Does the way we think matter?

Paying attention to the way we think matters. Thoughts create reality through memories, observations, judgements, perceptions and intentions.

People flourish with a healthy mindset that is focused on positive, worthwhile things. When we think positive and not negative thoughts, when we are careful with self-criticism, and when we treat others with respect, we cultivate the basics for happiness.

One of my yoga teachers repeatedly advises monitoring thoughts carefully. She talks about ‘stinking thinking’ as patterns when thoughts, about ourselves or about others, are judgemental or critical.  She urges us to adopt a loving, accepting mindset to support healthy living and fitness.

We can take a ‘thought break’ from time to time during the day to check thought patterns and not allow thoughts to drift aimlessly. Are thinking habits creating stress?  Are thoughts judgemental? Are we re-playing old, hurtful memories?

The way you think matters — photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons
The way you think matters — photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons

It’s possible to discipline ourselves to consciously pay attention to how we think.

Our mindset determines whether a life situation is perceived as  opportunity or danger.  The way we feel, the way we react, and the way we look at the world is often described as’ a glass half full versus a glass half empty’.

Whether we think positively (glass half full) or negatively (glass half empty) affects our outlook on life. Regardless of what happens, our interpretation of the event can make it better for ourselves — and better for those around us.

Positive Thinking

Thinking patterns are habitual. We all know people who have an uncanny capacity to see the good in others.  As well,  they can find potential or learning in most situations. Such positive thinking leads to optimism and self-affirming behaviour.

Optimism creates capacity for resilience and perseverance. It leads to loving acceptance of oneself and others.

Looking for and finding the ‘silver lining’ in situations attracts others and leads happiness in life.

Negative thinking

Negative thinking sets up a world view where life circumstances  seem perilous.  It leads to a pessimistic outlook, to fearfulness, and to self-defeating behaviour.

All of us have experienced situations where a person who is always complaining depletes energy.  No matter the situation, something is always wrong. Their negativity may come from anger, fear, sadness or jealousy. Nonetheless, it dampens spirits.

Negative thinkers fill their days with unnecessary worries. People shy away when faced with constant negativity and criticism.

Bouts of negativity and discouragement can affect everybody.  The trick is to recognize negative thought patterns and shift into a more positive mindset.

Become Aware of Thinking

Awareness of thought habits can be learned with practise.

Meditation is an effective way to learn how to focus attention and notice thoughts. Meditation is a skill. It begins with breath awareness. By slowing and deepening breathing,  thoughts are released. The mind is calmer. Eventually the brain develops the habit of controlling attention.

When practising meditation, simple mantras help to keep tangential thoughts from racing through my head. When thoughts come, I try to them go by continuing to focus on breathing in and breathing out.

Practising gratitude is another technique for monitoring thinking.  It gives perspective. Many experts recommend starting the day by naming 3 things for which to be thankful. Practising gratitude is a simple way to focus on what is good in your life.

A gratitude  might be as simple as sunshine streaming through the window or the sound of a cat’s purr.  It might consist of thankfulness for food in the fridge or a kind word from a stranger. Practising gratitude teaches awareness and helps to change thought patterns.

Learn to turn negative thoughts to positive thoughts.  When you catch yourself doing ‘stinking thinking’, try to shift to thoughts that encourage you.

By remembering that your thoughts create your reality you can re-frame perceptions and keep yourself from drifting into a negative frame of mind.

Changing outlook also influences our thinking.

‘What you think about, you bring about’ was one of my mother’s favourite sayings. When we expect the worst, it often happens.

There is no question that life throws curve balls to all of us.  By choosing our attitude toward the unexpected, we can shape a better outcome.  For example, when encountering rudeness or disrespect from others, a kind response often changes the way the other person is treating you.

We can become aware of thoughts by periodically taking a few seconds throughout each day to take note of the assumptions, judgements, and expectations in our minds.  As well, we can observe the feelings that arise from our thoughts.

Our thoughts matter. By paying attention to thinking, focusing on positive thoughts and adopting an optimistic attitude, we can increase happiness in our precious retirement days.

Thanks for reading this post.  You may also like How Your Face Reflects Your Thinking, a post published in 2011.

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4 Replies to “Does the way we think matter?”

  1. Thanks friend, for the timely reminder to think positive thoughts.

    1. Hi Joy,
      Your positive approach is one that I admire! I’m glad you liked the post.
      Be well,
      Jeanette

  2. This is a great post Jeanette. Your “stinking thinking” is something that will stick with me and I plan to share this article with others who I think will appreciate your very insightful words.

    1. Hi Pat,
      Sometimes it’s easy to lapse into judging and criticizing. I’m working hard to catch myself when ‘stinking thinking’ takes control of my brain.
      Be well,
      Jeanette

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