Thought Awareness

Your thinking and how you analyze the world around you has evolved, mostly unconsciously, over your lifetime. Your training and experiences have shaped your worldview and because no two people experience the same life, how you think is distinct to you. This is a good reason not to be judgmental of others; you have not lived the same experiences as they have. Their belief system, and yours, will be unique to personal experience.

The average person has up to 60,000 thoughts per day and according to research conducted by the National Science Foundation, 80% of those thoughts could be negative and 95% repetitive. Most people don’t monitor their thoughts in an effort to improved them. If we are not diligent with our thinking, thoughts can easily run amuck, especially when they are habitual. It’s hard to stop a snowball rolling downhill and when you continue to think those habitually negative thoughts long enough, they become a belief.

In order to break the cycle of the negative monkey mind, you must be diligent with identifying those thoughts. You need to basically stalk yourself. Pay attention to the thoughts you think and begin to question the origin, i.e., “where did that thought come from?” Ask yourself if your beliefs are justified and valid. Keep a journal. I have a friend whose father has always been very consistent about telling her how stupid she is. As she began to accept it, the thought became part of her subconscious mind. It soon grew to become a belief, a very harmful belief that is absolutely not true. So every time she tells herself how stupid she is, she needs to correct herself saying something like, “that untrue thought came from my dad. I am smart about many things.” So keep in mind that the negative thoughts you think might not have originated from you but from someone else that has influenced you, and the sooner that you replace those thoughts with a positive thought, the better.

Although thoughts, as well as the stalking of thoughts, can be painful. The practice can teach you a great many things about yourself and those around you. Growth requires self-examination. “Even though you may not actually like the feelings of inner disturbance that may come from asking key questions, you must be able to sit quietly with yourself and face them if you want to see where they come from. Once you can face your disturbances, you will realize that there may be a layer of pain seated deep in the core of your heart. This pain is so uncomfortable, so challenging, and so destructive to the individual self, that your entire life has been spent trying to avoid it. Your entire personality is built upon ways of being, thinking, acting, and believing that were developed to avoid pain. Real growth takes place when you finally decide to deal with the pain.” From The Tethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.

Exercise: Bounce technique

When experiencing a negative thought, bounce it away with a positive thought instead. Simply replace the thought with a better feeling thought. Draw a line down the center of a tablet or piece of paper, creating two columns. When you catch yourself having a negative thought, write it in the left column. Then draw an arrow leading to the right column and re-write the statement in a positive version. This will assist you in shifting your thoughts. Whenever you catch yourself in the left column, replace the thought with the right column. For example:

Words are a byproduct of our thoughts, and words, in themselves, hold a great deal of power. Pay attention to the words you use and how you use them. Never allow yourself to speak unkindly to yourself or about yourself. You may think Self-deprecation to be funny, but is it really? In reality, it’s a way of reprimanding yourself by belittling, undervaluing, or disparaging your identity. Doing so does not honor you. As they say, to thine own self be true. There is nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your own thoughts. To be in joy, you need to accept yourself in a loving manner. Choose your words carefully and not just when speaking about yourself, but also when speaking about others. It could be said that we receive in return that which we choose to put out into the world, so choose your words and thoughts wisely.

Even so, the seas of life will surely rock your boat at times, but you can choose your response to the storms. You are not the bad feelings nor thoughts that you get in your head. You are not the storms you walk through. You are the person experiencing the storm. The storm may knock you off your feet, but you are strong. You will rise again. Either the weather will change, you will find shelter, or you will look the storm in the eye with resilience and fortitude, because you know that storm cannot hold you back indefinitely. When you can keep a healthy perspective, your wrath exceeds that of any storm, so be mindful of your thoughts and choose wisely.

“No thought lives in your head rent-free. Each thought you have will either be an investment or a cost.” ~ T. Harv Eker

The Joy of Laughter

Let’s face it, life has its ups and downs. There are times when you may not feel like smiling, let alone laughing. But if you abstain, the joke is on you. Laughter is shown to be so healthy that it should be added to your wellness regiment.  There are many reasons to laugh at the world around you. Research shows positive mood to be closely tied to spontaneous laughter. As a medicine, it is usually free and without negative side effects. Those that laugh easily will experience more joy. Here are six motivators to encourage you to laugh at yourself, others, and the goofy things you experience.

  1.  MITIGATES AGING: Researchers at Loma Linda University have discovered that laughter or even the anticipation of a good laugh, will produce an increase (as much as 87%) in the level of a specific anti-aging hormone called HGH. Human growth hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, stimulates growth in childhood, but as we age, the released amount tends to decrease. “You don’t stop laughing because you grow older, you grow older because you stop laughing.” ~Maurice Chevalier
  2. IMPROVES HEART HEALTH: Laugher oxygenates the blood and stimulates its circulation. In addition, it has been indicated through research from the University of Maryland Medical Center that laughter causes the tissue that lines the blood vessels to expand, allowing for improvement in blood flow. Interestingly, persons with heart disease were found to laugh 40% less often than those without heart disease.
  3. SPURS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: Laughter creates a double whammy here. Not only does laughter reduce stress hormones, but it assists the immune system to function at higher efficiency. Laughter helps immune system components like natural killer cells, B cells, T cells, and lymphocytes.
  4. IT’S EYE-CATCHING: If a smile makes you more attractive, what might a good laugh do for you? Research actually shows that by laughing, you will increase your attractiveness as viewed by others. When you are laughing, you appear comfortable with your surroundings, leading others to also feel safe.
  5. FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: Laughter truly may be the best medicine. According to Mayo Clinic, laughter actually produces physical changes in the body. It is very helpful for pain management, enhances digestion, relaxes tight muscles, stimulates many organs and releases endorphins, the feel good hormone in the brain.  Laughter has even been found to increase longevity or lifespan by 7.8 years on average. “Laughter opens the lungs, and opening the lungs ventilates the spirit.” ~unknown
  6. IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS: Although you can laugh at yourself, laughter is usually shared with at least one other person and shared laughter contributes to bonding with others. In fact, we are 30 times more likely to laugh when we are with someone else. In general, couples who laugh more together tend to have higher-quality relationships. It is considered a supportive activity. “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” ~Victor Borge

It is said that adults laugh up to 15 times per day, however, children laugh up to 400 times per day. What a shame to lose the playfulness of childhood as we age. Let’s take some time to be playful, to remember our childhood days of splendor, when there was exciting new things to learn and when the concerns of tomorrow are left to be discovered. Reminisce and revisit what it’s like to experience the joys of childhood, visualize those playful happenings.

Laughter is also a social sign of affection and affiliation. By sharing life events through laughter, we seek to find greater meaning in ourselves and others. We can enhance current relationships and make new ones. And when it comes to stressful situations, a solution via laughter, can change everything, promoting immediate feelings of well-being. The art of laughter requires no pre-requisites nor fancy credentials. It’s simply about living in the moment and enjoying the people and places that you frequent. It’s about enjoying the life you live no matter the circumstance. So, ..when was the last time that you had a good laugh?

“Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.” ~Catherine Rippenger Fenwick

Embrace Gratitude

Embrace an attitude of Gratitude (Gratitude = Joy = More Gratitude).

Perhaps you’ve heard the famous Aesop’s tale, “Androcles and the Lion.” Androcles was a man who after escaping enslavement, stumbles upon a lion in the forest. With a thorn stuck in his paw, Androcles discovers the lion to be in great pain, so he removes it for him. Later, both he and the Lion are captured and Androcles is sentenced to be thrown into the lion’s den. Even though the lion was ravenous, he merely licked his friend’s hand in greeting. The emperor was so astonished by the action, he set them both free. Not only is gratitude high on the emotional scale, it seems it has the power to launch miracles

 According to Zig Ziglar, gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.  It’s simply impossible to have a negative thought while in gratitude. When you commit to appreciation, your life becomes richer and more satisfying. We can focus on the benefits of receiving gratitude from others, and/or we can focus on the significance of cultivating gratitude ourselves. Gratitude has the ability to increase our joy by pushing away those negative thoughts that can derail us.

Researchers have found that gratitude actually changes the neural structures of the brain, providing positive feelings of happiness and contentment. Oprah may have said it best when she said, “Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.

George Mason University’s Center for Advancement of Well-Being looked at joy over a period of time and found that gratitude predicted increased future joy. Somewhat surprisingly, joy also predicted increases in gratitude over time, suggesting an intriguing upward spiral between gratitude and joy. In other words, it looks like gratitude increases joy, but in turn joy also increases gratitude; and this “cycle of goodness” might be important to our happiness. Joy also predicted increases in happiness over time, supporting the idea that joy is important to subjective well-being.

According to Positive Psychology, the benefits of gratitude are endless. They encompass a 3-legged stool, so to speak. The psychological leg of gratitude includes positive emotions and thought, the physical leg provides a stronger immune system, better sleep, less pain, and optimum blood pressure. The Social leg of benefits include stronger interpersonal relationships, better communication, and increased likeability.

Gratitude can be easily practiced and can take on many forms including:

  • A Written note to another
  • A Vocal Expression to another
  •  A Prayer of thanksgiving
  • An Expression to self (thoughts & written word (journaling)) Those that keep a gratitude journal, experience deeper, more meaningful lives. Can you set time aside each day?

One of the best times to practice gratitude is as soon as you wake from sleep. True love might just be the first thought you have in the morning, and the last thought you have before bed. In the first few minutes of the day, for example, the mind is very receptive to influence, with the least amount of resistance. So before you jump out of bed, consider a gratitude rant, either silent or aloud. Simply be mindful of the wonderful things and people in your life and savor the sweetness of as many things as you can muster. In doing so, you can yearn to experience the positive feelings that make you smile and expand the heart. Just a few minutes of thankful thinking can improve your mood for the entire day.

Other ways to embrace an attitude of gratitude include:

  • Showing more enthusiasm when communicating
  • Noticing the beauty in nature
  • Smiling often
  • Volunteering your time/skills
  • Leave someone a larger tip than usual
  • Making a gratitude collage of pictures

And just as we can be thankful for the ease of life, we can also be thankful for adversity, whether it is self-induced or dropped in our lap. Adversity can enlarge our world view and pull us into unknown territory. It’s much more difficult to learn, grow, and expand when we stay enchanted within our comfort zone. Challenges provide enormous opportunity for resilience, improved self-esteem, and fortitude. We don’t just go through the obstacles; we grow through them.

Although life can surely throw us a curve ball when we least expect it, shifting to a spirit of gratitude aligns us with the positive energy needed to bear any burden and persevere through any storm. Happiness and gratitude are closely linked. No matter where you might be on the emotional scale, gratitude will move you upwards towards joy and happiness.  Perhaps it’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, but rather, gratitude that brings us happiness.

Let us give Thanks

We are coming upon the time of Thanksgiving when we gather with those we love to feast on turkey and other traditional foods which include stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Although John Adams and James Madison designated days of thanks during their presidencies, it was Abe Lincoln who proclaimed it a national holiday. For 36 years, a noted magazine editor, Sarah, Josepha Hale, published a number of editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians launching a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Abe finally heeded her request in 1863 at the height of the Civil War.

About half the pilgrims survived the first winter in Plymouth. What a risk they took in the yearning for prosperity and land ownership in the “New World.” After spending much of that first winter on the ship suffering exposure, scurvy, and outbreaks of contagious disease, they managed to befriend native American tribes who taught them how to cultivate corn, avoid poisonous plants, and extract sap from the maple trees.

With gratitude they celebrated a three-day feast. Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

The origins of thanksgiving may preempt the Pilgrim’s feast of 1621. Ancient history depicts annual celebrations spanning cultures, continents, and millennia. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. In 1565, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine Florida, after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival.

In current times we celebrate with parades and marching bands, and we pardon one or two turkeys from slaughter, sending them off to a farm for retirement. And as you celebrate with family this year, let us not forget the original intention of thanksgiving, to thank God for not just the autumn harvest, but for his divine providence. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have ever more to express gratitude for.”

https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving