So many people go to great lengths to keep their bodies healthy and strong. They will go running, walking, play sports or join a gym but how many will give as much attention to keeping their minds healthy and strong?
Looking after the mind is something we can all do wherever we are. We don’t need expensive equipment or clothes or gym memberships to do so. Paying attention to what we are thinking about can change how we are feeling.
Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and philosopher said “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength.” So what does that actually mean? I believe it means we truly only have power over our thoughts, our actions and our reactions. Once we realise that we are in control of ourselves and choose how we think, act or react then what others do, think or say will no longer have the same effect on us.
If someone cuts you up in traffic how do you react? Do you ignore them or do you get angry?Whichever reaction you have is your choice. The person who cut you up doesn’t cause you to feel anger, it is your decision to feel that way, so why allow an outside event change your feelings.
Becoming aware of what we are thinking, the practice of mindfulness, will help us take control of how we feel. Our thoughts trigger the feelings our bodies experience. A simple example I regularly use with clients when speaking about the power of the mind is as follows:
Close your eyes and imagine you are in your kitchen, you know where everything is, and imagine walking over to your fridge and opening the fridge door and see the light come on. Now imagine looking into the fridge and see half a lemon sitting on the shelf. See the juice glistening on the flesh of the lemon, see the bright yellow colour of the skin and imagine reaching into the fridge and pick up the lemon. Maybe you notice the cool air around your hand and the feel of the waxy skin of the lemon as you take it from the from the fridge. Imagine now bringing the lemon towards your mouth and place your tongue on the lemon and feel the tangy, sharp taste. Now open your eyes and maybe you can notice the build up of saliva in your mouth, which the majority of people do experience. The lemon didn’t exist but your body reacted to the thought of it and produced the chemical reaction to release the saliva in your mouth.
Our thoughts create our feelings so by paying attention to what we are thinking about we can change how we are feeling. Learning to keep the mind healthy is as important as keeping the body healthy.