“Mind How You Think”

Taking care of the thoughts we allow to stay in our heads and which influence our behaviour is important. We no longer live in a small-framed world where only events in our immediate environment were known to us. Now we are flooded daily with sometimes disturbing or negative news or simply a whole lot of extraneous and useless information, to which most of us have instant access. We have to develop the ability to analyse much of the information we receive as well as become adept at training our minds to think critically and independently in order to be emotionally and intellectually healthy.

There are countless books, on-line courses and suggestions on how to develop positive thinking habits usually associated with a title such as ‘ten habits of successful people’. The pointers I suggest below are for all of us and should not be assigned just to those who want to be successful, whatever that means in each individual’s terms. Anyone who learns how to be mentally strong can capably contribute successfully to building a rewarding life for themselves as well as to a strong society, which benefits everyone.

Being mentally strong does not mean we have to deny negative feelings such as sadness, frustration, anger, disappointment or anything which makes us feel uncomfortable. It means accepting the feeling, identifying and processing it – letting it be for a short while but with the intention of finding a way through it so that we can move on to a more positive frame of mind. This is where the positive habits have to be developed if we don’t already process information this way. Deal with it, then let it go. (1) Don’t Overthink. Identify the uncomfortable thought, decide how to handle it if necessary or put it out of your mind and move on. Otherwise you will end up going round and round in circles increasing the discomfort, unable to make progress. Let it go. (2) The Benefit of the Doubt. Instead of reacting with anger or frustration at a perceived action or comment, pause for a second and tell yourself that most likely it is not a personal attack or insult on you – the offender is a human being just like you with probably  their own set of issues or concerns causing the thoughtless behaviour. Let it go. (3) Willpower. We all have it but don’t always use it. Sometimes it’s easier and comforting to just do what we feel like, leading us to overindulge in food, drink or deciding we don’t have time to exercise or make a ‘phone call that might help another. Everything begins in our minds and just as we exercise our bodies, we have to train our minds to be strong. (4) Staying Fit Physically. There are plenty of activities to keep our bodies strong and healthy and they don’t all have to be done in a gym or cost money. We can walk, jog, run, skip rope, dance at or near home – even simple stretching every day is helpful and relieves mental and physical stress as long as we keep moving. (5) Be Kind. Being generous in thought means being forgiving – holding grudges hurts you more than whomever you are angry with. There’s a saying that I like: ‘being angry is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’. Let it go. (6) Set aside a section of time each day – can be 10 minutes, half an hour or as long as you can manage, to focus on yourself, away from social media, whether it’s sitting quietly, reflecting on what you want for the day or how the day turned out. Even if things didn’t quite go as expected, try and find at least one positive thing you enjoyed or learned and hold on to that. If you do this every day, you will train your brain to think more positively and that’s the first step to obtaining a healthy mind. I know that could be a difficult one for people with families, jobs and obligations, but we all have obligations of one kind or another. It doesn’t mean we care less if we take time for ourselves, it means if we are functioning at our personal best, are strong and healthy in mind and body, we are better equipped to take care of others as well as achieving our own goals with minimum stress – when troublesome thoughts arise, ask yourself if it will matter in five year’s time. The answer is usually ‘no’.