Have a Thought Party!
It's time to get into the meat of this program. It has been my experience that the most important factor contributing to how we feel is the pattern of our thoughts.
Our thoughts color our every experience. Often, the experience itself has very little to do with how we feel at all. Most often, in fact, how we feel about a given situation is more a reflection of what we think about it, than what the situation actually presents us with.
For instance, if someone compliments your clothes, you could react (in thought) several ways. Those thoughts, in turn, affect your feelings and thereby create your experience. See the table below to see what I mean:
"Your outfit makes you look so young and hip!"
Possible Inner Belief
Probable Emotional Reaction
She likes my outfit.
My outfit looks good.
She thinks I'm old and geeky!
I am old and geeky.
She has no idea how much work I have to go
I am ugly, and people who say otherwise are
She has great taste!
I look great and it's terrific that she noticed!
Pleased, friendly, happy
Of course, that list is oh-so-basic and superficial, but hopefully you get the idea. Do you see how the same exact statement made to four different people with different belief systems – and therefore different thought patterns – can bring about completely different reactions? This is true for just about any situation you can imagine.
We're going to spend a great deal of time learning how to recognize, challenge, and gain mastery over our belief systems and our thoughts as this program continues. Today, however, we're going to practice one tiny aspect of that.
So let's have a party!
Most of us are busy people, but we all have moments during our day when we are alone with our thoughts. This might be while we are washing dishes, taking a shower, or waiting for sleep to come at night. Choose one of those times during your day. It doesn't really matter when this time is, as long you are alone with your thoughts, and it happens everyday. Make a conscious decision that, during this time, you will think only about things that have the potential to bring a smile to your face.
So let's look at how I do this – always keeping in mind that your style will likely be different, and that's perfectly okay.
I chose showering as my Thought Party time because it's something I do everyday, the activity itself takes little or no thought to accomplish, and I'm very unlikely to be interrupted. Also, I noticed a pattern in myself in which I often used my time in the shower to think about my problems – always with the intent to solve them, of course, but rarely with that result.
So, as I step into the shower each evening, I remind myself that it's time for my Thought Party. (This is an especially necessary step in the beginning, before it becomes habitual.) I leave my problems, worries, and troubles behind.
From the moment I step into the shower, until I am dried off and dressed, it's Party Time. During that time, I focus my mind upon the things that made me happy. This might include a happy memory from my day, my little boy's grinning face (pictured in full color and 3D), my favorite memory of a good time, a positive expectations about an upcoming event (like, That trip to Vegas is gonna be so much fun!), or even a funny movie I've seen. The possibilities are virtually endless, and I will be helping you along with new ideas on the sidebar (more on that later).
If, for some reason, I have difficulty bringing up a memory or specific thought process that is pleasurable, I look around my environment for something positive to think. It may sound trite, but it really works! Ooh, look at the way the light is hitting the water. It's all sparkly. Or, that soap sure smells good. (Then take a big whiff of it to help imprint the positive thought into your mind.)
It doesn't hurt one bit to add things to your environment that will help facilitate this process. For instance, if you have your Party in the shower, buy yourself some soap you really like. If you do it waiting for sleep, try putting a scented candle next to your bed. (You don't have to light it!) If you do it while washing dishes, or folding laundry, put up a piece of artwork nearby that you can look at. However, although these things might be helpful, none of them are necessary. This Party needs no favors to be a success!
You may find that this process takes some practice. I certainly did. First, it was difficult for me to find positive things to think about. However, I found my gratitude lists extremely useful in that case. The things for which you are grateful are often the best fodder for Thought Parties. However, if you have trouble at first, know that it is perfectly okay to simply repeat a positive affirmation until something better comes along. There have been more than a few times, during my own Parties, that I have simply said, "All is well," over and over again as I washed my hair.
One other obstacle that comes up for me is the occasional negative (or problem-oriented) thought. They are bound to arise, especially in the beginning. When they do, I simply say (mentally) "Nope. You're not invited. Come back later." Sometimes it helps to make an "agreement" with your problems that you will give them due attention later. The trick is to remind yourself that just for this little bit of time, you are setting the problems aside. Don't worry if nagging thoughts come up over and over during your first few Parties. That's pretty normal. Just patiently and consistently tell them to go away and come back later.
If all else fails, I have found a trick. This works on the most difficult and persistent negative "Party Crasher" thoughts. The trick is: It's impossible to think about two separate things at the same time! (Remember the faces and vase experiment in Assignment #2?) If you are thinking, "All is well," over and over and over again, the only time that a negative thought can get in there is when you stop. So don't stop. If you have to, think a positive affirmation for the entire time.
Find a time to do this every single day for at least ten minutes. (Longer is fine!) Look below for a few ideas, and feel more than free to add your own ideas to your list.
This exercise is both fun and extremely important. You are retraining your mind to take orders from you! It is your mind, after all! After just a few sessions, you'll find that you have much more control over your thoughts than you may have believed. Even if it's only for ten minutes a day, this is great news, and your new skill is going to come in handy down the road.
Oh yeah! And it's FUN! You're going to find (very early on) that you actually feel better after you do this exercise. It's the first of many improvements you are going to notice.
So go Party!
A few Party Favors to Try
- Relive happy memory
- Gratitude "ABCs" (Go through the alphabet and list a gratitude for each letter. I'm grateful for apple cider and balloons!)
- Visualize a wish coming true (Feel how it would be if it really happened)
- Appreciation (Ooh, look at how pretty that blue is!)
- Mentally visit your happy place
- Think about a simple love (Babies and pets seem to work best for this one.)