Monday, July 11, 2011

Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

Posted by Stacey Lundgren

BRIGHTON, Michigan, July 8, 2011/ Troy Media

Joy, happiness, inner peace are the feelings that most of us desire and seek. Philosophers ponder it, writers write about it, speakers expound on it; but there often appears to no clear answer as to how joy should feel, how long it should last, or how to get it in the first place. It’s confusing and elusive.

In our workshops we present and in personal coaching sessions, we talk about the power of personal choice and how it effects our degree of happiness. We use this syllogism: 1) We can control our thoughts, 2) Our feelings come from our thoughts, therefore, 3) We can control our feelings.

Change your thoughts, change your life
Some years ago, I would have taken issue with the first statement in that syllogism. My negative thoughts were like a runaway horse heading for a non-existent barn, galloping to . . . where? There was sometimes no end to the worry, and the worry lead to no useful conclusion. Now I draw the analogy that my thought process was like giving birth to a baby that never arrives—insuperable pain, futile contractions, tears, groans of fatigue. All that agony, but no baby. What is the payoff for this self-inflicted process, anyway?

Dr. Wayne Dyer said “Change your thoughts, change your life”. He said a mouthful. If we change our thoughts, we change our feelings. In other words, if we don’t think anger, we don’t feel anger. If we don’t think sadness, we don’t feel sadness. For instance, ‘that darn former husband of mine, if only he hadn’t’ . . . blah, blah, or ‘why are all drivers such idiots?’ Soon our stomachs are in knots, our faces flush, we get depressed. It’s not a theory, a belief, or an opinion that our feelings come from our thoughts; it is true.

So how can we stop poisoning our feelings by thinking negative thoughts?

It’s simple: be aware of what you are thinking. A question my 92-year-old father, a frequent and popular public speaker asks is “Do you have mental halitosis? How about brain b.o.? Stinkin’ thinkin’?” People laugh, but those phrases are unquestionably right on when we are steeped in negative thoughts. Our brains are powerful, creative tools, yet we often trust them to “auto pilot”. What are you thinking about as you drive, as you sit on an airplane, as you wash the dishes? Do you slip into rehearsing frustrations, disappointments, and judgments? Thoughts are things; they carry energy; they are potent enough to change the course of our days or even our entire lives.

Several years ago I bought a blood pressure monitor. Although the purchase was for my father, I wound up conducting experiments with my own blood pressure. Sitting at my desk first thing in the morning, I took my blood pressure and made a note of it. Then I purposely focused on some challenge in my life; this usually involved a serious concern about one of my five children. I pictured the scenario in my mind, rehearsed the possible negative outcomes, and without much effort at all, I was worrying. I felt frustrated, frightened and angry. Then I took my blood pressure again. The increase in both the systolic and diastolic measurements was significant!

The power of thought
Then I concentrated on clearing my mind by doing slow, deep breathing for about one minute. My mind’s focus turned to gratitude by thinking of a life situation for which I felt thankful. I pictured the situation in my mind and allowed myself to feel the happiness that arose from acknowledging its positivity. Often I found myself smiling. At that point, I took my blood pressure again. What a difference! My blood pressure was down, usually below what it was when I took it first thing in the morning.

This self-devised experiment is not particularly scientific, but it is a great way to validate the power of our thoughts. So if you’re not happy with your life lately, ask yourself “What have I been thinking about?” Be conscious at all times of your thoughts. If they are negative, change them. Focus on what is good in your life. No matter how miserable our current life circumstance, that circumstance is always temporary. If we give it as little of our energy as possible, meaning if we think about it as little as possible, we disarm its power; if we stop thinking negatively, we stop feeling negative emotions. It’s simple really. Simple. but perhaps not easy. Dropping the habit of mental griping is a change that takes time – it did for me. But it’s worth it, and change is always a choice.

Stacey A. Lundgren is a professional speaker and coach, presenter of character education programs in schools, author of the acclaimed book on kindness True Bucketfilling Stories: Legacies of Love. Visit her website at and follow her on Twitter @StaceyALundgren

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