Hope in the Midst of Life ~ October 2016
One of my favorite quotes is, “Was it five minutes of awful, or was it five minutes of awful you milked all day?”
Dr. Caroline Leaf writes in her book, Think and Eat Yourself Smart, that she often presents on the negative effects of drinking a soda… a soda with 10 teaspoons of sugar. She gives a detailed explanation of what happens in our bodies, the first minute we drink it up to hours later. Nothing about her rendition of the effects of soda is positive; but at the very next break of the training, there is a line of people out in the lobby – buying soda!
I know as a parent I have experienced the same thing. I would say something over and over to my kids… and it didn’t seem to matter, whatever I am saying to do, or not to do, just seemed to (as my mother used to say) “go in one ear and out the other,” and they would do what they wanted to do anyway! (Okay, not ALWAYS, but often!).
Dr. Leaf says that what I know about soda is based on the commercials about soda that are stored in my brain. “If I drink soda, I will be satisfied and I will be happy.” This is what is already stored in my brain, so when I hear someone say “soda”, I immediately need one… because I want to be “satisfied and happy.” It takes some time to learn something other-than what we have been told over and over.
Probably, most of us don’t think about how we think. But what if this is the way our brains work with everything?
Typically, when difficulties come up in our lives, we immediately pull up the things we already know about “life is difficult”. For many of us, this is frustrated and angry thinking that leans hard toward hopeless. Well, “that is how it always is”. Anyone identifying with this?? It is easier to pick up the hopeless message when our lives feel too full and we are nearly overwhelmed. You know, the days or weeks where there seems to be more financial issues than normal, the kids seem to be having more problems, and “I just can’t seem to get anything done.”
But what if we start teaching our brains how to think differently? In previous newsletters, we’ve talked about listing 3 things we are thankful for every day. We could do this at the family dinner table – everyone taking a turn. The great news is – when we are thankful, we can’t be hopeless. Also when we think of things that we are thankful for, our biochemistry becomes positive and our whole body becomes healthier and our outlook becomes more positive.
Something else we can do…Maybe on the way home, or at dinner, or while doing the dishes, we could think about the best thing that happened today. Why? Because this will cause that positive memory to become stronger, and it shifts our biochemistry to positive, which is life-giving to every cell of our body. Some days – nothing seems to be going well; so on those days, I review a favorite memory. It might be something someone said to me, an accomplishment, a wedding, a baby, you get the idea. Just by thinking about it, I can make that memory stronger; and again, I have positive biochemistry so I am healthier. At the same time, I am teaching myself to focus on the positive. I am not suggesting we live in denial and ignore the issues. But I am inviting you to consider focusing on the positive.
It is easy to carry around the “five minutes of awful” and dwell on that. (“Ruminate” is the professional term.) This is that constant focus of going over and over something. And funny thing, that “something” is rarely positive.
I invite you to stop, several times a day and consider what you are thinking about. Where is your focus? Is it on the five minutes of “awful” or are you celebrating the joy, even when it might be hard to see at the moment?
Janet Miller MA LPCC