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.

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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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