“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.” ~Buddha
My morning bicycle ride had been uneventful until I spotted a small lump in the middle of the bike path. It wasn’t a twig, a dead mouse, or a smelly “gift” from a dog, which are some of the most common sightings during my rides.
It was a perfect, intact slice of bread.
In a nanosecond, my mind created several versions of how this piece of bread had ended up where it was.
I pictured a young mother pushing a stroller and her two-year-old tossing the bread out to the side. But no one in her right mind would give a whole slice of bread without butter or jam to a picky toddler.
“Well,” I said to myself, “Maybe this was the woman’s first child, and she had no clue what to feed little children.” Now, this woman’s poor choices had resulted in perfectly good food being wasted.
My mind then traveled to countries where a good slice of bread (or any kind of food) is very hard to find, and I started to feel anger.
That’s when a voice inside told me, “There you go again, making up stories in your head.” I chuckled at my crazy imagination. And that’s when it hit me: We all create stories in our head, and many of these stories make our lives miserable.
I used to be a pro at assuming the worst.
I remember being upset that a friend seemed to be ignoring me and hadn’t returned my emails, until I realized I had been sending the messages to her old (and inactive) address.
I recall the time I paid an evening visit to Wal-Mart, and when I spotted a man running in my direction in the parking lot, I thought I was going to be attacked. The man only wanted to ask for a couple of dollars because his motorcycle had run out of gas.
I remember a time in my life in which all the pieces were falling perfectly into place, and instead of rejoicing in the moment, I wondered when the next disaster would happen because life couldn’t be so good.
The stories in our head are courtesy of our subconscious mind, which has been programmed since the moment of our conception. But without going into the technicality of how our subconscious mind is programmed, what matters is that we make our own reality.
So how do we know when we’re judging things correctly or when our mind is playing tricks? The answer is, we don’t know.
But we can learn to reprogram our subconscious mind. We can deactivate the programs that lead to unhappiness and replace them with uplifting thoughts of love.
How do we reprogram the subconscious mind? The following have worked well for me:
Become aware and inquisitive.
Every time a thought that produces a negative emotion pops into your head, contemplate the origin of this thought and question the validity of it. Remember that beliefs are nothing more than repeated thoughts, so question your beliefs as well.
Feed positive programs to your mind.
Once you’re aware of a negative story in your head, replace it with its positive counterpart.
In my case, I could’ve chosen to think that my friend wasn’t receiving my emails, and called her instead of insisting on sending more emails. I could’ve also assumed the man who asked for money had good intentions, and that my life could actually be good and joyful.
Make your environment positive.
Surround yourself with peaceful, uplifting stimuli. Instead of going out to the bar to yell to be heard and to get drunk, meet up with friends for dinner and make real connections. Instead of watching the disasters in the news, go out for a walk in nature.
Associate with positive people.
Think of your current relationships, and define whether some of those people are feeding negative programs to your subconscious mind. Send the toxic people away from your life, and welcome those who share your values and love you for who you really are.
Changing the crazy thoughts in your head requires attention and practice, but once you’ve made progress, you’ll notice how amazing life turns out to be. As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Photo by Marcos Dias