It just seems so simple. Change your thoughts, change your life. Such a popular topic lately… and something I’ve been very keen on researching as developing these healthy thinking habits have been linked to decreasing symptoms of depression.
It seems as if everyone’s “thinking habits” and how they contribute to their happiness comes up in nearly every article, blog post, self development book, podcast, and instagram post that I come across during my all too often social media hourly scroll.
So why is this topic so popular? Why is everyone insisting that changing your mind frame and “thinking positive” will promise a healthier and happier life? Well, given all the research, people’s experience, and my own experience, it appears this is true! And not just thinking.. but acting, speaking, and even your facial expressions. I recently listened to a podcast featuring Jake Ducey (Jake Ducey-The New Principles of Happiness on the Addicted2Success Podcast..couldn’t find the link but it’s in iTunes!). He preaches the importance of smiling. Yep, turnin that frown upside down. He says that it has been proven that people that smile more often (forced or real) are happier. Now I don’t know what kind of scale they use to measure this happiness but I’m no negative nancy to go question it. If people are happier, then people are happier mmmk? Now, I literally drive with a big smile on my face (most likely listening to Alanis Morisette) and by the time I’m grocery shopping I’m in a much better mood! Hah, just kidding I’m actually obsessed with grocery shopping.. but I’m talking about the oil change/insurance renewal boring types of errands. Now those become more enjoyable. Try it, seriously.
Yep. your attitude definitely can rub off on somebody. “Excuse me, your grumpiness is showing.” Energies can be absorbed, positive or negative. So it’s important to be aware of the energy you’re exuding as well as how you’re perceiving your interactions with someone. I’m sorry but if you are having a bad day, and choose to snarl at me, then I sure as heck am not going to let it ruin my day. Now this is something I’ve worked really, really hard on overcoming. Especially working in psychiatry. Don’t take things personal. Instead, smile more, point out the positives in your conversation, maybe throw them a compliment, and move along!
Working in psychiatry can definitely be draining, as there can be a lot of negative energy in conversations. Psychiatric patients can be quite hopeless in an acute setting, so it’s my responsibility to give them hope, make them smile, and educate them. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a very effective treatment, especially for patients with personality disorders (remember, your way of thinking is often habitual, and is a product of the way you perceive your thoughts over many many years, and this perception then leads to your behaviours). CBT helps change your thoughts, your perception of events, and thus behaviour. I really hope to do some formal CBT training, as I would love to be able to bring more of this into my practice. So stay tuned!
But how do we implement some of these changes? When your psyche has been trained to think this way since you were potentially a child? It doesn’t happen overnight. When you grow up with a negative attitude and a reactive thinking approach, it will take time and practice to begin to instill changes in your thinking patterns. I can’t tell you how many times I receive the eye roll when I encourage patients to “think positive”, or “look on the bright side” or “start a daily gratitude journal”? Way too often. I mean, it kind of sounds like bogus! That’s why I encourage them to start off small. Write down one thing when you wake up in the moring. Even just one word, something that you are grateful for. Sun. Blankets. iPhone. Family. Chocolate. Literally anything!
Of course, eventually you may want to start gratitude journaling versus just making a list. Write down meaningful encounters you had, a rare situation you witnessed, or an experience you may have had. When you begin reflecting on things regularly that you are grateful for, you begin to notice these things more often and appreciate them. Boom, you are a little bit more happier. Creating this awareness is key to cultivating a more positive mindset as you are thinking about things that add to your life, versus things that do not.
I love this article from Kelly Brogan’s site, a guest post called Gratitude For all That Is by Francis Weller. Specifically this insight about instead focusing on what you have, versus what you lack.
“Rather than acknowledging the multiple layers of gifting that are offered to us, we focus more on lack, on what is missing. This isn’t some cynical move but rather a consequence of conditioning that continually references us back to what it is we don’t have. Modernity keeps us hungry for more by turning our gaze towards absence. Psychology colludes in this as well by focusing primarily on what’s wrong, what we didn’t get in childhood, and so on. This chronic feeling of not enough makes it difficult to register blessing and to feel gratitude. It is our task to stay aware of what is being gifted here and now and to register the primary satisfactions that enrich our soul life, our emotional and bodily life. These are what make the moment thick with meaning and contentment: we have enough”
Another interesting concept, one I learned from an instructor in class, is that the way you think can actually change your body’s physiology. Our bodies are made up of billions of microbiota. And these little guys, sorry bugs* react to our energy output. Imagine a bug in a jar, not an ugly bug.. maybe a cute little one that you would see on a snap chat filter or something.. and imagine yelling at it. The bug will actually try and protect itself, by moving away from the sound and crouching inward, just as you would when you hear a loud noise. Whereas if you sing and say positive phrases in a nice tone, it will not have this effect. Instead, the little bug might start dancing. Or two-stepping if you sing a country tune..
My jokes are terrible.
With that being said, the way you talk to your body, and your cells, makes a huge impact on your organs and how they function. Digestion is often impaired if you eat in a stressed or rushed state. Reproductive organs do not function optimally if you are angry and resentful. Your immune system does not thrive when you are feeding it negative energy through negative thoughts and emotions. Do you see the pattern?
This brings me to my next action that you can implement starting today. When you catch yourself saying I can’t, I’m ugly, I’m not good enough etc, you literally have to STOP yourself, rewind and rephrase what you just said. Because you ARE good enough. Of course you are, you silly human. Just as Henry Ford says, Whether you think you can, or think you can’t you’re right.
This week, despite working 7 12 hour shifts (6 of them day shifts..ayayay), I am grateful that I A) have a job and B) have the opportunity to work right beside a lake and am able to still get outside into nature! Below are pictures from my hike up Knox mountain during my changeover shifts, and from my walk to the lake during my lunch hour 🙂
So I encourage you to set an intention for October. Whether it be gratitude journaling, practicing mindfulness, or just getting out into nature! I have been getting prettyyyy comfortable driving to work so for this month I intend to walk to work (except for night shifts…) continue my gratitude journaling, and focus more on the present. Just be here now.
“It is not happiness that makes gratefulness, but gratefulness that makes happiness.”