Recently I finished a 15-week group course in cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy encouraged us to challenge limiting beliefs about ourselves, other people and the world we live in. There were eight of us who were there for different reasons, but all suffering in some way with depression.
We all have mind chatter going on in our heads to some degree or another but some of us have chatter that is unhealthy and destructive. If left unchecked, the stories we make up about ourselves and our world can significantly influence the quality of our life.
When we indulge in such negative thoughts as ‘I’m not good enough, I’ll never find a good partner, I’m not smart enough, successful enough, good looking enough,’ we will find proof in life to validate these feelings. We call this watering the weeds and, if left unchecked, they quickly take over.
When I was a new mother, the sleep deprivation was nothing compared to my own doubts and insecurities about my parenting ability. I felt clumsy and inadequate. Because I told this story to myself on a regular basis it was as if I was looking for proof I was a failure rather than seeing everything I was doing right.
I recently heard that one of the most significant findings of the 21st century is neuroplasticity; that the brain is not hard-wired and static as once believed but is plastic. This means that literally, thought can change the brain. In other words, that what we think , we become (a Buddhist saying).
Until recently I never thought to question my thoughts. I had been carrying around deeply engrained stories about myself and other people, that I just assumed were right. I never considered that there might be another way of looking at the bigger picture. My seemingly narrow point of view needed to be stretched and compressed until another perspective was possible. It has not been easy, but I know by changing our perspectives we can change our brain, our attitude and our quality of life. I think that is worth the effort.
Some ideas to help broaden your perspective and manage your mood:
– Pick up a book on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and do the exercises.
– Develop an ‘awareness’ practice where for a few minutes a day you do something that makes you feel centered and grounded. (meditate, go for a walk, pray, eat slow and enjoy your food, sing, write…)
– Start a gratitude journal and at the end of the day write down three things you are grateful for. Try it for 30 days.