Working With Your Thoughts
Our thoughts are powerful things, and they can very directly impact our state of mind, our level of motivation, as well as the way in which we view the world. Are you aware of your habits when it comes to your patterns of thinking?
We've all probably had the experience of allowing our thoughts to wander, and then realizing that ten or twenty minutes have gone by and we've meandered down a negative path of thinking that has completely changed our mood and the course of our day. While this may sound like a form of daydreaming, it can also reflect a form of undisciplined rumination that can have a very negative impact if we allow it to happen on a regular basis.
It's one thing to let your mind wander unencumbered by any "editing" from your conscious mind. However, when you allow your thoughts to basically run the show and settle into negative places that have no (apparent) intrinsic value, you can easily get into trouble.
An example might be the following:
Your have a fasting blood sugar of 187 one morning, and you feel bad about it. You then sit on the couch and begin to review your dietary indiscretions from the night before and realize that you actually made some pretty poor choices at dinner, thus the high fasting sugar this morning.
Now, in a healthy and balanced state of mind, you might think to yourself, "Boy, I really went wild last night. I haven't done that in a long time. It was fun, but now I need to get it together and get back on track. I had a good time, and one fasting sugar isn't going to kill me as long as I don't do that again for a while!"
This is a very healthy response and shows good self-awareness. It is also apparent that there's a solid sense of self-compassion and a plan for positive action without beating yourself up too badly in the process.
In a less health and balanced state of mind, you might think to yourself: "Boy, I really went wild last night. I remember I did the same thing last Thanksgiving and I really paid for it. I hate when I do that--and the consequences always set me way back. I'm so stupid. Dad always said I make poor choices and then don't worry about the consequences until it's too late. Maybe he's right. Maybe I'm just stupid. Or maybe I really don't want to be healthy. Mom died after not taking care of herself and here I am doing the same thing. Did I really think I could get away with it? Dr. Smith is gonna kill me! I bet my A1c is going to hell in a handbasket. I have no self control. I'm a loser. Maybe I should just give up now. Why should I even bother when I can't go out with friends without making such bad choices? I hate myself and my life. I should just stop going out altogether."
Do you see the difference? In example one, the person in question makes a poor choice, acknowledges it, gives him- or herself a gentle talking to, and then makes a plan for positive action to correct the mistake that was made. This is positive self-talk and shows great self-compassion.
In example two, the individual allows his or her train of thought to run wild, ruminating on the mistake and then bringing negative memories of a critical parent to reinforce poor self-image. Judgment is then projected onto the doctor and the entire future of the individual's very health is brought into question. This is negative rumination that, when it continues unchecked or unchallenged, can create patterns of pervasive thought that can really do psychic damage.
Good self-care does not just include exercise, diet, sleep hygiene and nutritional supplements. I would consider working with your thoughts as "mental hygiene", and it's important to allow your thoughts their airtime without giving them permission to run--or ruin--your life.
If the second example speaks to you of the way in which you sometimes allow your thoughts to run roughshod over your mental and emotional well-being and sense of inner balance, then watching your thoughts and consciously working with them is a good place to begin.
It's fine to let your mind wander, but when negative rumination is the order of the day--as well as self-blame and self-recrimination--then paying a little more attention to what your thoughts are doing will go a long way towards improved self-worth and emotional well-being.