There is a lot of talk about how our thoughts have a huge impact on our lives. From ancient masters of different religions to modern self-help books - they all tell us that what we think determines our lives.
I've been hearing this for many years, and I remember not really understanding what it meant. It seems foolish now that I didn't understand, but to be honest, no one really explained it all that well. I suppose it should be common knowledge, but I'm sure that it is not so evident to some people, so I'm going to explain as logically as possible how our thoughts affect our lives. Maybe I can spare some people the painful experiences I had to go through.
The first hypothesis I was faced with was the law of attraction type assumption that what you think will happen to you. This is one of the reasons I chose to write this article - there are so many assumptions out there that one can be confused by and just abandon the whole teaching altogether, because it makes us think that none of it makes sense.
This hypothesis states that whatever you think, you bring in your life. In the movie "The Secret" a man is shown who put up a picture on his "dream board" of a house he wanted to live in, and many years later he bought the exact same house without even realizing it. All because he was looking at the picture of the house every single day, imagining it in his mind, and this hypothesis suggests that by doing so, you can manifest anything in your life.
As a person with anxiety, this hypothesis made me very uncomfortable. I was thinking negative thoughts all the time that made me anxious and panic, and the thought that said whatever I think will manifest made me even more anxious. So does that mean that if I think I'll go crazy I actually will? What a harmful thing to teach people.
It took me a long time to realize why it wasn't true, and what the "thoughts impact your life" saying actually meant. Needless to say it took me years of painful experiences that I used to learn from later on.
What we think will not manifest in our lives exactly the same way we think. As I like to say, we cannot think life. But how we think does determine the world we see. Confusing, isn't it?
I will illustrate with an example how our thoughts really affect us. Let's say we're thinking positively, we got that picture of our dream home up on our wall and working hard every day to imagine it manifesting in our lives. What happens? We believe that we can get that dream house one day, which gives us hope and self-confidence. This hope and self-confidence makes us happy and maybe even causes us to work harder, eventually allowing us to actually buy that dream house.
You see how that worked? In the end we actually reached that dream house, but the important thing is how we did it. We didn't do it because our thoughts somehow magically manifested themselves in our lives, but because of how our thoughts and beliefs made us feel.
That's the whole point of positive thinking - it makes you feel good.
There's nothing wrong with that, but if we want to understand ourselves, it's important to look behind our thought processes and see how they truly affect us. Positive thinking is not a bad thing, but some of us might want to avoid the non-sense that comes with it these days.
The thought that actually helped me a lot while I was recovering from anxiety was "calm down, it's just a thought." It seems like the exact opposite, right? But it's actually really important to know what thoughts can and can't do to us.
A negative thought cannot hurt us in the exact same way we think. Thinking we will become ill will not make us become ill, but it will make us feel anxious and sad. A negative thought affects us in ways we are not thinking about. When a negative thought got a hold of me I just told myself that "it's just a thought," and that helped me let it go, because I knew that it had nothing to do with reality.
Later on, I actually realized that what I think will probably never come true, and I developed a very soothing reactions to my thoughts: if I thought about something, I knew that it will probably never happen. Because let's be honest: when do our thoughts actually come true? This realization made it easy for me to let go of my thoughts and live my life the way I wanted.
Negative thoughts make us sad and positive ones make us happy, but neither of them are closer to the truth. Neither of them has a bigger chance of happening, so let's understand how our thoughts affect our moods and attitudes, then let's let them go and live the life that actually is before us in the present moment, and let's be the people we want to be.
"Here is a new spiritual practice for you: don't take your thoughts so seriously." - Eckhart Tolle