The key to our mental health is the way we think. Our thoughts are things that have a life of their own. Our thoughts have their own energy, with the ability to attract or repel similar energy. Our thoughts are valuable tools that determine our emotional health. The Bible put it like this, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The way we think determines what our minds are full of: fear or courage, depression or joy, anxiety or serenity.
This is the deal. Our state of mind is engineered by our thoughts. So be a thought engineer. How do you become a thought engineer?
By paying attention to what goes on in that fertile mind of yours. Recognize that the power to be emotionally healthy is inside of you. Mental health is an inside job. The good news about this inside job is that we get to control it. We don't get to control the universe. We can't control the weather; we can't control the earth revolving around the sun. But we do get to control what goes on in our heads and hearts.
It takes Three (3) steps to be a thought engineer:
1. Emotions are created by thoughts. The pioneers of a school of psychotherapy called "cognitive therapy," discovered that depressed and anxious people had a distorted perspective on their world. When they learned to correct what was coined "stinking thinking," many were able to master their depression.
2. Untwist Negative Thoughts -- it is hard work, but each of us can begin to challenge the thoughts which bring us down. This doesn't mean that we can acknowledge problems. It just suggests that when we are facing a challenge, that we seize our areas of weakness and vulnerability, as great opportunity for improvement.
We can use weakness as a springboard to healing and growth by being courageous enough to ask for help and follow through on it. We can choose to systematically look at what we need to work on as our own personal or professional roadmap to growth.
Rather than getting depressed about our list of growth areas, we can see that owning up to legitimate issues as a way to catapult ourselves forward. We can recognize that yes we have issues but so do the other 6 billion people who populate the earth.
3. Choose Your Thoughts. Since we know that thoughts are the engines that drive our feelings, we can pause and reflect on how we want to feel. There is nothing magic about this approach. We can choose how we view our lives, we decide how we view our problems. Instead of holding onto a perspective that is filled with negativity: expecting the worse from ourselves and others. We can expect the best. We can look at our challenges and say why not? We can say today, I will put myself on my path to achieve my dreams.
Today I choose to think about love over hate, truth over deceit, discovery over cover up, courage over fear, excitement over boredom, commitment over indifference. So if we are mindful, and focused about what we think, we will find ourselves on the pathway to better emotional health.
Our minds are always filled with something. Our charge is to make sure that our minds are filled with the creative, nurturing, powerful ideas and we will have great mental health. This is power of mindfulness.
Dr. Dan Collins, a licensed psychologist and ordained minister, is author of the bestselling book, "The Trauma Zone: Trusting God for Emotional Healing." Visit him at www.drdan7.com to view sample chapters of his book.