Look After Your Mind No. 13
The imagination we all possess is a great resource for helping us to gain control over what we think and how we think about it. There are many ways to counterbalance any tendency we have to think negatively. Here are some ideas:
The positive opposite. Whenever you notice a negative thought popping into mind, deliberately think of a positive opposite. Cultivate this until it becomes a habit. Positive thoughts help to ‘neutralise’ the unwanted feelings that negative thoughts can generate.
The bigger picture. The media filters news so it can seem that the world is full of tragedy, suffering and horror. But realistically, for every disturbing news story we encounter there are thousands of stories of hope, kindness, compassion and joy that we never see unless we deliberately search for them. Keeping a scrapbook or journal of positive and uplifting events reminds us that, as Max Ehrmann said in ‘Desiderata’, “With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world”.
Future self. Visualise yourself at some chosen point in the future, when you have gained more experience of the world. The visualisation doesn’t need to be detailed in terms of how you look; you may just have an uplifting sense of being more confident and capable - although if you do picture yourself, deliberately create an impression that pleases and empowers you. If you find this technique helpful, ask future-you to keep giving you positive feelings and even some specific advice.
The wheatfield. Imagine your mind as a field of ripe wheat, shimmering in the sun on a summer’s day. If you walk across the field you leave a faint track. Walk the same path and the track becomes more obvious. Keep walking that path and it will become fully established as a habit of thought.
To make this visualisation work, you need to practise regularly. If you have a habit of thought that you don’t like, such as worrying or low self-confidence, imagine it as a track that you’ve walked along in the past without really wanting to. Now choose a different direction so that you can make a new path, towards feeling calm and confident for instance. Deliberately ignore the old pathway. It won’t be long before the wheat grows over it and it will disappear. The more you walk the new path, the more you can experience the positive thoughts and feelings that you want.
Click here to read more articles in the series 'Look After Your Mind' by Steve Bowkett