Is it possible to generate positive emotions or do we have no control over how we feel?
Have you ever noticed what your mind is doing when you are not watching?
When I suddenly become aware of my thoughts, I am always surprised to find out that they are happening without my involvement. They are automatic. I am on autopilot.
Thoughts just pop out of the blue, and my mind catches on to them and keeps chewing on them.
One automatic thought leads to another, then another, then another until I am drawn into an incessant inner narrative that usually comes with bright pictures and images.
Before I know it, those “voices” from the past get mixed with something I heard on the news recently or some of my old fears and resentments.
This deadly mixture circles in my mind, eventually creating a dark cloud of negativity that grows ever bigger until I become aware of myself and say: “Why am I thinking all this!”
It’s so hard to stop. If you are like me, you know that negativity can be delectable. There’s a certain pleasure in savoring how you’ve been mistreated in the past or how things can go sour in the future.
But such thoughts and emotions are poisonous and will very soon generate fear, anger, resentment, and selfishness.
How do you get rid of “stinking thinking” and generate positive emotions?
“Stinking thinking” is a negative train of thought that generates selfishness, fear, resentment, and dishonesty, and eventually leads to compulsive behaviors.
So, how do you get rid of it?
The paradox is this – the more you try to stop negative thinking the more you focus on that which you want to eliminate. And what you focus on grows bigger.
Resisting certain thoughts brings on more thoughts of a similar nature. This process repeats itself indefinitely until we… switch our focus to something else.
And this first step is usually the hardest one. By the time I realize I need to switch my focus, the momentum of the negative thoughts and images in my mind is so strong that it’s almost impossible to stop.
King Solomon once said,
For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7
We are what we think. Or rather, we are what we focus on. Our focus determines our life. To generate positive emotions we need to shift our focus.
However, we can’t stop negative thinking by thinking. Because the more we think about how to stop thinking the more we energize it through focus.
There’s a simple technique that allows you to switch your focus without thinking. The key is to find things, activities, or images that are EASY to focus on in the moment.
In other words, we can’t reverse the negative stream of thinking all at once, but as soon as we put our focus on just one “better-feeling” thing, activity, or image, it becomes easier.
As soon as we do this first step, the magic of Solomon’s wisdom unfolds – just like one negative thought attracts more negative thoughts so also one positive thought attracts more positive thoughts.
The first positive thought is usually the hardest one. The next one is easier, the third one is much easier, and so on.
What are some things that are EASY to focus on?
The list will be different for different people because what’s easy for me to focus on may not be easy for someone else.
Here are some things I find relatively easy to focus on:
- Laughing – watch a comedy.
- Writing – creativity pulls me out of negativity.
- Connecting with people – talking to friends.
- Walking in nature and naming things I am grateful for.
- Playing with my kids.
With each laughter, each smile, each sunset, and each creative idea, the positive momentum grows stronger until cheerful thoughts start coming in easily.
Ordinary things stop being ordinary. As you walk in the park, you find yourself saying the words of Elizabeth Browning’s poem:
Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God.