"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost
Throughout our lifetimes, there are bound to be times when we have negative thoughts. It's quite normal and in fact, our brain is set up to think this way for our self-preservation. Back in cave man times, if we had encountered a sabre tooth tiger we wouldn't have thought "It's probably eaten, I'll just carry on collecting these berries"; we would have quite rightly thought "It's going to eat me; Run!". So, when we are faced with a dangerous situation, or a situation which our brain perceives to be a danger to us, it will always see things from the worst possible perspective in order to keep us alive.
Unfortunately, when we suffer from stress and anxiety, our brain can think we are constantly in danger and as a result, encourages us to think in that same negative way. The more we think in a negative way, the more our brain encourages us to continue that line of thought and we then become trapped in a cycle of negative thinking.
In order to break this cycle, we need to train our minds to think in a more positive way! You may well ask "how do you train your mind to think in a positive manner?"
Well, I like to think of our mind as if it were a field in the countryside. When you go out for a walk you, generally, follow the paths which have been worn down and made by others who have walked there. These paths are easy to follow because the ground is even and there was more space to walk, but aren’t always the quickest or most interesting routes to take. The overgrown path, or even where there was no path at all, is very difficult to navigate and although they might be more interesting and quicker to take, are very rarely take; we tend to just stick to the paths that we have taken many times before - the paths that we are used to.
On occasions, we may tackle our way through one of these overgrown paths through the fields and woods only to come out the other side covered in scrapes, bruises, and nettle stings for our efforts. This often deterred us from doing it again! Now if we had carried on walking that overgrown, more difficult path, it would soon have become easier to walk along: the path would have become worn down, flatter and wider and we would have got less and less minor injuries each time. Until one day, it would have become a solid path; THE path to take, and the other, the less efficient path would no longer be needed and would start to become overgrown, until eventually, nobody would have even known there had been one there.
Our minds are very much like that field. Over time, the paths through the field that we walk down the most often become the ones that we are most prone to take. We are creatures of habit and our mind soon learns to take the paths which are most often used. In effect, we are choosing a well-worn path in our brains. Our brains learn that this is the right path, whether or not it is the best path to take. This is how habits are formed, whether they are negative ones such as negative thinking, smoking, biting our nails, or comfort eating; or positive ones such as positive thinking, exercise, healthy eating, or relaxation.
We need to show our brains that the right path to take is that of positive thinking and the way we do this is by consciously starting to think positively. To start with this can be difficult and those negative thoughts, niggles and worries will often crop up still. But the more we consciously think positively, being aware of our thought processes and changing our line of thought when those negative thoughts do crop up, our brain realises that this is the right path to take until thinking positively becomes easy, more natural, and becomes a part of who we are. Positive thinking can become a habit for you!
We only form a new path by walking down it frequently - So best get walking!
Steven Smith Dip.Hyp. GHR GQHP
Clinical Hypnotherapist, SCS Hypnosis
Innervision School of Clinical Hypnosis Tutor