Recently I’ve been examining the things that boggle me down throughout my day in an effort to eliminate some of the anxiety that attacks me at unpredictable times. You’ll never guess what I discovered. See, most of our anxiety stems from our thoughts. I know you’ve heard this before: “Change your thoughts, change your life.” Trust me, I hate hearing this phrase as much as you just hated to read it, so let’s change it to “Change your thoughts, get rid of your anxiety.”
I want to start by saying, sweet sister, if you’re not willing to change your thoughts and train your brain, you are not willing to get rid of your anxiety, or depression, or any other mental illness you may have. If you’re content with being discontent for the rest of your life, I’m not going to stop you, but you may not find this post very helpful for you; however; if you’re ready to go on a journey to reduce, lessen, and maybe even heal your brain, and even your heart, keep on reading!
If you’re still here, thank you for taking this HUGE step in your life and I’m proud of you for getting past that cheesy phrase of advice in the first paragraph. Now let’s deal with this. Your first step to changing your thoughts is consciously tracking what you’re thinking about. It’s hard to put into words, but think about what you’re thinking about the most. Maybe you’re not happy with your weight and you think about dieting, exercising, or the Victoria’s Secret model you read about on Facebook last night. Maybe your boyfriend sent you the “we need to talk” text this morning. Maybe you’ve been downright consumed with overwhelming amounts of schoolwork and all you can think about is fall break. I don’t know what you wake up and think about all day, but my thoughts range from the food I want to eat that day to “I can’t believe I just said that,” and “If I could only figure out how to be more productive after I get off of work.” From the things I think about, you may be able to tell I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. Take a moment and try to write down or simply just think of a couple things you catch yourself thinking throughout the day and analyze what behavior may be causing some of your anxiety.
That was a tough-y, I know. Thinking about thoughts is a concept that takes a lot of critical thinking. (Yes, I did that on purpose, and yes, please quote me on that one. It took a lot of creative power.) If you had a lot of trouble going through your thought processes, try analyzing yourself per your behavior first instead. When you think about it, your thoughts are reflected in your behavior. For example, if you’re trying a new diet, it’s probably because you think you’re unhealthy. If you’re consistently trying to please everyone, you may think you’re not lovable. If you’re spending all of your time on Facebook, you may not even want to think. I hope you get the drift.
The end goal is ultimately to know what you’re thinking so that you can learn to stop thinking in the pattern that you’re used to now. This takes daily, consistent, prayerful effort. You didn’t learn to think the way you’re currently thinking in one day either. It happened out of habit. The same is going to have to happen to reverse the thought processes you have now. When you begin to piece together your thoughts and why they’re ruining your life, I hope and pray you develop the will to end the pattern. I don’t know the science behind it, but the best way I know how to explain it is that thoughts happen naturally, quickly, subconsciously, and in an endless reoccurring cycle. It may not seem like one thought could be the root of your anxiety attacks in the middle of the day, or at night when you’re trying to sleep, but it can be. Our thoughts can boggle us down, make us tired, worried, overwhelmed, frustrated, and irritable; but here’s the good news. Our thoughts can also make us happy, excited, hopeful, energized, and relaxed. If you’re wondering which thoughts can change your life for the better here they are:
- Whatever is true
- Whatever is honorable
- Whatever is just
- Whatever is pure
- Whatever is lovely
- Whatever is commendable
- Whatever is excellent
- Whatever is worthy of praise
If you think about anything that meets the requirements set before you above (basically anything that inspires the worship of God and service to others) you are promised the peace of God. (Philippians 4:8-9).
Changing the way you think is not supposed to be easy. The devil is constantly looking to invade your thoughts.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Peter writes this verse right after he tells the church to cast their anxieties on God. I hope you let that sink in. Your thoughts and your anxiety go hand-in-hand, and until you are willing to go through the blood, sweat, and tears of changing them, you will be attacked from all sides.
- Grab a commentary (they’re online and in the back of your Bible), and write out some verses about the attributes of good thoughts listed above.
- If you had a really hard time analyzing your thought patterns earlier, spend a week praying solely that God would reveal the heart behind your thoughts to you. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll be worth it.
“Search me, O God , and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”