“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can change the quality of their lives by changing the attitudes of their minds.”William James
Would you like to know how to improve your quality of life? How to improve every aspect of your life? How to reduce suffering and finally be happy? How to find fulfillment? Maybe you just want to feel better or stop feeling like shit.
What you need to do is: change your thoughts. Or become aware of them at least.
Thoughts Are the Answer
When we have a problem we search for answers. We may think answers are tough to find, or that it will take money to get what we need. This is a mentality that has been marketed to us in a society that is founded on selling us things and making us consumers. However, if we truly want to change our lives, we need not look further than our own minds.
This is not to say that we can automatically change our entire life just by changing one thought. It is to say, that with patience, practice and repetition we can change our current, unproductive thought patterns into productive patterns that will get us more of what we want, and most importantly, what we need. Like thought alchemists!
When we think effectively, we are in a better frame of mind to act and respond effectively, and in conjunction with our goals, and what we want to achieve. We are better able to recognize things that are mentally burdensome, like a drama filled, toxic relationships. We are also better able to recognize things that will help us on our quest towards fulfillment and add more of that to our lives.
Our Feelings Towards Thoughts
Our thoughts are how we can change our life for the better. So how do we feel about them?
Well, if thoughts had an IG or twitter account they would be blocked by most people. But their negative and nasty comments would give people hours of arguing material – you know, those social media threads with complete strangers arguing in circles for hours.
It is unknown how may thoughts the average person has. Some sources say 30k-70k a day. Other say 6k a day. Whatever the case that’s a large gap. The different between driving a KIA or a Mercedes, gap. But, if thoughts were automobiles most people would rather take the bus or walk.
A study done at the University of Virginia included hundreds of undergrad students and their sentiment towards thoughts. Students were given the choice to shock themselves with electricity or sit in a room alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. A quarter of the women and more than half of the men went with the shock. The final results: thoughts are unpleasant.
They are if we think they are.
You Think It Is, Therefore It Is
Some say life is suffering. Those people have misinterpreted Buddha. Even though there is plenty of evidence to show Buddha did not mean life is suffering (in it’s common english definition) there are those who are set (determined!) to see life as suffering and WILL NOT change their minds.
To them, life is suffering so it will be suffering. In their book, it has been written and that is how it will be. Well, that is how it must be or they will experience cognitive dissonance and the uncomfortable feelings that come with it. Meaning, what they think (that life is suffering) has to be true so they will do anything in their path to make it so.
Even if they are gifted with wonderful things and all that they desire, they will find a way to find suffering.
The weather was nice, but it could have been a little less windy.
I loved the dinner, but it could have been served quicker.
This is not to say we shouldn’t expect the best for ourselves. It is to say that when we look for the bad we will find it, and if we are set on thinking life is suffering (or something else) it will be that way.
Moving Forward With Thoughtfulness
Could our disdain and unpleasant feelings regarding thoughts be the reason for the high level of sadness, emotional illiteracy, depression and anxiety in the world today – yes.
And I don’t need a study or a doctor or a celebrity to tell me. The imperial evidence is undeniable. So what do we do if thoughts will help us positively change our life but we find them unpleasant?
The question has a simple answer that takes time to master: we need to be aware of our thoughts and take control of them.
We need to stop seeing our thoughts as being unpleasant and, instead, acknowledge them for what they are: thoughts. We need to acknowledge the thought for being there and decide if we want to either allow it to float away or if we want to follow it. Thoughts are part of who we are and we are going to have them for our entire lives, so might as well learn to appreciate and control them.
Photo by Thought Catalog