Friday, September 6, 2013

Positive Thinking: Choosing Your Thoughts

Your thoughts are the architects of your destiny.

-David O. McKay

Have you ever watched a cow eat? I mean, really watched them through the whole process? Well I may be a city girl but there are enough cows here in Wisconsin that I have seen my fair share of the cow eating process. Mostly it is standing and chewing. After grazing on some grass, cows stop eating and regurgitate all the grass back up in the form of cud. Then they keep chewing. For hours, until it is ground down enough to properly digest. 

This digestive process is known as rumination (derived from the word rumen- the part of a cow's stomach where cud is formed) and this is the perfect metaphor for what we humans tend to do with our deepest thoughts. Sometimes we just need to chew things over for hours before we can "digest" them:

Rumination appears to be an instinctive human response when something goes wrong. It's as if we're hardwired to replay our recent trials and tribulations over and over again in the mind's eye- to mull things over for a while before we're ready to move on. And a little such dwelling can be helpful, since it often leads to valuable insights- providing greater clarity about what just went wrong, what can be done to correct things, and what might help us prevent similar negative outcomes in the future.
But after a brief period of intense pondering, we've usually extracted all the useful bits of meaning from the situation that we're ever likely to find. We soon hit the point of diminishing returns, when any more dwelling is simply a waste of time. But some people stay at it long past the point when enough is enough. And, unfortunately, extended rumination can have damaging effects.

-Stephen S. Ilardi, PhD excerpt from The Depression Cure

As someone who has personally struggled with depression for over 10 years, I know that too much rumination is an unhealthy and unproductive habit that can lead to a dangerous downward spiral. Simply put, if you think about sad, scary, or stressful things, you will eventually start to feel sad, scared, or stressed. You will probably withdraw socially and avoid the things that may help you feel better. Therefore it is a self-defeating habit that we need to break!

The best anti-rumination activity that I have found is positive thinking. Sounds simple, right? Just think a happy thought! But its not always simple. When times are tough, sometimes it is hard to see the bright side, and it may seem like it just doesn't exist. But one thing I know for sure is that feeling will pass. Because right now, in this moment, I am not feeling sad. Therefore that is proof that all the other times I have been depressed have passed.

Positive thinking and overcoming depression are topics that I am very passionate about so I will be getting into more detail on these topics in my blog. But I am going to end today by sharing one of my favorite quotes, and inviting you to share some positive thoughts of your own!

(flower photograph by Bree Madden)

 There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under my jurisdiction. There are certain lottery tickets I can buy, thereby increasing my odds of finding contentment. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body with, whom I share my life and energy with. I can select what I eat and read and study. I can choose how I'm going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life- whether I will see them as curses or opportunities (and on the occasions when I can't rise to the most optimistic viewpoint, because I'm feeling too damn sorry for myself, I can choose to keep trying to change my outlook.). I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.

-Elizabeth Gilbert, excerpt from Eat, Pray, Love
Do you have any positive thoughts you would like to share?


  1. nice post....thanks for the inspiration!
    (lovely wildflower pic :))

  2. A very honest and insightful post. I can relate to a great deal of what you have written.

    Thank you for featuring my self-portrait which is, in itself, a perfect example of what can happen if we ruminate too long!

    Emma ♥

  3. great that quite from eat pray true. so much out of our control, but what about the stuff that is within? glad i stumbled over here from invisible crown.