Mind What You Put in Your Mind


 Recently, my mom had a health concern–serious enough that I thought I should spend the night with her. (Not to worry, she’s fine now.) And we slept on the couches in the family room at her house. Mom leaves the TV on all night, set on a PBS channel, volume up, as her hearing is getting bad. Each time I woke in the night, I was treated to a documentary about some human tragedy: the Vietnamese boat people, the discrimination faced by the first African-American Marines in WW II, the 2007 tsunami. It did not make for a restful night.

Radio talk show host Michael Medved says the problem with TV is not low quality, but high quantity–“Americans spend an average of 29 hours a week watching television-which means in a typical life span we devote 13 uninterrupted years to our TV sets! The biggest problem with mass media isn’t low quality–it’s high quantity. Cutting down just an hour a day would provide extra years of life–for music and family, exercise and reading, conversation and coffee.”

But I think it’s not just the quantity of TV watched, but what we are feeding our minds. Humans have thought loops like habits. When we worry, we worry about all sorts of things that are not likely to occur. If we tend to think negative thoughts about ourselves and others, those thoughts form neural pathways in the brain that get stronger each time we have the thought. Then that is the first place our mind goes and we can make ourselves and those around us miserable with our thought patterns.

Any habit can be changed. Including the thinking ones.

The next time that you notice yourself having a thought you don’t want to have. Mentally say, “Stop!” Then consciously find a memory that you like. Or an affirmation you are fond of. Keep doing this, and you can stop the thoughts you do not want and replace them with ones that you do. Seek out books and TV shows that highlight positive human behavior or ways to create positive change.

We can make our thinking healthy by training our minds to focus on the ideas and thoughts that we want to encourage, in the same way that the body can be made stronger through eating well and exercise.


8 responses to “Mind What You Put in Your Mind

  1. Your son has told me many times that I can change my “worrisome” behavior by mentally stop thinking about it so you taught him well. I’m not very good at it though. When I’m in Yoga I try to concentrate on breathing and not thinking what I have to do when I leave there but I’m still not very good at it but I hope by practicing enough, it will come. I watch Ellen on TV that I tape and Tom watches the news. He rants on and on about stuff going on and I sit there and laugh at Ellen – I like my choice more.

    • Barb- there is lots of new research coming out that we are basically rewiring our brains everyday with what we do and what we think about. I think that Ellen is a much better choice than the news. Reminds me of the Garrison Keillor quote, “If you watch the TV news, you know less about the world than if you just drank gin straight from the bottle.”

      • Yes, he gets so disgusted with it but still watches it to be informed. Brandy put me on some list to get this Daily Skimm in my email and it tells me a synopsis of it so I don’t have to watch it.

  2. I so agree with you Fawn. We have to discern what we feed our minds as well as our bodies.

  3. Fawn,
    I really needed this post today! I know it’s a bit older than your more current ones, but I’ve found your blog from Miss Minimalist’s website and I’m enjoying reading your previous posts.
    I admit, I always thought something was wrong with me because I generally jump to the worst case scenario-thinking. And lets face it–modern TV shows help promote that mindset!
    Thank you so much for this–I’m going to come up with a new mantra. Something like, “Peace is just a thought a way.” And come up with two or three mental images that give me peace: like my dream tiny house, an empty bedroom, or one of my sleepy cats!
    Thanks again, Fawn! So glad to have found you!

    • Jane- I love your mental images, but have a suggestion about your mantra. Create one that describes the peace available to you in ” I am” terms. Instead of “Peace is X away” try “I am a sleepy cat resting in a sunbeam” or “I am a boulder of peace in the torrent of the river” or something like that. Glad to have you join our little community.

      • Fawn, that’s brilliant! I literally felt the difference as soon as I read those. Beautiful images. Thank you for creating such a wonderful online oasis.

      • Yes! It is indeed brillant! I will try this one “I am a smiling, organized mom, reading a novel on her sofa in a immaculate appartment with all the items on her to-do list done”! No, seriously, it really is a good idea. I will try to look at my beautiful plant and imagine that I am a zen monk that do not have to care about anything else other than the present moment.

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