Harnessing the Power of Your Mind

Written on Thursday, October 27th, 2011 at 10:21 am by Adaire
Filed under Lifestyle.

Someone asked me a very interesting question recently. It was, “Do you believe that we were all born pessimistic?” I was in a light mood that day and replied jokingly, “Mary Poppins wasn’t, for sure.”

Okay, before I go further, let me just address first those who don’t recognize the name of that classic persona of all things wholesome and positive. Mary Poppins is the title character in the children’s book written by P.L. Travers and immortalized by Walt Disney Productions in the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews. That film remains one of my favorites to this day. I guess you could say that it was Mary Poppins’ can-do attitude that won me over. She successfully disciplined two children who had a history for terrorizing their previous nannies. She got people with the proverbial stiff upper lips singing along with her. She never lost her cool and I thought that was, well, really cool. :)

Mary Poppins made a game out of even the dreariest task and was so patient and unflappable she became one of my role models growing up. Not that I broke into song every time I did a chore but you get the point.
Sorry if I somewhat digressed from the introduction but I will segue into that now. :) I like to think we were all born with our minds as empty slates, free of prejudice and fear. But growing up and experiencing and hearing unpleasant things have shaped our minds to be on our guard.

Speaking about being on our guard, you know what’s another interesting thing I found out? Negative experiences are “chemically supercharged” in a way that bad memories or negative thoughts last longer than the happy ones. That’s what Marci Shimoff shares in her article for Healthy Wise nWise, “3 Happiness Habits for the Mind”. I suppose that’s Nature’s own way of hard-wiring us to protect ourselves – turning us into overcautious skeptics so we don’t fall for the same trap again.

I’m fine with being cautious as a means of self-preservation. I guess with how the world works these days, everyone has a license to be wary. However, there is that danger of becoming too skeptical and intolerant that we start making a big deal out of everything. That’s how drama queens and worrywarts are born. On the extreme side, you’ve got your chronic whiners and ragers. Would you want to become like those people? Certainly not!

There’s a thin line separating caution and paranoia. With the latter, all you have are negative thoughts which impact your health and prevent you from leading a peaceful, well-balanced existence. In that same article, Marci Shimoff says that when we release stress chemicals as a result of our self-inflicted tension, those same chemicals “hang around and accumulate, creating fatigue and disease in your body”. Simply put, you can literally worry yourself sick!

Here’s a standpoint she and I – and hopefully many others as well – share: It’s okay to be wary. But don’t let being on your guard turn you into a basket case that you’re simply unable to enjoy life any more. If you have made a career out of seeing only bad intentions, predicting negative outcomes and seeing the glass as half-empty than half-full, then it’s time to take charge of your mind.

Yes, that’s right. You can take charge of your mind by reprogramming it. Marci Shimoff calls it “teaching an old brain new tricks”. You can override the negative thoughts and turn the positive into the dominant thoughts. Interestingly enough, our brain has both negative neural pathways and positive neural pathways. We have the ability to shrink the former and widen the latter by focusing on positive things.

How can you start appreciating the good things in your life while tuning out all the drama and dreariness? Here are Ms. Shimoff’s three Happiness Habits to get you started:

“Question your thoughts.” Refuse your own negative thoughts and “override them when necessary”.

“Go beyond the mind and let go.” Don’t dwell on the negative and move on.

“Incline your mind toward joy.” Gravitate towards good thoughts and play your own version of “The Glad Game”.

Taking charge of your mind and reprogramming will take some time. You need to forgive yourself first and accept that you deserve to be happy. You don’t have to stay stuck in a rut. And just to stress that point a bit more, let me grab a few excellent passages from another Healthy Wealthy nWise article “Excerpts from the Seeds of Greatness Treasury” by Dan Millman:

“Oftentimes, a person may be so caught up in the negative emotion of disappointment that they are unable to see all of the opportunities that lie before them…Many individuals are afraid to be happy and refuse to accept success into their lives.”

And this is what struck me the most: “…there is no reason why you should be afraid to be happy, as happiness is what will help you to separate yourself from a life of fear and failure.”

I encourage you to write down that last passage and turn it into a tangible reminder. So when you’re having one of those days when things aren’t going great, or when someone is being selfish and discouraging, retreat into a quiet corner and read that passage. Bad things happen and bad people exist, unfortunately. However, they certainly do NOT define you as a person. Weed them out; you don’t need deadweight in your life. If someone says the sky is falling, wish them a good day and move on.

Remember that you are in control of your thoughts regardless of the situation you’re in. Keep focusing on the good things you have, the things you have achieved both big and small, and turn to loved ones and trusted professionals for advice and support. Eventually, you will get to your happy place. :)


Image by: Graur Codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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