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Change Your Mind and Change Your Life

Dan Johnston, Phd

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"Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so. " ~ William Shakespeare

How many of your problems could be solved by something as simple as changing your mind? All of the daily problems we face exist in our minds, because in order to have a problem we must be thinking about it, and what we think may make the problem worse than it actually is.

For many of us it comes natural to always imagine the worst and then to forget that we only imagined it. We take our imagination for the truth. While what we are worried about could happen, usually, it does not. We create unnecessary mental anguish through worry.

Suppose you are sick and visit your doctor to have some tests run. It takes a few days to get the results. In the meantime your busy mind can convince you that you must be seriously ill. You see yourself incapacitated, and even begin to plan your funeral, only to be given the good news that everything is normal. You created more misery than you needed.

If you can catch yourself in the midst of such exaggerated thinking and just change you mind by redirecting your thinking, then life can get better. Changing your mind, however, is hard work, because to do it you must think about how you think. You must pay attention to the inner chatter of the Voice of Conscience, and when you catch it exaggerating or talking nonsense, call a time-out and challenge the dialogue.

With regard to your doctor visit, when your mind wanders to the worst, stop and come back to the facts you have. Don't add to them. Remind yourself to be patient and wait to hear from your doctor.

Learn to change your mind by monitoring your thinking. When you catch your mind racing down the wrong path, put on the brakes, and turn around. You will create less misery. Practice thinking about how you think, and your problems may well decrease. Learn to catch your mind in action, and always make the more optimistic choice.

You can begin this process right now. Start thinking about how you think and just continue to do so all day long. When you find yourself thinking “nonsense" and adding to your trouble, just stop and come back to reality. Do this all day today. Now, continue to do it all day, every day for the rest of your life, and life will begin to improve.

Most people upon hearing this advice throw up their arms in despair and say, “It's too hard. Can't I just do it a few weeks and stop?" The answer is, “No!" That would be like successfully dieting two weeks and stopping. The weight soon returns.

The simple reality is that you have no choice about whether you will do it or not. Every day, you will think and create reality in your mind. You cannot avoid it. You are always thinking. The only choice you have is whether you will do it consciously or unconsciously. Will you do it and know that you are doing it, which means you are in control and can change it, or will you forget about your thinking, feel like a victim, and believe that others control your life?

Each day choose to think about how you think. Each day carefully listen to what you say to yourself, and choose your best attitude. Change your mind, and take control of your life.

Dr. Dan Johnston, Ph. D. is a clinical psychologist affiliated with Mercer Health Systems in Macon, Georgia. For 20 years he was the Director of Psychological Services for a large metropolitan Medical Center and is currently serving as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science for Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia. Dr. Johnston's expertise is in stress management and resiliency training. He is the author of “Lessons for Living: Simple Solutions for Life's Problems" from Dagali Press and creator of the popular Lessons for Living Web Site ( ).


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