My head is full of debris. Like the CNN ticker, a bazillion thoughts run through my mind a day. Where is the cat, the coffee, the WD40? When is the guy coming to cut the lawn? Crap, it’s hot in here. What time is it? Where do I park? Fortunately, most of these thoughts don’t affect me. They merely flash for a second and then float on by.
There is another breed of thoughts in my head. Instead of floating, they come at me from a red-hot flare gun. I better not screw up. I’m running out of time. There is not enough money / energy / jobs / love / sleep. Sure hope I don’t get cancer. Can you feel the difference? These thoughts are charged with panic, anxiety and fear. We tend to dodge these thoughts by distracting ourselves. I don’t have time to think like this. Let’s move, move, MOVE!
We can attempt to dodge, but flare gun thoughts have phenomenal boomerang capabilities. And once you focus on a stressful thought, it becomes easier to think it a second, third and 39th time. This creates a rut in your thinking and can negatively affect your perspective.
And here’s the kicker: stressful thoughts can bring about the very thing we wish to avoid. You know about the placebo effect. Well, say hello to its cousin — nocebo effect.
nocebo effect (n.): the phenomenon in which the expectation of a negative outcome actually leads to that outcome.
Let’s say that I’m continually thinking, “There is not enough time.” This makes me feel anxious, panicky and FREAKED OUT. Operating from this state makes it difficult to think clearly. I feel scattered. I am less productive and; therefore, I am literally wasting time. The nocebo effect is proven.
And now for some good news.
Our brains are flexible and capable of change. This means that we can coax an anxious mind toward a happier outlook. Try flipping the stressful thought. Consider its opposite by thinking, “There is enough time.” Imagine for a few seconds that this is true. Hey, perhaps on some level it IS true. Can you feel a smidgen of hope? Perhaps a slight relaxation in your body and mind? If you are like me, you are now in a better position to make good use of your time.
Your thoughts can take you to a bad neighborhood in your mind, but they are also the way out. You can transform the nocebo effect into placebo effect anytime you want. I invite you to drop the thoughts that weaken you and pick up thoughts that feel more peaceful. Repeat. Continue until this state becomes natural. It can take time to undo the deep ruts in your brain, but keep practicing. With focused attention, you can literally rewire your brain and develop a new perspective.
To learn more about being the boss of your brain, check out this summary of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School.
And if you are ready to be the boss of your life, check out how I can help.