Any time I hear someone say “I think”, I’m tempted to challenge it. Not because I’m wanting a fight (being a total conflict avoider by nature), but simply because most of us don’t know how to think. We don’t even know where thought comes from. And neither of those shortcomings are our fault.
Let’s start with the second assertion: The origin of thought is unknown.
Despite all the marvelous discoveries of neuroscience, there is not a part of the brain we can point to (for example, the prefrontal cortex) and say, “thought originates here!” And even though our thoughts can often seem to follow a repetitive, predictable pattern, how this happens continues to baffle scientists and philosophers. (We’re not gonna solve it here, so let’s go back to the point about not knowing how to think.)
This second enigma has fascinated me for years, since I personally wanted to figure out how to think differently — how to direct or redirect my thoughts toward what I desire (instead of the hogwash I can so easily get caught up in). I wanted (and still want) to be able to CHOOSE the thoughts I accept and act upon.
And thank goodness we don’t have to act on all our thought impulses or accept them as fact. I’m super grateful for this, because sometimes I have the most random and seemingly crazy thoughts come to me, such as, “What if I stand up as this plane is taking off? What would the flight attendants do? Is there a protocol for something like that?” Luckily, I don’t act on stuff like that. 😉
But what about the thoughts we do choose to believe and action? How can we alter those, if they don’t serve us?
MOVE IT. The very first go-to for me when I’m in a mind funk or simply wanting to change my stream of conscious thought is MOVEMENT. Limiting thoughts thrive in a stagnant body. It’s much harder for them to survive when we’re on the GO. If time is tight, I love “shaking it off” (shaking out every part of my body) for 3-4 minutes to a fast-paced song. If I have more time, going for a walk in the hills, combined with an empowering mantra I repeat to myself, is my perfect antidote. Or, when I used to work in a corporate office, I would simply get up from my desk and go for an “air break” (my alternative to a smoke break), which basically consisted of circling once or twice around the building. You get the point. Something about moving our bodies (even briefly) allows us to reset faster than trying to think our way out of whatever thought or situation is plaguing us. If you’re in a time crunch and need some fast additional ways to reset your thoughts and feelings through movement, check out this post.
LAUGH TO RELEASE. Laughter releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals) and serotonin — a chemical and neurotransmitter that can help regulate mood and social bonding, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. Come again? Yep, laughter does all that. 😀 It has also been found to burn calories, boost the immune system, and help us live longer. I’ll take all of the above (in multiple doses, thank you!). And the good news is that there are so many ways for us to get our laughter on, if we stay open and receptive to this powerful thought/feeling-redirector. My go-to laughter medicine includes comedians like Ali Wong, SNL Live Reports (personal fav: interview with “Matt Shatt”), Key and Peele skits, and good ol’ banter with close friends and family. Whatever it takes: finding a way to laugh and take ourselves and life less seriously is key to moving our thoughts into a more productive, fulfilling place.
CRY, BABY. One of my favorite quotes is from Emerson, “There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful.” I interpret that as a reminder that any negative (low frequency) thought can be transformed into something better and brighter simply by acknowledging it (and possibly even honoring it) — i.e., bringing the thought to an open, revealing light so that it can move through us and maybe even leave us better humans for its passing. When we do bring those shadow parts of us and our thoughts out in the open, crying is likely to ensue. And it turns out that those emotional tears, like those laughs, release endorphins and oxytocin, both of which improve our mental and emotional states. Crying has been found to elevate mood, lower stress, and even help us release toxins from the body (thanks to biochemist William Frey for that cool discovery!). So… if you want to move sh*t through your body and mind as quickly as possible, grab a handkerchief and sit with yourself or a friend long enough for the gunk to clear. 😉
If you want more ways to move, laugh, and cry so you can reset your mind (and body) and tune into a happier and healthier life, you can access my monthly move-laugh-cry digest by signing up for the free mini meditation on my homepage.
AND… if you have any move-laugh-cry resources to share, please please please leave them in the comments below. XO