I don’t know about you, but sometimes I catch myself thinking my way out of a beautiful mood. For no good reason and entirely unintentionally. Take last night for example. I’d had a beautiful weekend. I had sad news to assimilate but I was determined to soak up only the learnings and the inspiration from it and not to dwell on any possible negative. So this weekend, I had sat myself under the sun’s rays, out in the gentle winter breeze and next to the budding magnolia tree. I surrounded my soul with life and sight with light.
And yet, suddenly, at the end of a good weekend, I noticed that furrow back again. You know, THAT furrow. The one that means that your brain is chewing over gristle again, trying to make it palatable and essentially failing. Gristle is never a tasty prospect – in reality nor in mind. I was heading for a frown and I couldn’t, for the life of me, work out how or why.
So I took a moment, stopped chewing over thoughts, and went back to what my brain had fed itself. Have you ever done that? Have you ever stopped to see how used to feeding yourself with certain patterns you actually are? So mine went something like this: a beautiful new country to explore > marvelling at the sheer beauty of diversity in the world > panicking about never seeing enough of the world > a feeling of failure that I hadn’t achieved more in my living years so far…
And you can be sure that I made that ridiculous journey from appreciation to self limiting chatter before I had finished the cup of tea that I was sipping whilst watching said travel programme.
It’s easier to spot when the mood is happy. It’s easier to spot that a smile has gone and that your face is now somewhat gurning over an unwanted change of thinking direction. It’s harder when the day has been hard. When you’ve had your nose to the grindstone, it seems to take more energy to think nicely. So we consolidate how miserable we are instead. We’ve all done it: the sun is too hot/bright, the rain is freezing, smiling people are annoying and miserable people need to get over themselves. And there is a comfort in being grumpy. It’s predictable and it’s safe – because you’re not trying to go anywhere better. You can turn on the TV and have all your worst fears confirmed in a flick of a channel. You can see a short message from a friend and logically extrapolate that they now hate you for some unreasonable reason… And there is sometimes an expectation that someone else should cheer you up, if they really were a good friend. Commonly, you have delegated your happiness to someone else and the world has failed you.
When I am ill, I get bored. So as soon as I feel the onset of anything, I plug myself with vitamins, sleep more, stress as little as possible. It fascinates me that I am only now – in the fourth decade of my life – learning to reach for better feeling thoughts at the onset of a bad mood. And yet now, as I try, it’s amazing what a difference it makes. The sun nurtures and the rain refreshes. Smiling people revive your faith in humanity and you wish you could cheer the grumpy ones up. You choose to watch only the inspirational stuff on TV and tut at the rest. You listen to sad songs and marvel at their creativity instead of wailing along out of tune. And you spot the next laugh before the day drifts it by and out of reach. Don’t get me wrong, I can still do a dummy spit as well as anyone, I just haul my dummy out of the mix quicker these days.
It’s hard to remember that thoughts are a choice. And it’s even harder to be ever mindful of them. Like any habit, thought patterns are hard to break. But like any bad habit, there is a freedom that comes with better feeling thoughts, a shine comes back to your eyes and your spine garners more strength. It’s a nicer world to feel in and a much nicer one in which to live.