Did you ever stop to realize that our thoughts create our reality? That they even create and change our physiology, our internal chemistry?
Thoughts Are That Powerful
After you read this article, you will be a changed person. That’s my promise to you. Awareness is the first step to change. Since after you’ve read this article, you will know how thoughts trigger reactions in us, then forevermore, you will have the personal responsibility to ensure that your thoughts, your thinking, will support you. You will be ‘response-able’ as Stephen Covey said.
The quality of our thoughts impacts our lives. Everything from our stress levels and general health, to the progress we make in our professional lives and relationships.
Some Interesting Facts About Thoughts
Though it’s a challenge to find definitive research on this, the estimates I’ve been able to find are that an average person thinks thousands of thoughts per day, perhaps even tens of thousands. PHEW! I’m tired already.
And how much of that thinking is supporting us? Creating health? Boosting our immune system? It’s a huge opportunity to make ourselves miserable…. and it appears that’s what we do, really well.
Estimates predict that circa 60% of our thoughts are repetitive and that as much as two thirds of these repetitive thoughts will have a negativity bias. Researchers have found out that our brains are hard wired to register and remember negative events more quickly and deeply than positive ones. They are sticky! This was good when we had to be alert for lions lurking around the corner and to avoid possible dangerous situations but not so handy in today’s world. Today, the snake turns around to bite its own tail.
The Physiology of Thoughts
What happens when a not so supportive thought occurs to us. Let’s take a thought such as: “she doesn’t like me anymore” or “I’m going to lose my job” or “this project isn’t going to work out”. Short little sentences but what an impact they can have, if we let them. Or how about our inner critic, that ‘voice’ in our brain telling us how incompetent we are, how unworthy we are…You’re getting the picture, right?
The moment we utter fearful sentences such as these, either in our head or out loud, the reaction gets transferred via electrical impulses which race along our neural pathways. At the same time, elsewhere in the brain, signals are being sent to the areas where hormones are produced. Almost instantly, hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are being pumped into the bloodstream. Betwixt and between about 1400 biochemical signals and processes are taking place. Everything is happening so fast. Electrical signals in the neural pathways cause our muscles to contract, our heart rate and blood pressure to increase, just to name a few.
As a fearful thought loops its way around and around in our brain, the effects manifest themselves everywhere. If it’s an especially fearful thought, we lose our ability to think clearly for 4- 6 hours. Our immune system is compromised for up to 6 hours.
In a Word?… Mindfulness
So how can we influence this chain of events? How can we put the brakes on thoughts that are exerting a non-supportive response in ourselves?
As I mentioned at the start of this article, the first step is awareness. And that is what has been created here in this article, in each and every one of you. We need to truly practice mindfulness; ‘hear’ our thoughts and make a decision as to whether this pattern of thinking is supporting us or not. If it’s not, then the responsibility is upon you, and only you, to decide how to deal with it. We don’t always get to choose what happens to us but we can choose, we must choose, how we will react.
Once you are mindful, you are able to ask supportive questions. Asking yourself ‘why’ questions keeps us focused on the negativity, often in a victim role. Ask yourself a ‘how’ question and you’ll see new opportunities unfold. It’s all there for the asking. You just need to be aware. To be ‘response able’ and choose for possibilities. Will you do this?
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Hamlet