By all means have thoughts,
But take care what you think!
Then the good ones will grow,
And the bad ones will shrink.
When we are alone, it is our own thoughts that shout the loudest. They dominate our inner world and play a crucial role in regulating our feelings and emotions. This in turn effects our state of mind and how we live day-to-day; from our expectations, judgements, opinions and behaviour to basic decision making and the way we interact with others. Though this seems obvious, I think it is also profound: our thoughts shape how we experience life.
It is also important to be aware that not all thoughts are created equal. Their scale and power depends on their frequency, how much we invest in them and the strength of emotion or feeling they attract. Our minds are the control centre of everything, and for every outside effect we perceive there lies an inner cause somewhere. In this way, our thoughts are essentially the touchstone for how we interpret and make sense of reality.
Our thoughts are powerful then. So what can we do with that knowledge?
Well, for one thing this can be hugely beneficial if we have thoughts that validate, motivate and inspire us. They have helped humans make achievements beyond what many imagined possible, such as travelling into space or designing incredible works of art. Practically everything you see around you can be attributed to a thought inside someone’s head at one time.
On the other hand, if our thoughts become highly self-critical or negative they can have a detrimental impact on our judgements, self-evaluation and mental wellbeing, as well as how we perceive the world. In my own experience I found that during the times when I was critically unwell my thinking tended to be centralised around a fixed point of orbit- almost like a planet. The difference here is that the planet represented the negative and distressing beliefs I held.
Over time these beliefs gained an increasingly huge gravitational power by only pulling in thoughts which were similarly negative and reinforced their authority. Everything else (a whole universe of infinite alternative perspectives) was left to pass by and so remained outside of my conscious awareness and attention. I was essentially filtering the world through a lens of low self-worth and hopelessness.
I didn’t realise for many years how much my own thinking was creating a narrative for my life. My thoughts weren’t just afflicting me: they were my affliction. By reinvesting all my time and mental energy in them, I had unwittingly constructed an oppressive, giant and all-mighty planet in my mind which kept me stuck revolving endlessly around it. This is how my depression gained dominance and shrunk my world down to only exist within its vortex of self-loathing and despair.
I believed that the world needed to be different in order for me to get better and somehow recovery would just happen. But since my external reality was simply a mirrored reflection of my inner world, changing my life had to begin inside. This is why my mental illness managed to survive for so long. I had to acknowledge that my depression was not something separate from my thoughts, it began within them. We usually assume that the world exists outside of ourselves, when in fact much more of it is rooted in our heads than we realise. And this brings me to the core of my message..
Your thoughts manifest themselves in nearly everything you see, feel and do. They are who you are. They are also your greatest power at your own disposal. If you can bring them under your conscious control, you can transform the way you experience life. My reality starts in my mind – which is why I keep the thoughts that live inside it positive, progressive and deliberate. If I have learnt anything from my long battle with mental health that could benefit every individual, regardless of age or circumstance, it is thus:
Look after your thoughts and they will look after of you.