Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Do Your Thoughts Matter?

 

Do Your Thoughts Matter?     

 

 

Your thoughts and private words: gossip, sarcasm, cynicism, put downs, what do they do to your mind, body and spirit? Did you know the stress monster loves all kinds of negative thoughts and words? It's like sowing and watering seeds faithfully and then watching the vegetables and flowers grow. You'll be cultivating the stress monster as it grows fat and powerful. Instead of fresh vegetables and flowers, you'll find your cortisol skyrocketing, your blood pressure increasing, your muscles tensing, your mood darkening, your thoughts constricting: in short, you will find yourself developing increasingly powerful physical and emotional stress responses. Did you know the stress monster lives in your reptilian brain? Yes, the lower brain, also called the limbic or reptilian brain, coordinates the stress response, in large part cutting off input from the higher brain centers.

 

But, you say, my thoughts are private. My angry thoughts are just letting off steam. And my gossip with my friends on the phone or in the back room sometimes seems to make me feel good. And no one knows what I think or say in confidence. Guess what? YOU know. Your body, your mind, your stress monster, your reptilian brain, your internal critic, your higher self: all parts of your know about your negative thoughts and words. Santa Claus may not know, but you know whether you've been naughty or nice. And guess who else knows?  Your family and friends will know when, frustrated, you blurt out those formerly private thoughts.

 

If you want to live in peace, joy and happiness, which you do, you have to pay attention to your everyday stream of thoughts and feelings. Simply put: positive thoughts build positivity and negative thoughts build more negativity, and it all matters. How do I know this for sure? The new science tells us that quantum energy is the all-present life force, and  epigeneticists tell us that genes can be altered and do not rule our lives.  Science shows us that our bodies and minds are responding to each choice we make, large or small, and the totality of our experience is largely made up of cumulative small experiences. Science tells us that our thought fields extend far beyond our bodies into the quantum universe. And psychologists have demonstrated that negativity is more powerful than positivity, so we need to strive for a three-to-one positive to negative experiences. Thoughts are actually energy, and negative thoughts keep our minds in the reptilian zone, blocking access to our higher brain and higher self. As noted in technical materials from the HeartMath Institute, "It is now evident that every thought, attitude, and emotion has a physiological consequence, and that patterns of physiological activity continually influence our emotional experience, thought processes, and behavior."

 

I've written before about complaining, envy and jealousy and the toll they take on our lives. But what's wrong with a little juicy gossip? Think about it. How often do you gossip about positive events in the lives of your friends and acquaintances?   In fact, the dictionary defines gossip as "idle talk, usually about other people's private lives, especially of a disapproving or malicious nature."  While some psychological research has pointed to purported benefits of gossip such as increasing socials solidarity within a group, most research actually points out the long-term problems with gossip. Gossip usually contains negative information of unknown validity and increases suspiciousness and mistrust. Psychological research shows that anxious and unpopular individuals gossip more than socially secure people. As on old Spanish proverb states, "Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you."  A version of a joke goes like this. One friend confesses to a problem with spending money. Another friend confesses to a problem with drinking too much. The third "friend" says, "I have a problem with gossip and I can't wait to get out of here and tell everyone about you two!"  We'd be better off by taking the advice of one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin: "I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truths; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasion speak all that good I know of everybody." That kind of gossip has virtue!

 

Let's remember an old saying we may have been taught as a child: "What goes around comes around."  Let's dedicate this month, and in fact the rest of our lives, to positive thoughts, words and actions.