Hey! Briana here. This is a guest post by my friend Jen from Diffusing the Tension. Enjoy!
Marcus Aurelius said, “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” Do you ever struggle to think positively? Do you feel consumed by unwanted negativity? Is your journey with mental illness making it difficult to see the silver lining?
One of the most powerful things I have learned in my nearly 25 year battle with depression is that my brain is constantly lying to me. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? It almost sounds like something I might blame myself for. Bad Jen! Stop letting your brain lie to you! But really it is a completely organic process, and out of our control. One of our brain’s primary functions is to deliver messages to our bodies. Many of these messages are products of years of societal or familial indoctrination. What do I mean by that?
We are sponges, especially when we’re young. We absorb everything we see happening around us, and these lessons mold us into the person we become as an adult. This can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. We can learn from a young age that we are smart, brave, and good at things. We can also be taught that we aren’t as smart as our peers, that we are supposed to be afraid of things, and that our older sister is just more talented. While mostly unintentional, these messages are damaging enough that they follow us into adulthood whether we realize it or not.
Our brain tells us things constantly. When we are mentally ill, it says, You are never going to stop being sad. You will always be tired. You will always be anxious. Your depression means you will never have a good sex life. The sooner that we can recognize that these are lies, the better!
This article (Click HERE) lists 10 reasons why staying positive is so important.
- Feel better (better outlook on life in general)
- Harmonious relationships
- Better coping skills
- More energy
- Great first impression
- Better health
- Motivation boost
- More courage
- Healthy self-esteem
- Fulfilling life
You can read the article linked above for more info, but as you can see, making an effort to think positively is life-changing. It can literally save your life. So, how can you manage that when you can barely find the strength to get off the couch?
Simply put, practice! Our brains may be liars, but they are also very, very smart. They are able to tell us the lies that they do because they soak up those messages time after time. Can you imagine what would happen if they soak up positive messages on a daily basis? What if instead of thinking to yourself everyday that you are stupid and incapable of being loved, you think, “I’m awesome, and totally loveable”? I think you would be surprised at the results.
Here is the exercise I want you to try:
- When you wake up in the morning, repeat the following: Today is going to be a good day.
- As you are looking in the mirror to brush teeth or comb hair, say: Today, I am happy with how I look.
- As you eat a healthy breakfast, say: I feel energized and ready to face my day.
If you’re looking for even more support with coping with mental health issues, check out my workbook, I’ve Got This! It’s a mini-workbook on coping with mental health issues and includes multiple worksheets to help you with taking steps forward in your mental health journey. Check out the I’ve Got This!, here!
This is a simple practice, and you can expand upon it throughout the day. (For example, as you are driving to work, say: I am safe and worry-free. Or, as you are playing with your possibly rambunctious children, say: Being a parent brings me joy.) Try this for 30 days. At first, it is going to seem strange, almost silly. Admittedly, it can feel corny to say these things out loud or even think them. But after a few weeks, they will begin to feel normal. Thirty days might not be enough time for your brain to accept them as fact, depending on the severity of your depression. If that is the case, do not give up. Keep going! Continue it for 60 days, or 90, or however long it takes before the routine no longer feels strange and you start to believe the affirmations.
Another practice that I really like is the “cancel cancel” thought process. I learned this from one of my mentors, and I have found it really effective. When you feel a negative thought come up, say: “Cancel cancel” or “delete delete.” Then, say, “That is an interesting thought, but…” and replace it with a positive alternative thought.
For example: “I wish I wasn’t so fat.” >> “Cancel cancel. That is an interesting thought, but my body has done remarkable things! I have given birth to 2 children, and they are healthy and happy. Without my body that wouldn’t have been possible.”
Challenge yourself to spend an entire day doing the “cancel cancel” exercise. If you forget, and a negative thought sneaks in there without an immediate replacement, that’s okay! Give yourself a little grace in this journey to self-improvement. After all, that’s what it is: a journey. It is not a skill you can learn overnight. Even the keenest minds need time to turn something into a habit. So be patient. Who knows? After a month or two, you might start waking up with a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and a positive thought in that lying brain of yours.
About the Author
Jen (the writer behind the blog, Diffusing the Tension) lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband and two children (ages 4 and 2). She has bipolar disorder and frequently writes about her experiences with that. In her spare time, she is a bookworm, TV junkie, and fitness nut. You can follow her on:
Facebook- Diffusing the Tension
Her blog- www.diffusingthetension.com