So here you are. Going through your day as you always do. And as always, with lots of thoughts popping into your head.
That’s the way our minds work. Constantly producing thoughts. Some of these thoughts are easy to just let pass by. Other thoughts we may grab onto for a minute or two, and then let them pass by too. And yet others may hold our attention. When this happens, we may stick with that thought, whether it’s worth our time or not, and whether it’s in our best interest. Thoughts that we hang on to may lead to yet other thoughts. Thoughts that lift us up, or thoughts that bring us down.
Welcome to the human mind. Those thoughts keep coming at us. Some we dismiss, others we grab onto and go for the ride. And what a ride that can be!
Our thoughts might be all about what might happen next. Or what other people are thinking or intending. Or what we, or other people, should have done. Making judgments without having the facts. Thoughts can turn into stories. Stories that aren’t necessarily real. You could end up following that story right on down the rabbit hole, and making yourself miserable in the process.
What about you? If you’re living with a chronic condition, you may at times feel like your brain is on overload, sending all kinds of thoughts your way. Your mind can be fertile ground for these thoughts to take root and blossom, right?
So a question. What thoughts are you grabbing onto and going for the ride? And where are they taking you? Someplace good or someplace not so good?
What I always tell my clients is that we have a choice. Even if it doesn’t always feel like that when your mind is barraging you with one thought after another. You have a choice as to what you do with those thoughts. The choices you make about following your thoughts have a direct impact on your emotions. And your sense of optimism.
So what do you do with all of those thoughts? Here’s what:
First, don’t fight your thoughts. That parade of thoughts is just your mind doing its job. When you try to push a thought away you end up giving it more power.
Use the “sense” test. If a thought catches your attention, ask yourself a question: “Does this make sense?” Most likely, if you consider your thought in relation to the actual situation, the answer will be pretty clear. Never underestimate the creativity of your imagination. Don’t automatically accept what you imagine as real.
Ask yourself: Do I have enough information? One of the best ways to give a thought the sense test is to consider whether you have enough information. For example, can you trust your mind’s predictions about the future? Or, your assumptions about what another person may be thinking? Most likely, no.
Get the information, if you can. One of the best ways to cope with renegade thoughts is through becoming informed. Do research, ask your healthcare providers questions. Gather evidence to make that decision as to whether your thoughts pass the sense test or not.
Talk back to your thoughts. You don’t have to dwell on thoughts that are unproductive or that cause you emotional distress. You can do this by using positive self-talk – messages of optimism that counteract negative or scary thoughts. For example, “I have a great doctor and I’m taking good care of myself. I don’t need to focus on the dark side.” Or, “I’m not a mind reader. I’m going to assume good intentions here and not bad ones.”
A little humor can help: “Whoa! Where did you come from? You’re sure not invited to stick around!”
Reach out for support. Call an objective person and let them know what you’re thinking. Ask them to help you to do a reality check. Sometimes an outside perspective is just what you need to get your thinking back on a positive track.
Thoughts are thoughts. You don’t have to believe them. And you don’t have to follow them. You have a choice. So how about choosing to be the boss?