negative, are changing your biology. Buddhists have been saying for a very long time that “what we think, we become”.
Neuroscience and epigenetics today confirm this and are showing that:
What you are thinking is translated into chemistry that will determine what you become. – Dr Bruce Lipton
The same research shows that about 90% of diseases today are caused by 3 things. Trauma and toxins which both alter the way signals go through our nervous system. The third and biggest cause for diseases are our thoughts. There is nothing wrong with our body. We’re just sending inappropriate signals at an inappropriate time which leads to inappropriate behaviour, which we call disease. Hear this though: you are not doing this intentionally! You are not to blame. It’s mostly happening in your subconscious. But you can intentionally turn things around.
Here is a crazy thing. We have about 70’000 thoughts per day. 90% of these are the same each day. The good news? There are ways you can influence and change your thoughts long term. By changing your thoughts to life-enhancing ones, your body will naturally start functioning normally again and you will feel a lot happier and serene.
How to start changing your thoughts
Don’t believe everything you think. Not only do your destructive/negative/stressful thoughts disrupt optimal brain function, but they also tend to lie. Actually, they lie a lot and can wreak havoc in your life. Noticing them for what they are will make a big difference.
It takes work and consistency to change your thoughts, I’m not going to lie to you. But it’s totally worth it. Here are my top tips. Pick the one that appeals to you the most and commit to putting it into practise. Thanks to neuroplasticity (your brain’s ability to rewire itself), your brain will do the rest.
1 – Three easy steps
- Start to notice what that inner voice is telling you (eg. “I’m a bad Mum”)
- Interrupt the tape by saying STOP
- Change your language. Say what you want, not what you don’t want. For example notice the difference between “I don’t want to feel stressed” and “I want to feel calm”. Or between “I’m crap at this” and “I can improve this skill”. Or “I’ll always be an angry person” to “I can change this habit if I want to”.
2 – Do this every morning
As soon as you wake up, ask yourself: “What am I looking forward to today?”
This will reduce the stress hormones in your body and release life-enhancing ones. Your whole day will feel different.
3 – Do this every evening
Before you go to bed, ask yourself one or more of these questions:
- what was great about today?
- what am I proud of today?
- what made me smile or laugh today?
- what am I grateful for?
Again this will help reduce the stress hormones in your nervous system. As a result you will sleep better and fall asleep with life-enhancing thoughts.
4 – Swap this for that
Instead of asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and catastrophising, ask yourself “What’s the best thing that could happen?” A different perspective changes everything.
5 – Use your breath
Breathing deeply will quickly reduce your stress levels. If you add this visualisation technique on top, it will be even more effective.
- While you breathe in to the count of 5, imagine breathing in calm, peace or serenity. Add a colour to it.
- While you breathe out to the count of 8, imagine breathing out those thoughts and feelings. Give them a colour too.
Do this at least 10 times for the best results.
I’d like to leave you with a final thought:
The happiness and the health of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
If you feel like this is too hard to do on your own, please reach out and ask for help.
Take care! Stay safe!
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