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May 23, 2022

Thinking About Thinking

May is Mental Health Awareness month! What exactly is mental health? Mental health can include our emotional, psychological and social well-being. There are many things that can contribute to, or impede, being mentally healthy. One of those things is the way we think. We can take comfort in knowing that while there is so much in life that is out of our control, we do have control over our thoughts. And our thoughts are directly connected to our mental health.

Let’s look at a couple of examples: A new employee is given a task at work that she has never done before. She might think “Oh no! I can’t do this. What could they be thinking entrusting me with this?” Obviously this thought process is not contributing to her mental health. Perhaps a healthier response would be “Wow, I’ve never done this before. This is an opportunity to learn something new. And if I get stuck, I can always ask for help.” Yes, our negative thought patterns may come from deep, historical life experiences. And yes, with hard work and a desire to change, we can change these negative thought patterns into positive ways of thinking, which will positively impact our mental health.

Another example: a student fails a math test. He thinks “I’m an idiot. I will never understand these concepts.” Wouldn’t it be great if instead he said “I’m really disappointed. This shows me that I need to study more for the next test.” He acknowledges his feelings of disappointment and uses his thoughts to learn from and improve his circumstances.

It can be helpful to take a moment to think about how we think. And practice makes progress! Using mantras—simple sayings you repeat to yourself—can help retrain our brains. Some examples of mantras:

  • I got this
  • I accept myself as I am
  • I am braver than I think
  • I have what it takes
  • I can accomplish what I want to accomplish
  • Change is always possible
  • I am in charge of myself

As we learn and practice ways to turn our thoughts from negative to positive, we can look to Albert Einstein who said “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Resources for Mental Health Support:
Mental Health America mhanational.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/
https://www.crisistextline.org/

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