Have you ever found yourself spending the day fixated on one negative thought? Morning, noon, and night pass, all the while this thought lingers in the back of your mind. It may seem like we have no control over these thoughts, but we do. While it may be true that we can’t stop the initial thought from popping into our minds, we can absolutely put a stop to any others that try to filter through. As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to share what helped me overcome my feelings of deep disappointment.
One of the ways we can do this is through gratitude. I’ve heard countless times that gratitude is a great antidote to a foul mood, but it always sounded a bit too simplistic to me. I wondered how taking stock of my blessings would help me feel better. I figured it was worth a try, though, since I can’t simply shut off negative thoughts. They’re like a leaky faucet that never gets fixed. I found that if I redirected my thoughts of disappointment to gratitude, my mood began to improve. Of course, this isn’t a one-time deal. Sometimes I have to cast off the same negative thoughts over and over and redirect them to gratitude. The devil wants us to stay focused on disappointment so he can hold us there like captives, but thankfully, Christ has broken those chains. We can live in joy and victory even in our thought life because the devil is forever defeated. The more I do this, the easier it is for my brain to find better paths to travel on its own.
The devil wants us to stay focused on disappointment so he can hold us there like captives, but thankfully, Christ has broken those chains.
It can also be helpful to speak out loud the things you are grateful for. Words have a lot of power. After all, God used them to create the world, and those same words are also what sustains it. Speak gratitude out loud. It may feel funny at first but hearing yourself actually say what you’re grateful for goes a long way.
I’ve also found it helpful to do things that “clear my head.” Our minds can’t exist in a vacuum, so this doesn’t mean that nothing is flowing through my mind at all. It means I find things that allow my brain to focus on the task at hand, rather than the negative emotion that I’m facing. For example, going for a walk clears my mind. When I walk, my mind is engaged with creation and I’m not thinking about all the things that are weighing my heart down. Do whatever works for you or try several different things until you find one that works.
Another thing I do is refer back to the Bible. It seems Paul knew what he was talking about when he directed us to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I’m a far cry from being a neurology expert, but I’ve done a little bit of reading about the brain’s plasticity, and it turns out it really is possible to renew our minds. We can teach our brains to follow different pathways, although admittedly, I’m finding that takes a tremendous amount of effort. It gives me so much hope to know that this is at least possible. I’m thankful God wired our minds this way and inspired Paul to write such simple, yet profound words to aid us in the process. The next time a particular thought starts to nag at you, run it through the filter of words listed above. If it doesn’t fit, redirect your brain once more to gratitude.
Focusing on others is another fantastic way to redirect your thought process. The problem with being stuck in a rut is that it’s a lot harder to get out of than it is to get into. Continuing to focus on me is only going to deepen my disappointment. One of the vehicles we can use to pull ourselves out of this muck is service. It’s awfully hard to focus on yourself when you’re busy doing something kind for someone else. Again, this is easier said than done, and I want to acknowledge that. But perhaps you can take a quick inventory of the people in your life. Online, offline, anywhere you might find them. Is there a particular need you can meet? Is someone else experiencing some painful emotions that you can speak into because you’ve been there?
Over time, I’ve learned to recognize when I’m starting to fall into patterns of negative thinking. I’m by no means an advocate for positivity that becomes toxic because of a refusal to acknowledge negative emotions. Rather, it’s best to acknowledge them, and then turn them on their head and try to take one of the steps listed above. There’s no reason to allow our thoughts to defeat us when Christ has given us the power to take them captive. Remind yourself that you have authority here and speak it out loud.