We are what we think. Research has proven how our thoughts ultimately define our personality. Medical science also shows close connections of negative thoughts harbored over a long period of time manifesting into disease conditions in the body. They say a healthy body is a reflection of a healthy mind. But the million dollar question is, do we really pay attention to what our mind leads us up to?
Let’s take a closer look at how we deal with our senses. We walk past a butcher shop and the foul smell emanating immediately urges us to hold our breath. We put a spoonful of food in the mouth but if it is spoilt, we spits it out instantaneously. Its Deepavali time and a young boy is bursting a loud sounding cracker, we are quick to close our ears. If a thorn pricks us, we immediately withdraw our leg. Our natural sense of protection is very high when it comes to our gross senses, isn’t it? We choose to smell fragrant things, pleasurable food for the tongue, melodious music for the ears and soft things to touch, but do we have any idea what we choose as food for our mind? I suggest an exercise for you today. Pick up a pen and paper & make two columns-positive & negative. Make a mark for every positive or every negative thought you had in the course of the day. Be your natural self and be honest with yourself. At the end of the day, a look at the paper will reveal what kind of thoughts you are feeding your mind.
In marriage, there is a popular term, its called the seven year itch. The reason is seven years is long enough time for the honeymoon period to wane off, for you to be get your first child and for familiarity to breed in. Radhanath Swami says, ‘In this material world, the more intimate your relationship is, the more you expect that person to be what you want them to be.’ Soon couples find themselves being critical of the other, many times intolerant, judgmental (sometimes of every move or every spoken/unspoken word of the spouse or other family members!), uncaring or demeaning the other’s efforts, cold behavior, blame games, behaving hatefully towards each other (at least in the mind). Accumulating hurt and seeking opportunities to avenge hurt is another engagement of the negative mind. Often our dirty mind coupled with our egoistic inclinations, complicate the situation further. One negative thought normally leads to another, and soon your mind is being bashed with wave after wave of negative thoughts and these accumulated negative thoughts erode the happiness of families and lead them onto a path of destruction.
If you do not do something to stem the tide of negativity running a muck in your mind, it can really hurt the health of your mind, body and your precious relationships. If you genuinely want to rectify this ongoing war-like situation, you have to recognize the problem. To recognize the problem is half the battle won i,e you have to look yourself honestly in the mirror of your heart and see how much of what seems to be the problem has got generated in your ‘mind,’ due to its negative thought pattern and then, accepting or admitting your mind’s role in all of it. Remembering that you are not your mind helps!
For ease of purpose, let me quickly list the various categories of negative thoughts that I found in the medical journal New health partnerships.
Overgeneralization. “Always” or “Never” statements – “He never helps me with household work.” “Nobody cares.”
Fortune Telling. Thinking you can predict the future or predict how other people will react. “Only when I die, you will realize my worth.” “My wife’s father is an angry man, so she might have his genes of anger.”
Focusing on the Negative / Ignoring the Positive. Looking at the bad and not the good. “She didn’t come to my birthday party. She must not like me,” (Ignoring the card she sent.)
Blaming Yourself or Others. “It’s your family’s fault that they didnt teach you good behavior.” “It’s because of my children that I dont have time for myself.”
All or Nothing. If it’s not a full success, it’s a complete failure. “I wanted to lose 20 pounds and I only lost 10. I just can’t lose weight.”
Magnifying.“The whole world is against me.” “Self-management would take all my time.”
Personalizing. If someone’s in a bad mood or something goes wrong, it must be your fault. “Oh, she’s really in a bad mood. What did I say?”
Many times our negative thought is because of lack of right information. So, before a negative thought occurs, try to evaluate if you have the right & complete information & if you dont have it, seek it. Remember that by jumping to conclusion prematurely, you are harming yourself and creating future stress.
One of the magical ways, I’ve found to deal with a negative thought is to nip it in the bud. Its easy to deal with it right at the beginning before it festers into something big & ugly. Right when the first negative thought of the day is coming your way, arrest it and replace it with its positive counterpart. Eg: Replace “oh, a long and stressful day ahead of me.” with “Let me plan this bright and sunny day so that I achieve many things today.” In this way, counter each and every negative thought with a positive one. Voila, at the end of the day, you feel lighter and brighter! A positive framework helps you deal with others better.
Throw the negative self-script out of the window and use self-affirmation statements to combat negativity due to low self-esteem. You could write down a statement which counteracts the negative feelings about yourself such as “I am very courageous and can deal with all situations calmly in my life.” and say it to yourself whenever you feel the need.
Diverting your mind to a better activity is better than suppressing a negative thought as suppressed thoughts are sure to resurface.
If there are blocks such as deep hurts that wont let you counter those thoughts, dont give up! Remind yourself that your mind is tricking you to take shelter in negativity again. So, dont allow your mind to dwell on the hurt or the situation any longer. You have already given it enough time and attention. Move away from your role as a victim. Embrace the art of forgiveness. Realize the true value in forgiving & the changes it can bring in your life. Forgive (in your mind first) and let go of that hurt or still better surrender the hurt to the Lord. Repeat as many times as the thought occurs to you.
Finally, go for an early morning walk to freshen your mind and thoughts or join a yoga school or start exercising. Focus on adapting a healthy lifestyle and on getting fitter. Exercise can help you to increase the hormones in your body responsible for happy emotions. You can practice relaxation techniques such as pranayama to release negative thoughts from your mind.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, the great archer of all times, Arjuna, is expressing his difficulty in controlling his obstinate mind and Lord Krishna gives him hope by suggesting that by ‘practice’ it is possible. Srila Prabhupada, in the purport to this verse elaborates ‘hearing of the transcendental activities of the Lord is a very powerful transcendental method for purging the mind of all misgivings.’ When we develop a higher taste, the mind naturally detaches itself from all sorts of lower tastes. Let me leave you with this thought, ‘adios!’