The food we eat and the amount of exercise we perform are the first things we think of when we think of health and wellness. While they are critical components to living well, I believe how you think is much more important. Few people realize, like the foods we put in our mouths, we can choose what thoughts we allow in and which thoughts we block out.
The power that thoughts have over our physiology, and lives as a whole, is incredible. The power of the mind is something that has intrigued me as long as I can remember. What we think about has a direct effect on how our bodies function. Good thoughts have a positive impact, while negative ones have, well… a negative impact.
It is critical to gain better control over how our minds work and the thoughts that we have throughout the day. Why is it so important? It is estimated that we have 60,000-80,000 thoughts each day. Some will argue it’s only 50,000 thoughts per day. Regardless, with tens of thousands of thoughts running through our head each and every day, allocating some attention and energy to controlling these thoughts will have huge benefits.
Think about this scenario… A man has made dinner for his wife, but she is late coming home. As he waits, his mind races. He initially imagines his wife taking her time leaving work, unconcerned that he has taken the time to prepare this meal. He feels disappointment and anger. Next, he imagines his wife with another man. Now, he feels jealousy and rage. Then he starts to think maybe she’s been in an accident. His feelings shift to fear and concern. Finally, she arrives. And as she walks through the door, she is surprised to see that dinner is on the table, and that he is anxiously waiting on her. She reminds him that she had to swing by her mother’s house to drop off some groceries, something they had discussed the night before. He had forgotten.
The man had taken himself through an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing everything from disappointment and anger to jealousy and rage and fear and concern. Each emotion had different effects on his body, and each was powerful, but none were warranted or necessary.
Images or things that we visualize constantly affect our emotions. If I show you a picture of one of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, you will experience some emotion. It might be fear or anger, sadness, or something else. If I then show you a picture of your child as a baby or of a loved one, you will immediately have a shift in emotions to love, gratitude, awe, or some other positive emotion. Then, if I pull a picture of Hitler, again your emotion will shift, this time back to a negative emotion such as disgust or resentment. The thing to note is that, again, you had a huge fluctuation in emotions, but nothing changed except the picture you were looking at.
I say all this to make the point that the images we create in our heads dictate the emotional states that we are in. And the better we get at controlling the images we create in our heads, the better, and more positive, our emotional states will be.
Right now, rates of depression and anxiety are escalating because of what people are watching on the news. As they watch the COVID-19 numbers rise and the footage of the riots going on around the country, chemicals and hormones are released throughout their bodies as if they are at immediate risk of being infected by the virus or being attacked in a riot. Yet, they are sitting comfortably and safely in their homes.
It is well worth the effort to take note of what thoughts you are letting in your head. It is time to block the negative ones and replace them with more positive ones. Your health, well-being, and overall state of mind depends on it!