Eliminating Stress: Rule 3 – Discipline Your Thoughts

Stress and anxiety are at epidemic levels, taking their toll on our bodies and souls.  We seem to feel deeply unsatisfied in our lives, insecure about who we are, powerless to change, and desperate for any kind of escape – be it drugs, alcohol, sports, video games or Instagram.

The reasons for this are reportedly the pressure to achieve, a lack of close personal relationships, and the constant comparison with peers, which leaves us feeling miserable. The beauty industry and social media, I feel, are partly to blame.  I truly believe it is possible to use the internet to increase authentic, supportive, all-inclusive connections with others, and truly value each other for who we are, as we are.  But so often it is used to chase the high we get from “likes”, and leaves us feeling lonely and empty.  

So how do we pull ourselves out of this cycle?  I have a friend who was a fighter pilot. Obviously, being shot at while you are flying a complicated high-tech machine at 7000 mph can be somewhat stressful.  He taught me a technique in times of crisis that he calls “ice head”.  You imagine your head is ice and you block all other thoughts out, other than what is directly in front of you.  Is that difficult?  Sure. But it can be practiced, like anything else.

It’s funny how we place so much importance on discipline in other areas of our lives, from sports, nutrition and dieting, to work, school and keeping up our social media schedules. But when it comes to our thoughts, we tend to believe we have absolutely no control over them. We do! And what’s more, controlling those thoughts is an important key to your moods, motivation, energy and stress levels, which affects every other area of your life!

Let me give you an example. An ex-boyfriend of mine got himself into debt and then lost his job. Negative thinking kind of took over his life. Every day he would focus on, “I have no money. I have no money. The world is S&%t. I have no money”. You can imagine what this did to his motivation levels. He still to this day hasn’t pulled himself out of that situation. And it’s hard. I totally understand. When you have no money (no friends, no job, poor health, etc) it is very hard to put on a happy face. But what happens when we force ourselves to focus our thoughts instead on possible opportunities? We see hope, which completely changes our mood and energy levels, giving us the power to make changes to improve our situation. It snowballs. Thoughts become things, as they say.

How do we accomplish this? Meditation is about emptying our minds when a whirlwind of thoughts are circling. Disciplining your thoughts is about making a commitment to change. Every time a negative thought comes into your mind, force yourself to change it to a positive. Change obsessive thoughts about your problems into obsessive, dogged thoughts about solutions. Change thoughts about people who have hurt you, into thoughts of empathy, new relationships or projects. Rejection? Simply refuse to think about it! It’s your choice! Change the focus instead to finding new opportunities and things that inspire you.

Give it a week and see if disciplining your thoughts doesn’t snowball into less stress, more energy and positive action. Happiness is quite often a choice, and only one decision away.

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