Sleep challenges are rampant these days, anxiety disorders are on the rise. For some, it’s no wonder, because of the horror stories they pay homage to in their minds.
The body doesn’t know the difference between what’s 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, our mental dialogue is more reminiscent of a horror story than a fairy tale. We’re often our own Brothers Grim. No wonder people are anxious and can’t sleep.
Paying attention to our mental hygiene is imperative. I avoid watching frightening movies and take care when choosing television programs.
I also take care with the movies of my mind. The importance of taking care of our mental diet is obvious when it comes to the television programs and movies we watch, but it may not be as apparent when it comes to the repeated thoughts we entertain in our mind.
People tell me they feel victim to their minds and they can’t seem to control the thoughts that pop into their heads. We don’t have to be victims to our minds. What we practice grows stronger. With awareness, we can rewire our brains and change the prevailing trend of our thoughts.
As I practiced anxious thoughts years ago, I suffered. My mind felt out of control and my body was constantly hit with jolts of adrenaline. My anxious thoughts frightened me. I developed anxiety about my anxiety. That 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, judging and criticizing myself for having anxious or unkind thoughts. I’d experience guilt or shame just because of a thought.
The thoughts, with the added guilt and shame, all activated the fight-or-flight response. It was most unpleasant, and I suffered. So did those around me.
Relief came as I understood I am not my thoughts, and I learned not to believe everything I think.
As I’ve learned to stand back from my thoughts and simply observe them, I realized how random and absurd they could 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.
When it comes to which thoughts I choose to give power to, I recognize while many thoughts float through my consciousness, I have control over which ones I choose to follow.
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 emotions. Sometimes, I choose to just laugh at them.
I’ve created a habit of ensuring the last thoughts I hold in preparing for sleep are happy ones. I have a long-standing habit of writing in my gratitude journal before going to sleep. In reviewing the great things from the day, I am bathing my mind and body in neurochemicals and hormones supportive of health.
For added boost, I go beyond merely making a list of what I’m grateful for and deepen the experience by considering the reasons, or why, I am grateful. This allows me to experience a deeply felt-sense of gratitude that’s a balm to soothe me into sleep.
We don’t have to be victim to our thoughts, we can practice 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.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.