It was while I was outside under the beating summer sun pulling weeds that I grumbled and thought, “isn’t it lovely how quickly these grow, spread, and dominate this garden bed?” Of course with the most sarcasm I could muster as I contemplated if it was even worthwhile, how long would it be before their casted seeds sprouted up between the faded mulch? Maybe a week or two if I was lucky?
Our minds are exactly like a fertile garden. Our negativity symbolically represented by weeds. How quickly negativity grows like a weed, not only flourishing faster than any plant around it, but starving everything around it of crucial nutrients needed for their own growth. It only takes one seed riding the wind to fly into our garden, nestle itself upon the dewy soil and take hold. It doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering: one snarky comment from a stranger in line, our alarm not sounding off on the day of our biggest conference at work, our child throwing the dinner we slaved over onto the already dirty floor, our own self-doubt, a family member’s loose lips uttering a lie. And yet our emotions immediately take flight and ride that negativity into the next unfortunate moment where our thoughts continue to spiral down the rabbit hole.
We have to fight for a beautiful, fruit-bearing garden. We have to combat the negativity that grows and spreads its seeds so quickly that before we know it we have sworn off this day as a “bad day,” a total loss, and piled our hopes for today onto tomorrow. We have to be conscious of our thoughts in order to bear the fruit of joy, peace, motivation, patience. You name it. It isn’t easy. We aren’t all born with green thumbs, or psychologically, a solid foundation/background to be inclined to positive thinking. According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California, “the average person has about 48.6 thoughts per minute, that adds up to a total of 70,000 thoughts per day.” 48 thoughts per minute. So you can imagine how one negative transaction lasting a mere minute can affect the next half hour, which easily could breed more negative thoughts as our reflection of that horrible incident leaps into other areas of our life that we feel isn’t exactly stacking up at the moment.
A person cuts you off on your way to work or to pick up the kids from school. “Great now this ______ (insert insulting name) thinks they can just weasel their way in front of my car. Now I’m going to be late as they drive 10 under the speed limit. I hope my boss/the kids aren’t going to notice.” And then your thoughts can race into contemplating everything from how content you are at that job to how overextended you feel from racing from this commitment to that one. It is exhausting. When I suffered from depression and anxiety, I felt the gravitation pull of that weight that I carried wear heavily on my shoulders, my back having increased muscle spasms, each step I took feeling like I was trudging through quicksand, even my eyelids felt heavier. When we are at peace, we have clarity, we don’t feel a physical weight upon us, our health is better, our thoughts are clearer because they aren’t cluttered with racing negativity.
We all know we should think more positively, despite the stones lying in the path that we walk every single day, ready to trip us and set us off course. But why does it feel like such a battle? What can we do to simplify it and quickly overcome those minute slip-ups that suddenly turn into treacherous mountains?
To be honest, changing something we subconsciously are wired to do isn’t exactly simple, but the benefits are immeasurable as it affects not only our mental health but our physical health. Here are a few steps that might lighten the weight upon your shoulders, the negativity causing those weeds to starve the growth in your life:
- Live in mindful awareness. Live in this very moment, being aware of the five senses of this very moment. And if something unfortunate does occur, let it stay in this moment by being conscious of the five senses in the next. It almost feels meditative, but it constrains your focus to this moment, leaving that unruly driver, or that unjustly critical comment in the prior. I will actually be writing an entirely separate post on this very topic soon as it is so important.
- Let go of the past. Choose to continually, constantly forgive that person and/or yourself. Forgiveness is not instantaneous and permanent, but often something we have to consciously decide to do over and over. We do it more for ourselves than for anyone else.
- Give yourself and others grace. We are only flawed human beings. It doesn’t make everything 100% instantly acceptable, but it does say “I’m not going to let this steal my peace and joy when in the scheme of things (my entire life) this isn’t worth it.”
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. I have to remind myself of this somedays more often than others. When my husband teases me but I am not in the best mood, or my toddler throws his soccer ball in my direction and it hits me in the back of my head. Take the moment in, then breathe. It was harmless, tell your subconscious to back up and lift the finger off of the nuclear missile launch. Which leads me to the next one..
- Learn to laugh it off. Not everything can be so easily dismissed, trust me, I know that very well. But, if it is something minuscular like a spat with your family member or friend, make them laugh that very next moment so that you can make yourself smile and laugh as well. Look into their face and see what you fell in love with in the first place.
- Remind yourself, “life is too short.” Yes, that phrase is overused to the point of being cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true and appropriate.
When we water the seeds that bear fruit–investing our thoughts, energy and emotions into positive thinking–we allow ourselves to prosper, grow, exceed our own expectations for ourselves, accomplish those hopes and dreams we thought were beyond us. Your life and happiness are worth the conscious effort.