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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Effecting a Mood Change One Small Thought at a Time

Yesterday I determined to look for small things to think positively about, or even take a bit of joy in. I wasn’t overly  ambitious. I was just going to nudge my thinking off its negative course bit by bit .My mental barometer had slipped out of sunny mode into cloudy all day without my realizing it. But now I was realizing it.

I started looking for small things to think positively about, or even take a bit of joy in. I was just going to nudge my thinking off its negative course bit by bit. My mental barometer had slipped out of “sunny” mode into “cloudy all day” without my realizing it. But now I was realizing it.

I was determined to effect a course correction. While I was swimming I decided to think about the laps I had already done rather than the laps I hadn’t accomplished yet. I found I could do that with a little effort. I just kept  correcting myself. First I would think I had ten laps to go. Then I nudged that automatic thought aside with my chosen thought, “I’ve done ten laps already, good for me, think about that.”

Then I did the same thing with my yoga. I congratulated myself on the positions I had finished, instead of the ones yet to do. That too, I just had to keep correcting myself. Kind of like instructing a kid audience in a school play, “All right everybody, let’s have some applause for this  little lady, if you please.”

I next thought how I wasn’t real enthusiastic about editing my book because of the technical problems. So I decided not to think about that.  I kind of set that aside. It was planned work but it was “after breakfast.”I thought about getting breakfast instead.

Walking downstairs getting ready to make my smoothie for breakfast I decided to try a little laughing out loud since my husband wasn’t home. It didn’t bring any immediate change of mood. However, again I noticed to myself  that I had “at least done it, so take some credit for that.”

At the bottom of the stairs I decided that the laundry room was really a mess and I absolutely committed myself to put away at least one thing every day from now on until it was clean. I made a further decision to do that one thing right NOW. I did one thing and noticed that there were several items that were real easy to put in their proper place so I put away quite a few things. I spent maybe 5 minutes with this.

WOW. This time I noticed an immediate mood change. Not huge. Not that I was jumping for joy. But I was much more energized. I was thinking, “Hey this is really doable. I think I’ll have this spic and span in a week.“ This, after months of disarray and lint dusted floors. “I feel really good about the laundry room,” I told myself, as I continued on to the kitchen.

As I’m getting breakfast, I keep thinking about how great it was that I had put away so many things in the laundry room in such a short time. With not all that much effort. I kept thinking about it.  It wasn’t even so much I kept choosing, on-purpose, to think about it. I had started the brain in a new direction. The self talk just kept recreating itself in a more positive way. “Hey you really made a dent in it, didn’t you?” I think I may have even detected a childish “Goody,  goody for you” sneaking in.

After breakfast I got the idea of googling for help with my tech problem and what do you know? I found a company that for a nominal fee would take your book file and format it for Kindle. With that good news I was much more enthusiastic about getting down to finishing my part of the editing.

My mood now was totally different from what it had been for days. The grey cloud was all gone in about two hours.  I was energized to work on my book. I felt good about the things I had done, and was going to do for the day. And I thought about how it had come about. There were a couple of things that were obvious to me.

First,  I was glad I had taken my own advice that I hand out to other people and made an effort to redirect my thinking. Second, it was also obvious to me why these small changes, serially inconsequential as they were, turned the mood tide.

With every single  separate time I thought a small positive thought that nudged aside the small negative thought, I gave my brain another instruction to “connect with tasks accomplished,” “connect with things positive,” “connect with self-accomplishment,” connect with good thoughts about myself,” “connect with laughing,” “connect with clean laundry room,” connect with doing good,” connect with “goody goody,” connect with “fun things,”  

That’s the way the brain works, by learned association. Whatever thought you think, the brain takes as  instructions to get in touch with all other similar thoughts in your memory bank. And remember, the brain always follows the direction of your most current dominant thought. You  make a thought dominant by thinking it repetitively.

And when you are feeling good and energized, your mind is then ready for creativity, you get new ideas, like looking for help on the Internet for a technical problem. I had effected, on purpose, a complete mood change to sunny in the same way I had, accidently, effected a mood change to cloudy one small, inconsequential thought or action at a time.   

And that laundry room that had been a drag on my mind for months? It had turned into a “fun thing” by learned association in my brain to “fun things,”” accomplished things,” “good-for-you things,” instead of being connected to “things you haven’t done,” “things to feel bad about.” My feelings about the mess in the laundry  room, instead of bringing me down,  was actually turning  it into a fun thing, almost an adventure.

We should not forget that our emotional brain remains a child. Experts say it never matures like the neocortex. You see why you should never “believe” your emotional brain? It is so easily manipulated—on purpose or by accident. You are never gloomy, your emotional kid brain is gloomy.

So my emotional kid brain was now getting a "goody-goody" charge out of anticipating what things "we're going to put away next." The laundry room became  a source of “fun” and excitement for the emotional brain instead of drudgery. “Let’s do the laundry room again, Mommy? Nothing in my life had changed except my thinking. But I certainly felt my life had changed. My emotional barometer was now "sunny all day."

The brain is totally dependent upon us for its attitude about anything. Present reality for our brain is  how we connect it to our environment by the thoughts we think about our environment--by the new learned associations we forge in our brain, neuron by neuron. We make our brain and then our brain make life pleasant or unpleasant for us, depending on its mood. We have incredible power over our lives. We have as much power over our lives as we have over our laundry rooms. We should not forget to use it.
        A. B. Curtiss

1 comment:

Ginger said...

Wow, interesting! What a day! Thanks for sharing the journey.

Powerful ideas:
"Nothing in my life had changed except my thinking. We have incredible power over our lives. we should not forget to use it"