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Change your thoughts and you change your world. Norman Vincent Peale
Do old hurts run through our mind? Do we chew on them like a cow with its cud? Ruminating, going over the same old thing, over and over again. We are told there are two things we can control, our thoughts and our behavior. It doesn’t always feel like we have control of these. Our mind is flooded with thoughts we don’t want to think. We don’t want to keep thinking about that hurtful event, those hurtful words, our fears, but they won’t go and stay away.
Why do we appear to have a problem trying to stop thoughts? Why don’t we have an off button in our brain? Our feelings follow our thoughts so negative ruminating generates negative emotions. When we worry we become anxious. Could we change our negative emotions by doing something that elevates our mood? What if we choose to go for a run, exercise, dance, or call a friend who always makes us laugh? When we do things that elevate our mood we feel better, and it can also distract our brain from the problem we’ve been ruminating about.
Are we worried about something happening and we can’t let go of the worry? Maybe we should sink as deep into that worry as possible and write down what we would do if the worst happened. If we look at the worst that can happen and realize we can handle it because when the worst happens we do handle it. We may handle it well or poorly but we handle it. Digging deep into the worst that can happen may show us we could handle it well. We may think we couldn’t possibly ever be happy again if the worst happened, but that is rarely true. Research tells us we are as happy in six months after something happens as we were before. Even if that something is our wildest dream coming true, or catastrophic our level of happiness is back to what it was in about six months.
Can we turn that thought around in our head? Is there another way to look at it? Do we have a part to play in it we do not want to acknowledge? If we take one hundred percent responsibility for the situation bothering us, what could we do, and what could we change?
Chewing gum research tells us helps eliminate “earworms” those thoughts that go round and round and round.
Maybe we don’t have enough going on in our life if we keep going over the same old thoughts. Maybe we need to feed our mind something else to think about. Do we need to find a project, a plan, something we could focus on that is positive? Could we memorize bible verses or great quotations to ponder? Would keeping a journal help? Sometimes getting our thoughts on paper helps to figure things out. We could ask our self-questions, then we could ask our self more questions.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin
Studies show devout people have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as a better ability to cope with stress. A 2005 study of older adults in San Francisco Bay area found being religious served as a buffer against depression among people in poorer health, with the highest levels of depression among those who were in poor health and not religious. A 2013 study found patients who were treated for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety responded better to treatment if they believed in God. Another study by Dr. Harold G. Koenig director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University Medical Center, found that more religious people had fewer depressive symptoms.
One of the reasons given is because religion gives people a sense of purpose and meaning in life, and that helps them to make sense of negative thoughts that happen to them. Religious communities also provide support and encouragement through hard times.
Studies suggest that meditation and meditative prayer activate areas of the brain involved in regulating emotional responses, including the frontal lobes. A 2010 study by Dr. Andrew Newberg that included brain scans of Tibetan Buddhists and Franciscan nuns found that these long term meditators had more activity in frontal-lobe areas such as the prefrontal cortex, compared with people who were not long-term meditators.
It could be possible that the beliefs and teachings advocated by religion like forgiveness, love, and compassion – may become integrated into the way the brain works. The more certain neural connections in the brain are used, the stronger they become. Some religions also advocate staying away from high-risk behaviors like smoking, drinking, or overindulging in food. Could staying away from these unhealthy behaviors also be beneficial for brain function?
We have choices to make, about what we think, what we do, what changes we will make in our life. Our life will be built on what we focus on. Are there thoughts we need to reduce our focus on, so we can focus on better more positive thoughts? Does our thinking make it so? Is it true when we change our thoughts, we change our life?
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Anais Nin