How researchers or scientists calculate how many thoughts any one person has on any given day is beyond me. Yet, somehow researchers have calculated that the average human being can have up to 50,000 thoughts in a twenty-four hour period. No wonder my head feels heavy at the end of a day.
Becoming conscious of what occupies our mind is significant because our thoughts and feelings are closely tied to each other. Think about the last time you felt frustrated, irritated or down right angry. Those feelings were first stimulated by a particular circumstance that stirred up a thought in the first place. For instance, last week I gave a spelling test. When I finished dictating the list of twelve words to my students, one of them asked me to repeat words 2-12. Feeling my body begin to tense, I knew that what I was thinking could not be said out loud. To gain some patience, I took a deep breath, smiled and repeated the words for him. Just as quickly as our thoughts stir up anger or frustration, we can alter our thinking to calmer and patient thoughts too.
The key to our thinking is tuning into the body. When my shoulders hunch up while typing a blog, I know I am tense. The tenseness arises because I am thinking about whether or not I will get the blog done in time for whatever I think I have to do next; make dinner, get out for a jog or go for a swim. If I tell myself that I have ample time to complete my writing, my shoulders move down away from my ears and I relax, bringing deeper breaths of air into my lungs and clearer thinking to my head.
Though this process of tuning into our bodies and considering our thinking can seem like a lot of work, it’s not. It just feels like it at the beginning. Like learning anything new, it does take a conscious effort. But, once we get into the habit of tuning into the nuances of our bodies; how feelings of anxiety, frustration, or tension, make different parts of our bodies scrunch up, and tighten up and our breath goes shallow, we discover our patterns. And when we realize our patterns, reading ourselves becomes much easier.
But let’s not forget about those times when we feel happy. The other day, while walking and talking with a friend about how our thoughts affect our bodies, I told her about a recent epiphany. I’ve discovered that when I am grateful, I am happy. Thinking thoughts of gratitude energizes and refreshes me.
Why bother noticing what we think? Our brains are working all the time to produce happiness and contentment or discouragement and discontentment. The things we think matter enough to notice.