My friend’s mom worried her entire life about her five children. Every aspect of their existence was material for her fertile imagination. Potential hazards were always on her mind – from her toddlers catching a deadly virus to her school-age boys being snatched to her children marrying the wrong person two decades down the road.
For many people, anxiety may be occasional and nothing to worry about. Those fortunate enough not to be overly anxious – or at least not for too long – may still experience dominant emotions like anger, resentment and jealousy. They all negatively impact lives.
Whenever a negative mind pattern persists, unwanted emotions can become an enduring part of your character.
Worries cultivated by my friend’s mom, for instance, failed to subside even when her progeny were well into adulthood. Worrying was still with her when she passed away two years ago. There was no peace.
The mind is a wonderful instrument but it can poison your existence if you don’t use it properly. Too many people allow it to run wild, often with devastating effects. They keep feeding it worthless thoughts and negative emotions.
Wandering freely in obscure areas of its own universe, the agitated mind jumps endlessly from one thought to another. The effects are similar to pop-ups appearing one after another on your computer screen. They repeatedly suggest irrelevant and random topics ranging from a trip to Thailand to the best spaghetti sauce for dinner tonight.
If you want a happy life, you need to block the pop-ups. Only then can the mind be peaceful. This is the iron law.
Think less, think better
Try to recall the last time you had a strong craving. Was it very difficult, if not impossible, to control that impulse? Was the mind telling you to indulge and you lacked the will power to resist?
Untamed and undisciplined, the mind’s impulses only get stronger and the will power correspondingly weaker.
The dictates of the mind shouldn’t be allowed to run your life. If you want peace, you need to restrain your mind and strengthen your will power.
Train the mind to entertain fewer but better-defined, positive thoughts. Thoughts cultivated over and over become better defined, strengthen and take shape. Prior to being able to earn a living as a carpenter, a pop singer or a pharmacist, for instance, you must develop a thought current that’s sufficiently strong, clearly defined and sustained.
Today’s the best day to start training your mind. Say it wants you to take two scoops of that decadent chocolate ice cream. Commit to taking only one scoop. And don’t give in. Success in renouncing the one scoop will bring you much satisfaction, much more than indulging with a second one. And the will power will begin to grow.
Determine a drill that works for you. Approach mind training the same way you would exercise in a gym for the first time. Would you try to lift heavy weights right away? Not if you intend to return! So start small and build on the strength you develop day by day.
There’s no end to imagination. We feel miserable whenever fear, anxiety, resentment or regret – any negative emotion really – are continuously nourished by our fertile imagination.
Imagination is used in a positive way whenever it brings peace. Imagination is used wrongly whenever it brings unnecessary agitation.
If a negative thought pops up, use your imagination to conjure a contrary thought. If your undisciplined mind takes you for a ride in the regions of fear or anxiety, think instead of courage.
Be persistent. As you minimize fluctuations in the mind, your peace and happiness will grow.
Nicole F. Bernier, PhD, is a former research professor at the University of Montreal who teaches yoga and positive thinking.