Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Redirecting Our Anxious/Negative Thoughts

I’ve been re-reading Who Switched Off My Brain?: Controlling toxic thoughts and emotions by Dr. Caroline Leaf, and ran across some really great information. I also found similar information by Dr. Archibald Hart. Both Dr. Leaf and Dr. Hart agree that people who suffer from anxiety need to pay attention to their thoughts. An excerpt from Dr. Leaf’s book says: “What you do and say on the outside must reflect what you think on the inside. A lack of congruence causes stress and affects the way information is processed and memory is built. Framing your world with your words involves replacing negative thinking and words through a right attitude shift. You do this by: acknowledging that an issue exists, reflecting on what is wrong with it, considering how you can cope with it, asking whether you can do it alone or if you need help.”

Dr. Hart says: “Daily write in a small notebook every bothersome thought, event, or person that comes to mind. Ask yourself, “Which of these can I take care of right now? Is there anything I can change? Then take that action immediately and cross that thought off your list. Take the rest of your list—things you cannot take care of there and then and pray about them. Commit them to God. Then close your notebook. Doing this at the end of each day or whenever a bothersome thought occurs will help transfer it from your mind to paper.” If your mind keeps harping on an issue, write it down as often as you think of it. Pray about it. Then move on to other things.  
Dr. Hart also suggests writing down several good events that have happened in your life that bring you pleasure when you remember them. (Phil. 4:8) Write them on a card to keep with you throughout your day. For each event write down two or three specific things that happened that makes the event pleasurable for you. Keep this card with you at all times. Every hour or two review one of the memories on your card. Re-live it, savor it. Meditate on it for four or five minutes. Then return the card to its safe place and continue about your business. In this way you’re redirecting your thoughts away from anxious ones.

You can do this with pictures, too. Not long ago I found an old picture of my husband and me when we were celebrating his birthday in his parents' backyard. We were dating at the time—still teenagers. It made me smile to remember us back then. I’ve looked at it several times this past week and smile every time as I relived those wonderful days of getting to know each other and just being together. My children’s pictures bring wonderful memories to mind as well.

And there is always Scripture meditation—both Dr. Leaf and Dr. Hart speak of the importance of meditating on Scripture.  I’ve been reaping the benefits of that--as you know.
The more we concentrate on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praise-worthy in our lives (Phil. 4:8), the more positive thoughts and memories we’ll have to fill our minds and hearts. We'll then be more congruent--positive on the inside and on the outside. Faith-filled on the inside and acting in faith on the outside.



J said...

The word congruency keeps popping up in sessions with my therapist. Thank you for sharing this. I feel very blessed in having found your blog. All praise and glory to God for allowing our cyberpaths to meet.

Joni said...

Thanks for your comments, J. :) I've also learned that congruency (which to me means being authentic) is so much easier than trying to appear to be someone you aren't. Most of my life was lived as being a people-pleaser. Then I read Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning and he said something that resonated with me. It was in a prayer he wrote asking God to "free me from the tyranny of the approval and disapproval of others so that I may find delight simply and solely in pleasing You." I remember thinking, "That's it! Trying to be everything everybody wanted me to be (or who I perceived they wanted me to be) was tyrannical, exhausting, and stressful. When I make it my goal to please my Lord only, I don't have to do cartwheels to get others to accept me.

stephanie said...

Hi Joni,

Thanks for these helpful tips. I've been struggling with anxiety for a little over a year now and it's very trying at times.


Ren said...

I love the notebook suggestion!