I first fully understood this idea through a great series of books by Dr. Joseph Murphy. He’s a huge proponent of changing the way you think to change your life. And, in fact, this might be the only way to do it. The way we think creates our reality – our level of happiness, our health, our finances, and relationships. If something isn’t working, there is something in our thinking that has to change. Otherwise, we’ll recreate the same problem over and over again.
When I started paying close attention to my thoughts, I was saddened by how negative they were. I believed I was a positive person, but when I truly listened to the uninhibited voice in my head, it was a constant stream of fear in various forms. When I honestly looked at the state of my life, I didn’t like what I saw. My relationships and finances were in flux. It was hard for me to be happy with anything, and something was always wrong. This had to change.
I began wondering what I could accomplish if I took all the energy I spent on negative thoughts and put them into positive ones. What would my life look like then?
I studied endless books on the topic, watched videos, read online articles, experimented, and tried everything that made sense. I paid more attention to the flowers in my neighbourhood, basked a little longer in the sun, admired the blueness of the sky. I moved on to praising myself when I did something well, and comforting myself when things didn’t go as expected. This led into silently complimenting strangers on the street.
At first, forcing myself to think positively felt contrived, fake. I didn’t like it. It’s like being force fed health food. I knew it was good for me in the long run, but I really wanted spicy chicken wings instead. And there was the awkwardness. Having spent a lifetime expecting the worst, it felt completely unfamiliar to praise myself and feel grateful for everything I had. Even harder was admiring people for doing or having things that I wanted. Yuk!
Despite the challenges, I persevered because I knew my old way of thinking wasn’t making me happy. After the awkwardness, I started swinging more and more into positive territory. Then, I started to set up house there. I’m still a work in progress. I learn something new every day. Today, I decided to feel uplifted, be my best self. Instead of waiting for something wonderful to happen to me to justify this feeling, I’m going to feel this way about myself regardless.
This is usually how it happens for me: I try out new ideas, practice them, persevere through challenging moments, master them, and then take another leap forward. There are a couple of things that truly helped me along the way and kept me on course.
At first, I became very aware of the random thoughts that weaved in and out of my mind. The ongoing commentary about my environment and the people I saw on the street were enlightening. They showed me just how judgemental and critical I was of others and myself.
Meditation was and is a great solace. It taught me to calm my mind and allow thoughts to pass without any reaction from me. This eventually made it easier for me to let go of things emotionally. Meditation isn’t just sitting in a perfectly upright lotus position. I realized that I meditate all the time. Whenever I’m thinking I’m meditating. I love taking long walks, and this became another form of meditation.
It became infinitely easier when I stopped chastising myself whenever I felt negative or forgot to be grateful. Changing the way I think is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and if I continued to kick myself every time I slipped I never would have made it through. I started allowing myself to be imperfect. If something didn’t go just right, I let it go without judgement.
Practice, then practice some more
Changing a lifetime of negative thoughts can be daunting. When I started I took endless steps backward. The first day I’d be completely committed and feel positive all day long. The second day would be spent mostly in the positive. By the third day, I’d forget completely and not remember until days later.
But I kept at it. If I noticed myself lapsing, I’d quickly think of something positive. It took months for positive thoughts to become natural for me. One day it did and that’s when I started to feel better.
Trying out different methods – visualizing, repeating positive mantras, etc. – was what ultimately worked for me. No one book gave me all the answers. I took something from everything I read and blended it into my own.
I’m beginning to see major changes in my life. The world feels like it’s smiling back at me. People seem kinder, more helpful. I know this is a reflection of how I feel inside.