Friday, March 15, 2013

Of Mice and Minds

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  ~Albert Einstein

A few nights ago while having a conversation with my daughter we discussed how often thoughts enter our minds that seem to catch us off guard.  Occasionally, they come out of nowhere and can jilt us off our axis for a time.  My advice to her was that while we cannot always control the destructive thoughts that enter our minds, we certainly can decide how long we will allow them to stay.  As damaging as thoughts and ideas can be, we are not powerless against them and certainly do not have to be incapacitated by their invasive and uninvited nature. 

My mind wandered back a few years to a yearly cheer fundraiser of my daughter's high school squad.  From early spring until the garage sale in late August, we collected, stored, sorted and endured an  accumulation of “stuff” (I am being kind) from anyone who had anything to spare, give away or salvage from the donation heap.  Our garage yielded its purpose of storing and protecting our vehicles to, in turn, storing and protecting this “less than precious stuff.”  As is the case with accumulated items from cellars, basements, garages and sheds, there are oft-times unwanted and uninvited pests transported in tow.  During the wee hours of one summer morning I saw a mouse run from my food pantry and dodge under my refrigerator.  It took me less than ten seconds to realize this rodent party was over!!!  I could not help that they had been brought in with old sofas, chairs and boxes but I certainly decided right then and there how long they would stay in my home.

Experts were promptly called in, crevices were plugged and a variety of traps were set.  The evidence of these rodents became increasingly clear in broom closets, pantries and enclosed spaces.  We were mortified and disgusted by their presence in our home.  There was nothing more graphic or dramatic than when a trap snapped shut on a screaming little mouse (yes, it was screaming) while having a dinner party.  Our guests were horrified and needless to say, we all lost our appetites.  This is not the only vivid memory of rodent infestations I have had over the years.  As a child I remember going into our basement to get the fruitcake for our Christmas Eve celebration only to find a hole bored completely through it from a mouse.  Incidently, not an enormous loss in my opinion.  We had the leather seats of a recreational vehicle completely torn to shreds by mice while being stored during the off-season to reach a single peanut.  Why are they so pervasive, filthy and destructive and how in the world do they get through the tiniest of spaces to get where they are going?

There are not many of us that would allow these rodents to nest in our homes or our spaces without resistance and yet why is it that we will allow negative and destructive thoughts in our minds to completely take up residence, nest and reproduce?  There is science behind the power of  positive thinking and yet why do we still compare our worst with other's best, tell ourselves that we are no good and nothing beneficial will come our way and consider the worst case scenario about things that may never happen?     

In a book called Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. he suggests that negative thinking is quite often automatic and goes unnoticed.  We have poor brain habits that chose for us how we handle situations.  I will repeat, WE ARE NOT POWERLESS when it comes to allowing poor habits to cultivate a habitat for destructive thoughts and patterns or learning a different and better way to eliminate them.  Dr. Amen provides several suggestions for changing our patterns: 

1.        Surround yourself with people that provide positive bonding – Negative people rub off on you.  Positive people provide you with a sense of optimism and hope.

2.       Build people skills to increase a sense of connection – Nurture relationships to keep them strong.  Improving relationships is empowering.

3.       Recognize the importance of physical contact – Touch is critical to life itself.  Physical touch is crucial to good mental health.

4.       Surround yourself with great smells – Aromatherapy is the use of fragrances to affect our moods.  Smell and memory are processed in the same part of the brain.  Scents can trigger positive and happy memories.  Surrounding yourself with fragrances that make you feel happy can have a powerful effect on your brain and your sense of well-being.

5.       Build yourself a library of wonderful memories – We often times remember only things that are consistent with our moods. To change this pattern you need to remember good and happy memories which will actually change your brain chemistry.  Make a list of the ten happiest things you can remember in your life and then refer to them often.

6.       Consider medications to help your body normalize – some more serious situations require medical attention.  Talk to your doctor, he/she can help.

7.       Try physical exercise – the release of endorphins will produce a sense of well-being.

8.       Watch your nutrition – diets should be well balanced with protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats.  A diet too heavy in any of these areas can throw your body out of whack and can affect your moods.

I cannot help but think of the Thirteenth Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say we follow the admonition of Paul – We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.  If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

To seek after good, lovely and uplifting things is not to be prudish or sanctimonious but rather a hope to elevate us through worthy things to a state of positive mental and emotional well-being.  By seeking the good, the praiseworthy and the positive we can change our brain chemistry to help us be happier and avoid fear, anxiety, depression and helplessness.

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be.  If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it.  On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi
The Positivity Blog - 7Destructive Thought habits that can hold you back from living a happier life.


Chase and Ashley said...

This reminds me of a speech entitled "For Times of Trouble" by Jeffrey Holland. Speaking of discouragement and self-doubt he says, "I wish at the outset to make a distinction F. Scott Fitzgerald once made, that 'trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement—discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint.' Troubles we all have, but the 'germ' of discouragement, to use Fitzgerald’s word, is not in the trouble, it is in us...It’s frequently a small germ, hardly worth going to the Health Center for, but it will work and it will grow and it will spread. In fact it can become almost a habit, a way of living and thinking, and there the greatest damage is done. Then it takes an increasingly severe toll on our spirit, for it erodes the deepest religious commitments we can make—those of faith, and hope, and charity. We turn inward and look downward, and these greatest of Christlike virtues are damaged or at very least impaired. We become unhappy and soon make others unhappy, and before long Lucifer laughs.'

mk said...

Hi Teresa, I read your post because of Jaimie's comment. I loved it. There is a book I use with kids called The Optimistic Child that talks about all of these things. I try to tie all of my lessons to positive self talk. Also Virginia Pearce just wrote an amazing book. I think it is called "Through His Eyes". Might be wrong title, but she talks about cleaning out our "mental closet". I think you would like it. Anyway, I just wanted you to know I enjoyed what you wrote. Thanks for sharing.


Excellent post! Thank you for the inspiration!

Aubrey said...

I am way behind in reading blogs obviously. I really love this post. You are such a good writer, and I am so glad you started this blog.