Imagine sitting in five o’clock traffic on your way home from work, slowly inching forward every few minutes. You think to yourself, “I’ve already had a bad day at work. Now it’s going to take forty-five minutes just to get home!” How are you feeling? Angry? Annoyed?
Traffic begins to let up, then someone cuts you off. You’re already angry. By instinct, you yell and curse at the driver.
You finally arrive home, open the door, and your spouse immediately asks, “Can you put your laundry up? It’s still in the dryer.” This puts you over the edge. You explode with anger and frustration.
For many of us, this scenario happens far too often. We bottle our feelings and let our negative thoughts pile up—like a snowball rolling down a hill—until one small incident sets us off. The result of the scenario above could’ve been entirely prevented by changing one thing: your thoughts.
The power of thought is tremendous. A single negative thought can lead to negative feelings, which can lead to negative actions, then eventually to negative results. In the example, one single thought led you to feel angry and annoyed. As soon as someone cut you off in traffic, you yelled at the other driver, consumed with anger. You come home and lash out at your spouse, causing tension within your relationship.
What can we do to alter our own scenarios?
- Accept the things you can’t change. Five o’clock traffic is unavoidable. You can’t control how others drive. Instead of wasting energy on situations you can’t change, accept the situation for what it is. Tell yourself, “This is happening. I can’t change it and I accept that.”
- Shift your mindset. We have the power to change our thoughts. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. Next time you are in traffic, use the drive to unwind after work—listen to your favorite songs, start a new podcast, appreciate forty-five minutes of time to yourself. Intentionally try to find a positive in the situation and embrace it.
- Practice, practice, practice! Changing thought patterns won’t happen overnight. It takes immense effort and practice. The more often you practice positive thinking, the faster it will become a habit.
It only takes one positive thought to create a positive scenario. Choose to control the power of thought.
By Mallory Rubek, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist