I think the most important lesson I learned in the past months is that I could control my mind.
The first time I read it, I thought to myself “Bullcrap.” My mind was a dark, dangerous place. I liken my fear of it to Macauley Caulkin’s fear of the furnace in the basement in Home Alone. My fear was justified. Imagine how terrifying it is to be left in the fetal position on your bedroom floor, crying your eyes out, feeling like someone just literally kicked my butt as a result of your own thoughts. The idea that I could not only face my mind, but actually conquer and control it? Nah. I needed hardcore evidence to buy into that.
But as I paid more attention to study the mind and myself, I eventually understood. The mind works like a computer and controlling it is a game of input and output. In the long run, your thoughts will shape your reality so mental wellness relies upon ones ability to keep their mind in check. It requires that you square up with your mind and proudly proclaim: “You’re not the boss of me.”
As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, not all thoughts are truths. And some thoughts are not only unproductive, but poisonous. The key to recognizing poisonous thoughts is observing your thought process. When I find myself in a bad mood, I try to step outside of my emotions and ask myself “How did I get here?” At the root of that mood is a single thought that I've allowed to spiral out of control. For example:
What am I going to eat for dinner? I could go out for fast food or I could go to the grocery store and grab something I can cook. I really don’t feel like cooking though, and I eat too much fast food as it is. Okay, I need to go to the store. But I don’t feel like going to the store. God, I’m so lazy. A lazy ass bum. What kind of adult can’t cook a meal? This is why I’ll never amount to crap. You know what? Screw it. Since I’m can’t go to the grocery store and cook a meal like an adult, I won’t get any fast food either. I’ll just go to sleep without eating dinner at all. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
Now notice, the brain can make this completely illogical rant appear to make sense. As if going to bed hungry is somehow the best solution here. So where did this train of thought go wrong? The answer: “God, I’m so lazy. A lazy ass bum.” With that thought, I've changed this dialogue from an inquiry about a meal to an attack on my self-esteem. There were other ways to handle this situation. I could have said “I know I don’t feel like going to the store, but it’s not really that tedious of a process. I’ll just go grab something I can whip up real quick” or “Okay, I’ll do fast food tonight, but tomorrow I’ll cook something.” That way I avoid the mental lashing and manage to go to bed on a full stomach.
The key to controlling my thoughts: any thought that makes me feel bad about myself has got to go.
Occasionally, my mind still spirals out of control and it takes some time for me to reel it back in. Most of the time, however, I’m pretty good at stopping the spiral. There are times when I will notice things going downward and literally stop and say out loud “Hey. Shut the the hell up.” Now that may make me look a little crazy, but that’s a sacrifice I’ll make for keeping the real crazy at bay.