Healthy Minds, Healthy Souls: Thinking about our thoughts

Today I spoke to a woman who was feeing frustrated by her irritability towards her teenage daughter. No matter what her daughter did, Mom found herself snapping at her. I suggested that the very next time she was about to snap at her daughter she should pause and ask herself, “What was just going through my mind?” Upon reflection she found this particularly eye opening. “I realized I was thinking to myself how short lived my daughter’s positive and kind behavior would be; and that soon she would just end up reverting back to who she has always been: disrespectful and ungrateful. I never realized I had thoughts like that; no wonder I am snapping!”

Being mindful means slowing down long enough to pay attention to not only how we feel, but also to take note of what we might be thinking. The term metacognition refers to the process of “thinking about our thinking.” Scientists say that this higher-level skill does not even develop in children until about the age of 10. That’s why when you ask a child why they made a bad choice, so often, the most common answer is, “I don’t know.” Because chances are, they really didn’t think about their thinking at the time of the choice. The ability to think about our thinking is really a gift from God. It helps us to stay connected with who we want to be. It gives us the opportunity to choose how we want to respond. In other words, it helps us to be intentional in our lives.

For the most part, our feelings, whether strong or fleeting, tend to govern our behavior. Feelings can be powerful, but they are really nothing more than an indication for us to take a deeper look and examine further. They encourage us to ask the question, “What thought was I having when I noticed I felt so angry, so bitter, so worried, or so sad?” We get to tune in to find out what’s wrong. But then, it’s our job to truly examine it. “What do I think about that thought?” “Does that sound like who I want be?” “Is it even completely true?” “Could there be another way to look at it?” “Are there any costs to thinking that particular thought?” “What might be a more productive way of interpreting that same situation that leaves me more at peace?”

The truth is, our thoughts can at times mislead us if we aren’t willing to examine them. Today, I am here to remind you that you don’t have to be held hostage by your thoughts. You have choices! And part of finding your peace in this world, is realizing that God has equipped you with everything you need to succeed. So, next time you have a feeling you just can’t seem to move on from, tune in, examine and make a choice!

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

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