Don’t believe everything you think

Mysteries of the mind

Sleep challenges are rampant these days and anxiety disorders are on the rise.

For many, it’s no wonder, because of the horror stories they pay homage to in their minds.

The body doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined, and many of our imaginings are horrendous.

As we spend time reviewing the problems and challenges of the day, our body responds as though the events are happening in real time. Bedtime stories are supposed to be the things sweet dreams are made of. Yet, for many, the mental dialogue is a horror story rather than a fairy tale.

We’re often our own Brothers Grimm. No wonder people are anxious and can’t sleep.

The last horror movie I watched was Silence of the Lambs way back in the early 1990s. I was jumpy for days after watching it and it affected my sleep for some time. Just the mention of Chianti or fava beans reminds me of the terror I felt while watching this movie.

This was the last such movie I watched because of its effect on me. Call me chicken if you like, but why would I expose myself to something that causes me to suffer? Since then, I avoid watching frightening movies, and take care when choosing TV programs. It’ called programming for a reason.

I also take care with the movie of my mind.

The importance of taking care of our mental hygiene is obvious when it comes to the TV programs and movies we watch, but may not be so apparent when it comes to the repeated thoughts we entertain in our mind.

People tell me they feel victimized by their minds and can’t seem to control the thoughts that pop into their minds. We don’t have to be victim to our minds. What we practise grows stronger. With awareness, we can rewire our brains and change the prevailing trend of our thoughts.

As I practised anxious thoughts years ago, I suffered. My mind felt out of control, and my body was constantly hit with jolts of adrenaline. It became a constant loop, and I could never rest.

My anxious thoughts frightened me, which only added more stress chemicals to the mix. I felt helpless, but I was the only one who could change things. Mindfulness practices were so helpful.

I used to take my thoughts so seriously, believing everything that rolled through my mind. I’d judge and criticize myself for having anxious or unkind thoughts. I’d experience guilt or shame just because of a thought. The thoughts, the guilt and shame, all activated the fight-or-flight response. I suffered. So did the people around me.

Relief came as I understood I am not my thoughts, and learned not to believe everything I think.

As I’ve learned to stand back from my thoughts and simply observe them, I realize how random and absurd they can be. I’ve learned to question my thoughts and recognize that many times I don’t even believe some of the stuff floating through my mind.

Who knows how it got there? I sure don’t.

I recognize while many thoughts float through my consciousness, I have control over which ones I choose to follow and feed.

For the most part, I let the crappy thoughts just float on by. I don’t give them any air time or feed them with emotion. Sometimes, I choose to just laugh at them. I crack myself up.

I’ve created a habit of ensuring that my last thoughts before sleep are happy ones.

I write in my gratitude journal before going to sleep. In reviewing the great things from the day, I bathe my mind and body in neuro-chemicals and hormones that support of health.

We don’t have to be victim to our thoughts, we can practise new ways of thinking. In doing so, we develop a tendency to pay greater attention to what supports our health, happiness and sleep.

Your mind will always believe what you tell it. Feed it good things, and your health will benefit.


We need more random acts of kindness at this time

Perfect antidote

I’m declaring this week to be Random Acts of Kindness week for all of my readers. Bold move, but we must. Let this virus contaminate the world!

Something is needed in our world, and it’s certainly not more of the fear, hatred, anger, and division we’ve been witnessing.

I was recently uplifted and inspired by a video-clip of singer/songwriter, Jann Arden, and students from the Doane USchool performing the song Try a Little Kindness. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

There was wisdom in the lyrics of the chorus being changed to reflect the possibility people today may be more broken-hearted about what’s happening in the world than narrow-minded, as was written in Glen Campbell’s original song.

It’s important to consider sadness and fear may be the source of much of the challenging behaviour we’re witnessing in the world today.

Someone needs to do something? We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Let’s show up in a way that reflects the world we want to live in. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

It seems there’s so much to fight about. People are dividing into camps and unfriending others on social media at lightning speed. In the face of all the upset, kindness is a radical act. Let’s be radicals together.

While Nov. 13th is World Kindness Day, and Feb. 17th is the official Random Acts of Kindness Day, we can all use a bit of the powerful tonic of kindness in our lives right now. There can never be too much.

Don’t mistake random acts of kindness (RAK) as some airy-fairy thing that’s just nice to do. Performing random acts of kindness offers great health benefits that may be the perfect antidote to what’s happening in the world today.

RAK are of interest in the scientific and psychological world today, as researchers delve into the benefits.

While recipients of kind acts benefit in a variety of ways, we don’t have to wait for them to happen to us. The greatest effects of RAK are experienced by those who perform such acts:

• Reduced depression & anxiety

• Increased self-worth & happiness

• Increased confidence

• Increased sense of personal connection

• Reduced stress hormones

• Decreased blood pressure & heart rate

• Increased heart health

• Decreased pain

• Increased cognitive function

• Strengthened immune system

• Increased energy

We can rewire our brains and reset our body chemistry for the better, as acts of caring find their way into our brains and bodies, and we make the world a better place.

My older brother, Dave, is the king of RAK. He’s amazing at seizing opportunities to perform acts of kindness, big and small. He inspires me to be on constant look-out for places where I can show up with kindness. Research shows successful people are found to incorporate kindness into their lives, and this is certainly true for him.

I love when he tells me about what he’s done, and just hearing the happiness in his voice brings me joy. We imagine together the positive ripple created by his caring actions and are both uplifted. I can feel the smiles coming across our daughters’ faces when I tell them about their uncle’s action. The virus spreads.

This uplifting effect isn’t an aberration, as research reveals even witnessing or hearing about acts of kindness benefits others. Others are uplifted and more likely to extend kindness, compounding the effects.

As research into the benefits of RAK continues, encouraging such acts is being considered as an intervention to support mental well-being.

Performing RAK can be as simple as:

• Sending a kind text to your friends

• Mail a handwritten card (they’re rare these days)

• Holding a door for another with a smile

• Offering a compliment

• Buying a coffee for the person behind you in the line-up

Kindness may be the perfect antidote for us all right now.

We should not be so hard on ourselves

Stop it!

We’d never speak to another the same way we speak to ourselves. Heck, I used to be kinder to our dog than I was to myself.

It’s like having a nasty critic living inside our minds, offering rude judgment and criticism at every turn.

I hear people speak the voice of the critic in the way they speak about themselves in conversation all too frequently. We even shame and criticize ourselves for the way we feel.

We’d have no friends left if we spoke to or about others the way we often speak about ourselves.

If we think being hard on ourselves is helpful to create positive change in our lives, we’re wrong.

While having the ability to take stock and determine areas in which we want to change or grow is helpful, it’s important to notice when the voice of the nasty critic enters in.

This critic isn’t helpful in creating lasting change in our lives. We can only bully ourselves into change for so long. The trail of failed resolutions is a result of a self-bullying mentality.

Negative self-talk engages the fight-or-flight response in our brains and bodies. Trying to shame ourselves out of our feelings often makes these feelings stronger; what we resist not only persists, but often grows in size according to psychologist Carl Jung.

Research shows we don’t learn or create lasting change when we’ve bullied or shamed ourselves because it activates the stress response. Our brains aren’t able to create new and lasting habits when the stress response is engaged. This is one reason many New Year resolutions fail.

We learn and change best in an atmosphere of safety and self-compassion.

According to Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, an attitude of self-compassion is an important ingredient to positive change.

Self-compassion isn’t putting blinders on. We won’t turn into unmotivated blobs when we’re compassionate with ourselves. Self-kindness even helps us to see challenging situations in our lives more clearly. Becoming a compassionate coach rather than chastising faultfinder supports successful outcomes.

I once had a large, internal committee of critics. I gave this committee a name I can’t mention here.

If I’d met such people in my life, I’d never hang out with them, yet I used to entertain them for long periods of time. Not only would I invite them in, but often I’d stay up all night listening to them.

It never felt good, but I did it anyway; it was my habit of mind.

Repetitive thoughts are just old, well-practiced neural pathways. They’re like ruts in a well-travelled road. We can get stuck in the ruts that take us to the same old places we’ve always travelled. When we have a habit of thinking negative thoughts about ourselves it becomes the default mode.

We can make new habits of thought. Stopping and noticing what we’re thinking and what we’re saying to ourselves is key.

I’ve long used an exercise that was helpful in changing the inner-critic to a compassionate coach. I call it Becoming Your Own Best-Friend.

• When you become aware of negative self-talk rolling through your brain, stop! Stop and notice how it feels.
• Don’t believe everything you think. You are not your thoughts. Just because you had a thought doesn’t mean it’s true.
• Once you catch yourself being self-abusive, ask yourself what you’d say to your own best-friend in the same circumstance. Would you call them lazy, stupid, fat, or a failure? Would you remind them of every time they’ve failed in the past? I doubt it.
• Instead, offer yourself the same compassion, encouragement, and advice you’d offer someone you care about.

According to psychologist, Elizabeth Scott, positive and motivational self-talk is the greater predictor of success. We do better when we encourage ourselves kindly.

Consider becoming your own best friend, being compassionate toward yourself, wanting the very best for yourself. You know how you’d coach or support your best friend, and then just do the same for yourself.

Research also shows learning to be compassionate with ourselves:

• Reduces the stress response
• Reduces anxiety and depression
• Increases happiness and optimism
• Improves our physical health
• Creates greater resiliency
• Increases our self-esteem
• Supports us in making and sustaining healthy changes
• Increases our tendency to be kinder to others

Consider firing your internal committee of critics and becoming a compassionate coach with yourself. Developing self-compassion engages what science is finding when it comes to creating lasting and positive change in your life.

Self-compassion and kindness are key to positive change.

Is a kinder world possible?

What’s happening to us?

We’re living through challenging times, for sure, and our stress is showing.

There are many loud voices these days, each side trying to shout, shame, and ridicule the other side down.

Whether it’s about COVID, the election, or one of the other issues confronting society today, bullying, shaming, name-calling, and threats of violence seem to be escalating. In a stressed society, there seems to be so much to fight about.

Recently, in an endeavour to educate myself about various candidates’ platforms for the upcoming election, I was stopped cold in my tracks.

The vast majority of comments posted in response to candidates’ platform statements were attacks and name-calling, without adding anything constructive to the conversation. It was like listening to bullies in the school yard, each trying to out-shout and belittle the other. I’m sure the anonymity provided by social media makes it easier to ridicule and attack.

It was interesting how much of the ridicule was personal, not focussed on the topic at hand, and became about taking personal shots at people, instead of the issues. Deriding a person’s age, gender, intelligence, or ethnicity has nothing to do with the greater issues.

While I don’t want to sound naïve or moralistic, I have to question if a hateful modus-operandi does anything to help us solve our problems to create a better society. Or, will it be the loudest and the rudest voices that win?

It’s easy to get pulled into the fray, as the animalistic parts of our brains begin to fire at perceived attack. But when this happens, the fight-flight-freeze-or-fade response is activated, and the rational part of our brain goes offline. We say and do things we’d never do under normal circumstances and we don’t bring our best selves to the conversation.

With so much reason for division, we can all get triggered. When I do, I’ve found it very helpful to remember to pause, and take a few deep breaths before responding. I’ve found pausing to calm myself allows me to bring a clearer mind to help me engage in meaningful conversation.

It seems it’s becoming more common for us to shout about what we disagree with than to lend our voices to what we support. I’m compassionately curious if this is a symptom of the great uncertainty of our times, yet know it’s not how we’ll arrive at a solution we can live with.

It’s vital we become clearer about what we stand for rather than what we stand against. I’m curious about how our society would look if we put greater energy into supporting what we want, to those things we support, than into trying to tear down what we don’t want.

If we’re unclear about what we actually want to create in our society, sound advice that’s served me well is to look at what I don’t want first, and then turn 180 degrees in the opposite direction. That’s where I’ll find my answer.

I’ve long subscribed to the wisdom of Mother Teresa, who is quoted as saying, “I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.”

No wonder I love Jewel’s song lyric, “No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.”

I’m curious about how our world would look if we spent more time building up what we believe in rather than trying to tear down what we oppose.

I believe we’d create a kinder world, the one most of us would like to live in.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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