All of us on Facebook see that question multiple times a day. We pay little attention to what it’s really asking us. Because the answer to that question isn’t as simple as it might seem. The Laboratory of Neuro Imaging estimates we think about 70,000 thoughts a day. “What’s on my mind?” Apparently so many things!
We live in an age where most of our stress comes from our thoughts, and chronic stress wreaks havoc on our cellular well-being. I have found this out the hard way! The bottom line is that our thoughts matter.
We have all had days where our thoughts have been off. Like, “killing-me-softly-John Wayne-slow death” off. One thought leads to another and we find ourselves in a place we don’t even recognize. “How was your day, babe?” Oh dear.
Most of us get tripped up when we are unaware what we are thinking and how we have been influenced. I was recently talking with friends about how social media affects our thinking. One admitted she complained to her husband that they were the only family she knew that had never gone hiking. “You’ve been on Facebook, haven’t you?” he asked. Others joined in with similar stories. All of us can fall prey to comparison, from content to dissatisfied in a heartbeat. And we often don’t even recognize what happened.
But aren’t we smarter than making conclusions based on status updates and one-off pictures? Research suggests that we are born with a desire to evaluate ourselves, and we don’t get test grades on how we are doing with relationships, work, parenting, and other responsibilities. So we find other ways.
In You are the Placebo, author Joe Dispenza argues that competition is among our basic survival emotions. Survival emotions are selfish; their primary concern is safety. As we scroll the highlight reel of Facebook, they let us know where we may not be “winning.” Haven’t we all experienced a time where we were left with a sense of not measuring up after being on social media? It’s just our internal grading system wanting us to know that the competition may be out in front.
A couple practices can help us through the potential minefield of negative and comparative thoughts that become part of the 70,000 that flood us on a daily basis–thoughts that contribute to stress and, ultimately, lack of wholeness and well-being.
- We can recognize that our ego is always protecting us. As those who want to champion, support, and encourage others, we need to periodically check for thoughts that can make us competitive. Our ego isn’t concerned about logic; it’s concerned about survival.
- We can spend time each morning meditating on ideas that cause us to think positively. New brain cells are generated while we sleep. They don’t need yesterday’s thoughts giving them wings. Being aware of thoughts first thing gives us a better chance of thinking about things that are inspiring, positive, and beautiful.
- We can create habits that help us think differently. If something has been occupying all our attention, maybe a wide-angle perspective would be helpful. There is always way more happening around us than what we see in that one frame. We might just need to take 10 minutes and switch out our lens.
- We can breathe fresh thoughts into our being. When my thoughts become negative or overwhelming, I am learning to stop and breathe thoughts that help me shift. “I have more than enough for this moment.” “There is beauty all around me.” As I breathe in, I allow the positive thoughts to displace the others. I exhale all that is not helpful, trusting that those thoughts are physically leaving my body.
I have to set my mind on the good, the beautiful, the positive–even before I get out of bed. That gives opportunity for thoughts that include gratitude, kindness, compassion, and patience. They are always a good idea. Positive thoughts not only influence our well-being, they influence the well-being of those we touch. Every single day.
“What’s on your mind?” A question we need to ask all day long.