You’ve probably heard for your entire life (or at least several times in your life) that you are what you eat. Good, quality foods contribute to health. Of course, the consumption of healthy food isn’t the only way that we stay in good health. You could eat only the best foods, drink water or juice, and still get sick. Sometimes it is genetic. Sometimes it is a result of environmental toxins (and I don’t mean that in some weird conspiracy theory sort of way).
Yet, there’s another important aspect to our lives that helps us become successful and content. And that is in the quality of our thoughts. Yes, really. Your brain is the single most powerful force in your life.
Wanna Change Your Life? Change Your Thoughts
It’s a simple concept that is very hard to do. However, if you want to change your life, you must change your thoughts. Until about four or five years ago, I constantly dealt with what I call “auto-play brain.” My bio parents weren’t good people. Nothing I ever did was good enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I would never be good for anything. I was stupid. I was a slut. I was destined to be a drug addict (for the record, I’ve never done drugs – that was their projection of their habits onto me).
I kept trying really hard in school. I did well. My teachers praised me (which helped, I’m sure). My grandmother, aunt, and uncle always had something positive say at report card time (to be fair, my grandmother and aunt were always kind to me…my uncle? I don’t think he meant to be a dick, but he was very gruff…however, when I struggled in school, he did everything he could to tutor me and to get me the help I needed at his own expense of money and time).
Even after I got married, that didn’t change. My parents called a lot to tell me how awful and worthless I was as a daughter, a mother, a wife, and a human. The ex wasn’t much better. Despite working full time, caring for the older boys (I did not go back to work full time until they were school age), and doing well in college, he considered me a terrible person as well. I was dragged out of bed by my hair. He cheated on me and then told everyone that I was the one out cheating. I got text messages on my way to work OT on Saturdays (even when the children went with me) that he knew I was really going out to meet some guy. He choked me. He tried to get me to kill myself.
And after we weren’t together? And even years after my biological father died and I limited contact with my mother? My thoughts were on auto-play: worthless. Awful. Stupid. Bad person. Things that I knew from a logical perspective couldn’t be true. I did everything I could for everyone (even when I shouldn’t). I had a therapist tell me I was co-dependent. I told her no…it wasn’t co-dependency (my mother was and is co-dependent). Mine was a moral drive to lessen the suffering of others. I wasn’t a bad person. My brain was wired to repeat the nonsense I heard for most of my life.
I Had to Learn to Hit the Stop Button
It’s easy to say just don’t think those things about yourself. It’s another thing to actually do it. It’s not easy because it is so ingrained into who we are. I had to learn to hit the stop button. If you’ve ever tried to break a habit or even make a new habit, you know that you have to remain cognizant and force yourself to take the right actions. You have to use willpower and you have to do things even when it is hard.
I learned to hit the stop button on those thoughts by taking my thoughts captive. There are roughly 25 Bible verses about your thoughts. There are Buddhist verses regarding thoughts. There are Islamic verses as well. All of them boil down to take control over what you let into your mind and focus on the good.
The problem was despite the fact I taught college, despite the fact my sons loved me (then and they love me now – ha!), despite the fact that I eventually remarried an amazing man…the thoughts didn’t go away. And I felt like they were true (emotionally, not logically – because you know when you’re doing the right things in your life and for others, you’re not a bad person).
Sometimes, when we’re trying to break a bad habit, we struggle because we don’t have anything to replace it with. When I was a child, there was an old man in the neighborhood who carried Dum Dum suckers in his front pocket. They were’t for us children. I asked him about it when I was about 11: why do you carry so many suckers? He said it was because he stopped smoking and having the suckers gave him something to do with his fingers (reach into the shirt pocket where he used to keep cigarettes) and his mouth. He’d done it for around 15 years at that point. He was sure that was the only reason he was able to quit smoking. Of course, we could debate whether all that sugar as good for him, but the point is – he replaced a killer habit with something less likely to kill him. I bet when he first started, he felt stupid….a grown ass man (in the late 80s) who was probably in his 60s walking around with a sucker in his mouth. In our neighborhood, that wasn’t a common sight. Come to think of it, in our neighborhood, I probably shouldn’t have been talking to strangers…
So, when I’d notice one of those thoughts starting, I stopped it as soon as I recognized it. Then, I said the exact opposite to myself. And at first, I didn’t believe that I was good, smart, or talented. I felt like a fraud. But I kept doing it because it had a purpose.
Adding Positive Affirmations
To reinforce what I was doing to change my thoughts, I added positive affirmations. They don’t have to be outlandish. They can be simple. I actually used Buddhist positive affirmations that I found online. They were statements like ‘I am peace.’ I found it years ago on BuddhaNet, but there are tons of websites that have them. Affirmation Spot has a great list as well.
I said them to myself in the morning before I left to teach. I said them in the evening. Just like with stopping the negative thoughts and replacing them with better thoughts, I felt kind of silly at first with the positive affirmations. But….something wonderful happened.
Over time, I became more peaceful toward myself. I began to love myself. I began to see my worth.
If you want to change your life, you must change your thoughts.