4-PT Guide: Take Back Control of Your Thoughts
Welcome to our 4-part guide on taking back control of your thoughts! Let’s begin with what happens within your body while you think? Most people believe that's a simple answer. After all, a thought is simply a word that passes through your brain and spurs you to think further on it, to speak, or take action. It's more complicated than that. In fact, it's still being researched at length! We can still break it down as we understand it.
The first issue with attempting to describe what is going on in your body while you are thinking is that we can't all agree on what constitutes thoughts. You probably think of a thought as a thing you tell yourself. For example, when your alarm rang out this morning you probably had a thought along the lines of "Just five more minutes," "I'm not ready to get up," or quite simply "I don't want to!"
Let's focus on that last one and deconstruct it in a bid to figure it out. Did it spontaneously appear in your mind? Or did something trigger it? Was it a manifestation of something deeper like your spirit? Or was it a physical process from your brain? If you were to pose those questions to a variety of different people you will likely get a variety of different answers. Leave that to the philosophers. If you want to look at what happens in your body and mind when you are thinking you have to acknowledge that your thoughts have an influence over your body.
We know this is true, so let's review what we know for sure about your thoughts do to your body.
- Your thoughts can increase stress, which can exacerbate physical illness.
- Your thoughts can alleviate stress.
- Your thoughts can trigger a fear response that puts your body into fight or flight mode.
- Your thoughts can cause a chain reaction that results in contracted muscles.
Let's go back to that thought. "I don't want to."
A scientist would probably argue that your thought wasn't random or spontaneous, rather it was triggered by something. In this case, it would probably have been the alarm clock buzzing in your ear. It could have been deeper than that. The alarm clock may have triggered a memory about what your day to come looks like and that could have triggered the thought, but what happens once you think the thought?
The brain is complex and there are many different parts interacting and intersecting simultaneously. When you think that thought, all of those components are at work. If the result of the thought is that you don't want to get up and you hide under your covers, what exactly happened to encourage that action?
Or, if you instead threw the covers up and dragged yourself to the shower, what went differently? Well, all of those different components are at work at the same time while you make a decision, and ultimately, one of them produces your desired behavior.
What about the emotional impact of your thoughts? Your thoughts can influence the chemical messengers in your brain. Optimism has been linked to improved immunity while negative or depressive thinking has been linked to lower immunity.
So, if you hide under your covers, that can trigger a stream of negative thoughts such as life is too hard, I'm too tired to get up, or I just can't face this day. Whereas the choice to get up might trigger thoughts like I feel better now that I'm up, today will be good, or this is fine. Either way, those complex interactions in your brain are sending signals everywhere else in your body. Your response to your thoughts changes the pathways and signals your neurons send. Thoughts matter.
Your brain constantly receives signals, whether it's from memories, thoughts, or external stimuli. From there, your brain activates brain wave patterns. The more this happens the more complex your thoughts grow. The more content your brain produces, the more complex things get.
Your emotions and thoughts are linked, and their relationship is bidirectional. Think about it like this. How often have you experienced a serious spike in adrenaline following a fearful thought? How many times have you experienced that same spike in adrenaline when you are about to go on a first date, sit down for an interview, or start your first day of work? When you have a thought, your mind and body experience a corresponding chemical reaction.
This is an important fact to get comfortable with because it highlights how much your thoughts can influence how you feel. By the same token, when you feel down or poorly, you can change that by changing your thoughts. That might sound unusual for some, but if you go back to the idea that your thoughts are a physical entity living in your brain rather than spontaneous, it makes more sense. If you accept this view, the scientific view, that your thoughts are physical components in your brain and that they influence your body, then you now possess one of the most powerful weapons available to you.
If your thoughts are just reactions, how do you take back control and start the process of changing them?
Thoughts don't exist within a vacuum. As you are reading, there is a good chance you are thinking about new ideas or things that you can put into use to help change your thoughts. You're already thinking differently. You're already thinking about feeding different information to the brain and how you can surround yourself with information that will change your thoughts the way you want.
If you want to actively change your thoughts you first must be aware of what triggers your thoughts, as well as the patterns that you slip into when responding to those triggers. The next time you find yourself lying in bed thinking I don't want to you should ask yourself what triggered that thought.
There's a reason that positive thinking has become a popular phenomenon. You might not be able to positive think yourself out of a terminal illness, but you can positively think yourself out of anxiety and into better situations.
When you get clear about your triggers then you can change your thoughts and change how they influence your health and emotions. The alarm clock may have triggered that initial thought because you may have created a pattern of hearing an alarm clock and dreading going to work.
You have effectively worn a groove into your brain that instantly connects the trigger of your alarm clock to not wanting to get out of bed because you hate your job. If you want to change it, you have to either break the thought association or change your trigger.
How? Well, the first step would be trying to force yourself to think differently. So, when your alarm goes you try to consciously think a different thought. A positive thought. Your alarm rings out and you think I'm looking forward to today.
You can also change the sound of your alarm to help facilitate your change in thought and the trigger itself. Many smartphones allow you to link your alarm to Spotify or Calm so you can choose a sound you don't hate!
It isn't just your alarm. Think about the thought that often springs to mind when you are caught in traffic. You get irritated, you feel frustrated, and that's when your body triggers a thought. You feel your muscles tense, your breathing is shallow, and the thought bubbles up I hate traffic.
Instead, recognize what's happening, relax your muscles, breathe deeply, and think I might as well use this time wisely. Pop on a podcast, music you like, etc. It's still annoying, but you can change your thoughts on the subject. By doing so you send your brain the signal to chill out.
You are forcing your thoughts to send your brain and body the message that it's time to calm down and relax. Our Supersonic Subliminal audios in Better You In 52 create a steady stream of positive suggestions to help you easily shift into more positive and empowering thoughts.
Join us in Better You In 52 to get started!