April Tip: Thinking about thinking
I often give a presentation called Happiness is an Inside Job. It combines ideas from the fields of Positive Psychology and Neuroscience, topics I have studied for many years. I show slides from many sources and always include one that was first written by Robert Fulghum in his 1986 book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
The first sentence on my slide reads:
DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK!
It always gets a laugh because we all know how rapidly we think something, possibly out of nowhere, but usually in some context in our lives, and our minds have careened off to the worst-case scenarios possible.
It might be:” I’ll never be able to go out without a mask again.”
Or: “Nobody loves me.” Or: “I’m losing my mind.”
Notice how all examples are negative and projected into perpetuity. Notice how they immediately affect us, generating feelings of helplessness, fear, grief.
I am not suggesting that these thoughts have no basis. What I am suggesting is that we don’t need to believe they are true. I suggest we see them as generated by new and old fears, deep hurts, voices from the past or the most current painful situation we are dealing with.
I suggest they can be helpful if they help us seek solutions, dig deeper into old stories we hold, check out new data.
The reminder is to stop yourself from descending into hopelessness and helplessness. Just stopping and breathing, imagining a giant Stop Sign or offering up a counter argument can help.
It takes remembering. As research shows, our minds are hardwired to pay attention to the negative. That comes from the deepest and oldest parts of our brains.
Learning to question our thoughts, being willing to admit we might be wrong, is what we are able to do when we stop the snowball of negativity.
The second sentence on my slide reads:
….and don’t stop thinking!
As I say, it’s almost impossible to stop our thoughts – it’s just important to not believe all of them!