We are all thinkers to various degrees. A lot of the time thinking is clearly a very good thing but a constant onslaught of thought… very draining indeed. Not just on our minds but our bodies too. This is a good time to make yourself a cuppa and get comfortable, this is by far the longest of my newsletters to date! I hope you enjoy it.

I’ve often written about the power of the mind and how detrimental the common condition we can call “monkey mind” is to our health. Monkey mind is such a good description of thoughts jumping around in our heads from past events (what could have/ should have/ would have happened), to what the future holds, the dreaded TO DO list, what’s for supper, how to deal with a disagreement with a neighbour, random song lyrics, and so on. Endless stream of thoughts.
I trust you all know just how much stress affects your well being and your general health and that’s not what this newsletter is about. This newsletter is simply about thoughts. JUST thoughts. Yes, JUST thoughts. That truly sounds like a major contradiction at a time when we are constantly being told by psychologist, scientists, motivational speakers, self-help and self-development books and magazine articles how powerful and important our thoughts are. And thoughts certainly are powerful when given energy, but until that point they are ONLY thoughts.

My point here? Your thoughts affect the way you feel. The way you feel affects your health. If you can monitor the flow of thoughts in your mind and treat the ones that really are not important as just thoughts, it’ll start to affect the way you feel very very quickly.

Here’s a simple example. A child from a local school may be mentioned in the local newspaper as a great talented swimmer. Someone may think “Wow, that is so great for all the children at that school. They can all see how much you can achieve with hard work! Well done.” And she’d probably feel uplifted and happy. Or alternatively, she could think “She’s just a spoiled brat and excelling because her parents can afford a private swimming coach”. And she’d probably feel irritable, even resentful. Same news, different thoughts and a whole different set of feelings linked to those thoughts.

When a negative thought enters your mind, recognise it as such and even speak to it! “Now you’re a negative thought aren’t you, I don’t really want you around right now”. Consciously bring up a more skillful thought, something worth while thinking about or simply observe your breathing for a while. Just let it go.

Letting a thought go, can be very difficult when it comes to your TO DO list doing its rounds in your head. It takes a fair bit of trust in yourself and your memory. You’ll need to have faith that you will remember, when you need to. And the beauty of starting to monitor your thoughts and turning away those that are not wanted or necessary is, that the rest of your thoughts will have more space and will be more organised. Your mind and your memory will be able to serve you much more efficiently.

I guess we could compare the mind to a highway. When the amount of cars is right for the road, traffic flows, drivers are largely more relaxed, polite and responsive. When traffic gets heavy, there’s disorder, congestion, chaos, erratic behaviour, and worst of all – when an accident happens the emergency vehicles battle to reach the scene! So it is with your mind. If your mind is full of the “small stuff”, when the “big stuff” happens it’ll take you a lot longer to respond appropriately and effectively.

Being an observer of your thoughts means that rather than “being in the movie” you are “watching the movie”. Let me explain what I mean with the “movie” analogue. If you were involved in an ugly argument between a group of work colleagues, you’d perhaps be feeling angry and judgemental. Perhaps even frightened. You could feel the tension in your body, tight muscles, clenched jaw, faster heartbeat,… If you were just observing this fight, you’d probably be able to see what’s really going on and perhaps be able to suggest some sensible solutions. Distancing yourself from your thoughts can help you become an observer of them. That way, you don’t have to feel every thought. Your body does not have to respond to each thought.

Thoughts like company. When a negative thought enters your mind and is allowed to become the content of your mind, very quickly other thoughts will appear to support it. Before you know it, a small negative though has snowballed and you feel miserable, stressed, angry, tense or fearful depending on what your thoughts are. This is where awareness of your thoughts is powerful. You notice a thought and can actively CHOOSE to greet it which ever way you feel is appropriate. You can allow the thought to become the content of your mind and snowball OR you can treat it as what it is, just a though, and say “Uh, that’s a fearful thought right there. Nice to see you, but I don’t really have time for you right now.” Remember, thoughts are powerful only when you give them power. Allowing them in to your mind, following their lead, giving them free run of the show, allowing them to gather friends around gives them power. Until that point, they are JUST thoughts, a process rather than content. And what was that bit about “Nice to see you fearful thought”? When we try to push thoughts aside or ignore them, we engage in a battle which ultimately feeds the negativity. Facing your thoughts and feelings with compassion and a bit of kindness is far more effective. The negative thoughts and feelings are going to pop up from time to time, there’s nothing you can do about that. How you deal with them when they do raise their heads is what counts. Next time you get cut off by a taxi driver, notice the angry thoughts that arise, greet them and consciously move along. This way, you choose to not waste your precious energy on “small stuff” and feel angry for nothing. You have the power to do this.

Sounds simple enough right? It is simple, but not always easy. This can be a challenging pattern to break, but you can start to feel the benefits very quickly. It really is worth the effort. In many lives, there’s a lot of “big stuff” happening right now. Like I said, if you don’t waste your energy and mental resources on the “small stuff”, you’ll be better able to deal with the “big stuff” if and when it happens.

Author's Bio: 

Sanna Atherton is owner of Shen Men Oriental Medicine, in South Africa. She practices Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture, and seeks to live holistically & naturally in every way possible. She is also responsible for the "Snuggababa Wrap" (see: http://www.ecovitality.co.za/consider-it-products-2/snuggababa-wraps/) and is a loving mom who, herself, benefitted from 'wearing her baby' when her son arrived a few weeks prem.

Visit http://www.ecovitality.co.za to learn more about "getting & BEing healthy whilst Consider.ing the earth too!"