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What We Choose to Focus on Gets Bigger

Have you noticed that whatever thoughts you “chew on” keep getting bigger and bigger in your life? This works sometimes to our benefit and sometimes to our detriment.

For example, say you are preoccupied and overfocused on a perceived failure you experienced recently. Maybe you had a presentation for work and you feel like you blew it. If every day at work you are thinking about how you bit it in your last presentation, the feelings that result from that repetitive thought will get bigger and bigger- more intense and more frequent to the point it may bring on anxiety or even have a profound negative effect on your daily job performance.

However, say you choose to focus your thoughts on something you are grateful for. Every morning you wake up, you form a habit of choosing three things (or people) that you feel really thankful for and you “chew on” those thoughts.

If the thoughts you ruminate on are the latter, what you will likely notice is a feeling that could be described more as calm or content. You may notice physiologically that your body feels relaxed and your breath feels more full as you contemplate what you feel grateful for.

This is not your imagination. When we dwell on negative or inaccurate thoughts, we will produce hormones that cause us to feel stressed, anxious, inadequate or unhappy.

When we dwell on positive or more accurate thoughts, we produce the good hormones (happy neurochemicals) that produce an entirely different feeling in both our mind and body.

So really, the obvious question becomes, how do you want to feel? And how willing are you to slow down, form more awareness around your thinking, so that you can actually help yourself feel better- potentially more energetic, content, satisfied and less stressed and anxious?

We can thank neuroscientists and the great brain research that has emerged out of even the last twenty years or so that help us understand neuroplasticity- the fancy way of saying we are not stuck with the brain we have!

To be clear, this is not about ignoring negative or dissatisfying experiences and feelings. It’s about speaking truth to yourself in the moment. An example might sound like “ It is true I feel like I flubbed that last presentation. I don’t like the way this feels so I will ask a trusted colleague where they saw my strong points and where they think I can improve so I can feel better about the next presentation.”

We can learn to speak truth to ourselves without berating or condemning ourselves. It may take practice to catch the relentless negative or critical thoughts you may regularly have, but once you do, you can intervene with accurate thoughts to chew on every time.

What we think about the most gets larger and larger and begins to develop a life of its own.

Be sure that the thoughts you allow to take up prime time and space in your brain are accurate ones. Want to feel better; less stressed, less anxious and more energetic, positive and motivated? Start with the matter between your ears and watch what happens when you focus your efforts on controlling your thoughts.

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