“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way
You select your clothes each day. This is a power you can cultivate”
For many people loneliness is a constant numbingly boring part of everyday life. Whether due to the death of a loved one, old age or disability that prevents us seeing family and friends as frequently as is necessary to keep our lives interesting. But now a there is a whole new myriad of people who are feeling lonely, and this time it is affecting all age groups. Anyone who is living alone and is now either out of a job or is having to work from home and all the over 70’s who have been advised to stay at home due to the higher risk of Coved among the “Young at Heart”. This time it is affecting anyone from young people who are living in their first home away from home, middle aged people forced to work from home and everyone over a certain age who live alone.
Unfortunately, I cannot give you the obvious cure for loneliness, which is to invite you all together to meet and enjoy a social event or have your family and loved ones come to visit. But if we are unable to do what we all have most need of, ie the presence of other people then it may be helpful to try understand how we can in a small way help ourselves to enjoy each day in the best possible way we can.
For most of us we will return to our lives in some shape or form, with minor adjustments along the way, but for others, the loneliness that has been there from before the enforced lockdown will continue. I hope that by understanding how we can think our way into a downward spiral of despair or alternatively to an upward spiral of enjoying the little things that life offers it will go some way to helping all of us through this journey we call life.
To understand why we feel down, anxious and depressed we first need to understand where these feelings come from. The way we feel starts with a thought, and we have thousands of them that pass through our minds every minute of every day – every second of every day. A constant stream of thoughts that bring little of snippets of information that we can choose either to acknowledge and accept as real or alternatively, we can allow our thoughts to drift off into the sunset, adding no meaning to them whatsoever. Thoughts are like our breath, as we breath in and we breath out so we think, our thought flowing in and out, it’s what we do all day every day. We give ourselves power when we see thoughts for what they are, they are just a part of everyday living and if we let them go, they have no power to affect us in any way. Unless you choose to allow it.
I have a thought “I am lonely, maybe I should get a dog” I can:
- Let this thought drift by never to be thought of again
- I can add meaning to the thought, maybe you think it would be a good idea, maybe you think it would be a bad idea
- I can grab the thought and run with it, creating spreadsheets for the costs: food, vets bills, where will I buy a dog; google searching the right breed, phoning friends for advice. Spending hours planning a dog, dreaming about it at night.
When you grab a thought and run with it, it will create a feeling i.e. it will make you feel a certain way. It might make you feel happy, how lovely it will be to have a dog; it might terrify you (the cost, or a bad experience you had with a dog as a child); It might make you feel sad (perhaps you had a dog that died). Whatever is in your personal memory banks about dogs, stored there over the years will affect how you feel about this thought.
THOUGHTS Create FEELINGS
The feelings that the thought gave us will affect our mood, did it cheer us up and put us in good mood as we plan and prepare. Did it make us feel sad because of a dog we lost in the past.
THOUGHTS create FEELINGS create MOODS
And the mood you are in creates the reality you are living in at the moment.
Here is another thought:
“Cup of tea and chocolate biscuit sounds good” do you:
- Resist the temptation as you are on a diet and just let the thought go
- Jump on the thought and torture yourself with the fact you are on a diet and can’t have a chocolate biscuit, feeling miserable for the rest of today.
- Give in to temptation and have a chocolate biscuit
Each of the choices will create a different feeling. If we let the thought drift by, it will be neutral. If we torture ourselves with wanting chocolate but refusing to give in, it will create a whole new subset of thoughts, or do we give in and feel great because we have eaten chocolate and who doesn’t feel great after chocolate or do we beat ourselves up, because we have thrown the diet away again.
Are we now in a good mood – lovely chocolate
Bad mood – diet has failed again.
And on and on we go, day in day out, minute by minute, breathing in and breathing out, thoughts floating in through our mind, changing how we feel and creating the reality that we live in.
Many people make the mistake of believing that it is our moods that create our thoughts, but the reality is, it is our thoughts that create our moods. When you see the power of your thoughts and the role they play in creating your life then the better able you are to see that the best route is to choose the thoughts that adds to the quality of your life and let the negative thoughts drift off and not bother you anymore.
Let’s try a little exercise to see if you can improve your mood:
Start by getting yourself comfortable in your favourite chair. Bring your attention to your breathing and notice your breath as you breath in and breath out. Now place your hands on your stomach and take a nice deep breath in, all the way down to your stomach, a big breath that pushes your hands away – hold your breath for a few moments then slowly breath out completely all the tension from your body. Do this a few times and each time notice any parts of your body where you are holding tension and try and let go with your breath, just see all the tension floating away.
Now, I would like you to think of a time when you felt really happy and contented, that time in your life where everything was so good that you just wanted the moment to last for ever and never end. It may be with someone special, in special place, it may be something that happened recently or many years ago. Just close your eyes, and bring that moment back again, if you can see a picture in front of you then make it as big and as clear as you can, if you are unable to see the picture, just remember the feelings, all the feelings you felt in the moment. Relax and enjoy and stay with the feeling for as long as you want and enjoy the moment.
If you want to can give your moment a name, a name you can use that will transport you back to your special moment at any time you are feeling down or stressed. Just call up your name and enjoy being transported back to that perfect moment in time.
It is so easy for us to get caught up in negative thoughts, negative memories but they serve no purpose at all in our lives, when we learn to let go of negativity we can go a little way to improving our day to day life by ensuring that we grow flowers in our brain and not weeds. Remember our brains are just like computers, we have programmed them to act in a certain way. If you want to change how you feel you have to change the programme you are running in your brain. Only you have the power to switch to a new programme, nobody can do it for it.