This time of year I’m planting lots of seeds in my garden. I enjoy tending to the kale, chard, pole beans and snap peas that are beginning to sprout in the rich soil.
But vegetables aren’t all that I actively cultivate. I’m equally attentive to the thoughts that exist in my mental garden, as well.
My mind, like steamy compost, provides fertile ground in which many internal messages can take root. Some of those thoughts are constructive and promote feelings of calm and contentment. Others, however, are harmful. I’m agitated or angry when they enter my air space. They interfere with my well-being, and I do best when I keep them out.
I do this by recognizing that I have complete control over the thoughts I choose to think. Rather than being a passive bystander, I’m the sentry standing guard over my brain. When I notice ideas that make me unhappy I escort them right out the door.
Unfortunately, too many people behave like psychological victims. They complain, “I can’t control how I feel.” They think others cause them to be angry, resentful or afraid. Then they embark on a futile quest to change those around them in order to feel better about themselves.
I can only control one person — me. If I choose to be happy then I’ll be happy, regardless of what folks say or do. Even when life throws me an inevitable curveball I do my best to turn it into an emotional base hit.
I certainly don’t act like I’m on Quaaludes. I experience deep disappointment. At times, I have grappled with unbearable despair. These sentiments remind me that I am human and that my humanity sometimes exacts a heavy toll.
Instead of feeling defeated, I want to maximize the goodness I encounter. I don’t want to dwell on hurtful interactions or times when I feel I was wronged. Unless those events are impacting me today, I want to write them out of my personal script.
Even if something’s still unsettled, I do my best to keep it in check. Life will never be free of its rough edges. Staying peaceful in their presence is an ongoing goal.
Practicing compassion is a daily occurrence. Each of us, regardless of age, gender or nationality, shares far more similarities than differences. We all want to be safe, care for our children and feel loved. When I tap into that sameness I feel hostility or impatience melt away. I understand the mistakes that a person may be making. I make many of them, too.
I avoid filling my airspace with negative energy. I don’t listen to ranting talk shows on the radio. I keep my opinions on local politics to myself. Yes, it’s imperative that we keep abreast on important issues. Still, it’s wise to do so in an informative, not pointlessly disturbing, way.
I try to keep worry at bay.
My fretting never changes the outcome of a situation. It only makes me nervous and keeps me awake at night. I do my best to take charge wherever I am able. Then I take a deep, cleansing breath and know the matter is out of my hands.
Obviously, my emotional garden requires constant attention. There’s never a time when I can rest and feel I’m finished. Still, I do my best to keep out the psychic crabgrass and harvest the peaceful bounty it provides.
Tips for a weed-free life of the mind
Want to cultivate more positive and peaceful thoughts? Try these ideas:
Meditate. Daily meditation calms your thinking and your breathing, two vital components for emotional well-being. Don’t get bogged down with expectations. Daily, quiet sitting will always have a positive effect.
Change your emotional channels. When you notice you’re thinking destructive thoughts replace them with positive images. Do it as often as needed to nurture the cognitive patterns you want.
Keep things in perspective. It’s easy to blow events out of proportion, increasing your stress and anger. Dowse emotional wildfires by saying, “We’ll get through this,” or “Hang in there. We’re stronger than this momentarily crisis.”
Find inspiration. Read quotes from the Bible or the Dalai Lama on Facebook. Send uplifting cards to your friends. Powerful messages may be expressed in few words, yet have a profound impact on your psyche.
Find emotionally uplifting friends. Seek like-minded acquaintances that infuse your airwaves with positive vibes. You’ll have plenty in common and you’ll support each others’ progress toward a calmer, more peaceful way of living.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com