How good of a fortune teller are you?
It’s your basal ganglia that are responsible for you making obscure predictions about your future. According to Dr. Daniel G. Amen, who is a brain imagistic specialist, the constant pressure that you put on yourself when being pessimistic will weaken your immune system and (in time) will make you sick.
These negative thoughts that are constantly flowing through your mind (that you’re gonna be fired, that your girlfriend/boyfriend will dump you on Valentines Day, that you’re never gonna pass the damn test, that you’re gonna be struck by lightning, you name others relevant to you) are a consequence of the impact that the environment in which you grew up or in which you live has on you. It can also be a consequence of your basal ganglia not functioning properly.
Many of us are surrounded by negative people. Even if you are able to resist the pressure these individuals put on you everyday, the barrier that protects you from the negative influence will get weaker and weaker through time. Eventually, these negative thoughts will break the barrier and will start having a great impact on your life.
One possible solution would be to get out of that vicious environment. It’s a good option but sometimes you cannot do it. You cannot abandon your family just because they always tell you what they think it’s good for you, even though they don’t understand you. Besides, you cannot let them move you away from what you think it’s good for you.
So, what do you do then?
Dr. Amen has studied the brain activity of all sorts of people. He uses SPECT scanning which is a technique that allows him to view how the blood flows through different regions of his patients’ brains.
When analyzing the brains of people with malfunctioning basal ganglia, Dr. Amen correlated what he saw with the behavior of the patients. He was able to observe that these people were generally pessimistic. They had a negative and sad perception of the world surrounding them.
Before administering proper medication, Dr. Amen uses non-invasive techniques to help these people improve their perception of life. Funny thing is that he likes to refer to the negative thoughts that his patients have as “ANTs” (automatic negative thoughts). Here are some examples of ANTs:
“You’re not listening to a word of what I’m saying.”
“You don’t care about my feelings. F*ck you!”
“My latest business success means crap.”
“It’s only your fault. We shouldn’t be here.”
“I could have gotten a better grade if I weren’t be drinking all night long.”
The list goes on and on. Its length depends only on the size of the colony of ANTs you have right beneath your hair.
Dr. Amen came up with tactics that not only his clients but everyone should use to get rid of negative thinking. Here’s the breakdown of the technique:
1. All your thoughts are real. (see the exception at #6)
Whenever a thought pops up into your mind, there’s a stream of electrical and chemical reactions taking place. You become aware of the thought only after the chemical and electrical reactions have occurred. So, first are the reactions and then the awareness of the thought.
2. Notice how every negative thought changes your body. Please, do it! I beg you.
Here’s a simple experiment that you can do in a controlled environment:
Think of an unpleasant situation that you had in your life. Think of how you felt when you failed an exam or of how you felt when you broke up with her/him, or how you felt when you fought with one of your best friends or ….please fill in….
Think of the exact details of that situation:
– who were you with?
– where were you?
– what time of the day was it?
– what exactly did you feel?
All these details help you recreate an approximate version of that event. This in turn should release the same cascade of emotions and feelings you had at that time (it will trigger with approximation the same chemical reactions and the same electrical spikes). You should feel exactly how you felt at that time.
Notice how your mood changes based on the input you give to your mind.
A similar response occurs when you see other people crying. You start feeling sad yourself. Have you noticed that? What about when you see someone laughing? How do you feel?
Your body reacts to your thoughts and to the input you provide. Your heart starts pounding harder when you think of an unpleasant moment from your life.
3. See how positive thoughts have an impact on you
Following the same lines of above: try reliving a positive or very happy moment from your life.
How did you feel when you had your first born child?
How did you feel when you got married?
How did you feel when you graduated?
How did you feel when you started devouring that gigantic piece of chocolate (ohh, sweet euphoria).
Remember the details. Visualize them. Fill in the blanks. Try finding all the pieces from the puzzle that created that moment in time. The time of the day, the people you were with, the place, everything. See how your mood changes. You are calmer. You are happier. Or your heart is pounding like crazy if you think of the date you had with that piece of chocolate. Anyways, the sensations you feel are positive.
4. See your negative thoughts as pollution to both your mind and your body
This is when you need to understand that whenever you have a negative thinking pattern (without a very good reason) it will have a deep negative impact on your life. As we’ve seen above, there’s a straight forward connection between your brain and your body.
You can be the master of your life only if you can control your thoughts.
If you keep focusing on the positives of your life, you’ll create and maintain a chemical balance inside your body that promotes wellbeing. Both your mind and your body will get used to this state.
You decided to make a path through the jungle to get from Village X to Village Y. It is difficult when you do it for the first time. But as the path is created and as you use it more frequently to commute between villages, it will become much easier and convenient for you to travel. You’ll not want to create a new path every time you move between these two villages.
Something similar happens inside your mind. If you start focusing on the positive aspects of your life, your neurons will connect to each other in a unique way. If you enforce on those connections (by constantly concentrating on the positives, this will be the default state of your mind). Your brain will always want to use it.
5. Spontaneous thoughts are not always real
This basically means: Don’t believe everything that crosses through your mind. There are many thoughts that occur spontaneously. Most of them are not the result of active, logical, and reasonable thinking processes. These are the ANTs and they can be extremely deceiving.
6. Exterminate the ANTs
You cannot be influenced by all your thoughts. Start questioning the ANTs. Try and see if they have the smallest trace of logic or reasoning behind them. Whenever a negative thought kicks in, stop.
Don’t let it grow. Don’t let it lead to other negative thoughts. Don’t let it be the basis of the “end of your world” scenario. Check it for reasonability. Check it for logic. If it doesn’t pass the test, let it go.
The bottom line is that you should never take for granted everything that you think of. Often times it’s normal to feel sad, angry, or scared. These are the times when you should not suppress your feeling. Let them express themselves. This will release pressure. Feel them, but do not hold onto them. Let them go.
Aristotle once said that it’s very easy to become angry and that everyone can do it. But being angry on the right person, at the right time and for the right reason – that is not easy.
These guidelines have been very helpful to me because I tended to get irritated and angry very quickly. Through time I’ve learned how to stop, count to 10, and then let go of that bad feeling. This provides a greater balance both in my mind and in my life. One good recommendation would be Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. You’d never thought of the concepts that he talks about in his masterpiece.
Anyway, if there’s something that you don’t understand from what I’ve said here or if you need additional help in dealing with your negative thinking, please leave me a message in either of the comment sections below and I’ll do my best to help you.
1. Dr. Daniel Amen – Change your Brain, Change your Life – The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness
2. Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence