Alongside all the new understanding I have gained about managing my thoughts and feelings, there have been some really simple physical, practical things that I have found incredibly helpful. I have learnt how effective a few, slow, deep breaths can be in reducing tension in the body and refreshing the mind. The deep breaths literally stimulate the parasympathetic system which counters the adrenaline (one of the stress hormones) in our bodies! They also deliver an extra dose of oxygen and get rid of excess waste gases building up in our lungs – causing us to feel refreshed and more able to focus. (if you find yourself yawning a lot, take a few slow, deep breaths instead you’ll actually feel refreshed and its much less rude to those around you!). I usually use the deep breaths as a way to focus on a short prayer or a verse, bringing my attention in that moment literally to the source of my life.
And of course the very act of focusing in on my breathing and with it the prayer or verse also means that I have stepped off the runaway train of my thoughts! Other simple things like focusing on the sounds and smells around me for a couple of minutes or even turning my attention to my body with a quick body scan, serve to halt the thoughts and bring me back in touch with the present. These are all things that help both at night when it’s taken a little longer to get back to sleep, and during the day when I am just going through the motions or feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
This is the last of my series of posts based on the battle I have been fighting for peace of mind. Once again, I hope you have found some of them helpful, its certainly been good to share the journey with you.
The bible is full of instruction on how we should behave and think towards one another. It turns out that this isn’t just so that we can live in community and harmony; it’s also because it’s good for us! When I think thoughts about another person that come from my frustration, anger or any other negative emotion towards them, my body changes. This state of affairs causes certain chemicals and hormones to be released including adrenaline that effect my entire body including my muscles and vasculature. When this becomes habituated, simply being in the presence of the person, in a place that’s associated with them or a conversation about that person, can trigger off those physical changes in my body.
Here’s what I found though, even when I am in full flow of mental rant concerning someone who has offended me in some way, when I stop those thoughts and choose to bless them unconditionally, I can feel my body changing. When I did it the first time I was astounded! It really works. Sometimes going through Philippians 4:8 and finding things about the person that fit the criteria and thanking God for them, is really helpful. Taking a few deep breaths; becoming conscious of and receiving Jesus’ grace and mercy towards me on the intake, and being thankful for and ‘releasing’ his grace and mercy towards them on the exhale. This too has been helpful and when I can’t think of anything else just praying the Numbers 6 blessing over them is great.
So, yet another lesson in the battle for my mind and the war against fear and anxiety – what and how I think about others really makes a difference. Regardless of how much of a numpty they have been towards me, it really isn’t worth harbouring those thoughts against them… for my own
In the battle for my mind one of the ground breaking things I have learnt about is the transient nature of my thoughts. I can be thinking a certain way about something or someone and then a few hours later my thoughts towards them have completely changed. Equally when I choose, I can stop a thought in its tracks and replace it with something else without too much effort. Where do my thoughts come from, particularly the unbidden ones?
I realise the answer to this question is deeply complex but it has been said that by the time a thought reaches our conscious awareness it has passed through the filter of our (unconscious) belief system. Our belief systems are put together as we go through life interpreting and internalising all that we experience; and some of the things we internalise may well contradict each other. Basically our thoughts are often driven from deep within and have more to do with our past, our brokenness and our fears for the future than present reality.
Coupled to this however has been the growing awareness of the profound power that my thoughts have on how I feel – not just emotionally but also physically. I can think a fearful thought about a situation or person and within seconds I can sense the effects of adrenaline in my body bringing about the symptoms of anxiety.
I have found a number of ways of applying these new awarenesses in the battle for my mind. Firstly, it’s helped reinforce the ease and appropriateness of ‘taking every thought captive’ and bringing it in line with the Prince of Peace. Secondly by understanding where in my belief systems and past wounds different thoughts have their origin, I can invite and welcome healing at the source. Thirdly, by managing my thoughts I can change the physical, hormonal milieu of my body so it’s in a much more healthy state.
(I really do hope you find these things helpful, they have been changing my life!)