According to Eckhart Tolle, “80 to 90 percent of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is harmful.”
As we mature, we develop tendencies of thinking based on a complex interaction of our biology and accumulated experiences. Thought patterns become engrained and impact our interpretation and perception of our reality. How we interpret and perceive new information will ultimately impact how we feel. Our life is what our thoughts make of it.
Some evolutionary psychologists boldly state that we are prone to be unhappy because our evolved minds are like Velcro for bad thoughts. For instance, the oldest part of our brain is constantly scanning our environment for things that can potentially harm us. Every day, negative events are over- reported in the media, while a good number of our popular television shows, movies, and songs on the radio often depict violence, hatred and death. The fields of Psychology and Psychiatry, that were initially established to assist with our mental health, have a tendency to focus/overemphasize pathologies, deficits and disorders, and do not focus enough on strengths, resources and resilience.
The good news is: we can change the way we think! Based on the science of quantum mechanics/ physics we now know that how we focus our attention will physically alter the brain. Our mind uses the brain to create itself. Our thinking and behavior are usually not passively determined by our brains; rather we are active mediators of change. So based on how we willfully focus our attention we will change our brains! The neural-plasticity of our brains enables us to develop new ways of thinking while old less desired patterns of thinking will become less prominent. The more you think a certain way, the stronger those neural pathways will become, through a process called myelinogenesis. Over time, states will become traits, and we will become happier as a result.
There are several proven methods to assist in changing our thinking. One such technique is mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness practices begin by developing focus and directing our attention to our senses…..To observe all information, both inner and outer, very calmly and closely.
………..Focus on your breathing, focus on the feeling of your feet making contact with the ground, focus on the sounds of waves, etc. Each time you notice your thoughts creeping back into awareness, gently bring your attention back to the moment-to-moment sensory experience…….
Mindfulness helps people focus on the moment instead of being fixated on the past or concerned about the future. This is a skill and it will take time to develop, so don’t be discouraged if you are only able to focus your attention for a few seconds. Over time this will become easier.
The benefits of mindfulness meditation are extraordinary. This and similar techniques help develop the prefrontal cortex in the brain which is linked to body regulation, attuned communication, emotional balance, fear extinction, response flexibility, insight, empathy and morality. People who regularly practice mindfulness report having fewer feelings of anxiety and depression, and report feeling more calm or tranquil. The research is so positive that several existing psychotherapeutic approaches are incorporating mindfulness techniques into their practices. There are hundreds of variations of mindfulness practices, so it is important to find one that you enjoy and will want to utilize often. Ultimately, it’s your engagement and effort that make all the difference.
Mindsight by Daniel Siegel
Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Quantum Physics in Neuroscience and Psychology by Jeffrey Schwartz, Henry Strapp and Mario Beauregard
East Meets West: Creating New Wisdom Tradition by Ronald Siegel