I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I’ve been thinking about. I don’t know if this is the case for you, but my mind can follow a squirrel or bright shiny object into the next dimension in no time flat.
A friend recently told me she struggles with cooking because of attention deficit disorder. As soon as she steps away from the recipe to crack an egg or measure out a teaspoon of vanilla, she forgets what she was in the process of making. I feel her pain. And so does my family. Just ask them about the two times I’ve made lasagna and forgot to add the lasagna noodles.
The other night I made taco soup in the Crock-Pot. Beef, beans, corn, tomatoes … Saul took one sniff and said, “Chili!” to which I quickly corrected him, “It’s taco soup. I hate chili.” Then my in-laws walked in, peeked in the Crock-Pot and proclaimed, “Chili!” It’s taco soup, people …
I digress. What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Thoughts.
When it’s just a matter of getting confused in the kitchen, it’s sort of funny, but sometimes I allow my brain to wallow in matters that are (at best) unproductive and (at worst) harmful to my mental health.
Do you ever find yourself role-playing an angry hypothetical argument about a situation that will probably never present itself in real life? I stand in the shower and think, “If I get another telemarketing call on my cellphone, I am totally going to let them have it!” Then I play out the whole conversation in my mind where I am smart and cutting and … well, mean. I have just chewed someone up in my thoughts and instead of emerging victorious, I end up feeling badly for something that never even happened. I don’t want to be someone who gets caught up in bitterness and resentment and ego. I want to be kind.
Maybe it’s worry that overtakes your mind. That’s a tough one, because there are so many options. You can worry about your health or your children or your neighbor or your finances or your neighbor’s finances. I can spend hours mulling over what I would do if I found out I had cancer in the other breast. Yes, I come up with a whole game plan, but I’ve also just worked myself into such a state that I don’t have the energy to do anything productive. I need a nap.
I’ve been studying a lot about thoughts lately. Joyce Meyer is one of the best authors I’ve come across when it comes to thinking. Her book, “Battlefield of the Mind,” is one of my longtime favorites. Also on my bookshelf is “The Mind Connection: How the Thoughts You Choose Affect Your Mood, Behavior, and Decisions,” and two more books called “Power Thoughts” and “Change Your Words, Change Your Life: Understanding the Power of Every Word You Speak.”
Basically, it boils down to this: Realize you have the power to control your thoughts. I didn’t believe it until I tried it, but boy, my world totally opened up several years ago when I first gave it a try.
For me, I simply started by thinking about my thoughts. When a thought entered my brain, I would either accept it or reject it. I would literally say, “I reject that thought” when it was a worrying or wandering thought. If it didn’t hold a specific purpose for positivity, I threw it out.
But here’s the big thing — you have to decide ahead of time what you’re going to use to replace your negative thoughts. You can’t just tell them to go away without giving your mind a new, positive focus.
You may have to find your own replacement thought, but here was mine: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
I memorized the fruits of the Spirit from the Bible (Galatians 5:22-23) and counted out all nine of them every time my brain wanted to worry.
It immediately calmed and preoccupied me until whatever negativity I was producing in my mind passed.
Here it is again: 1) Say, “I reject that thought.” 2) Start thinking your predetermined replacement thought.
I’m forcing myself to follow these steps again, too. My world is filled with so much joy and peace that I often get complacent, so when a little bump in the road comes along, I allow my brain to stretch it way out of proportion or start running after some fictional scenario.
I need a tuneup, and since I was thinking of giving myself a talking-to, I thought I’d see if you needed one, too.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.