Consider this, what your mind perceives becomes your reality.
Here’s why: You may not always perceive the world as it is, yet you go about assuming your view of things is correct; you assume your perception is, in fact, reality.
Tens of thousands of thoughts cross our minds each day, and there is no way we are examining and verifying them all, but each one of these thoughts impacts us. Our thoughts, which represent our perceptions and assumptions, dictate how we react emotionally to an event. Our emotions then determine our behaviors. Those behaviors will in turn, impact the events in our lives and our world, thus leading to new thoughts and on and on it goes.
What this means it that we react to the world as we see it and not (necessarily) as it is. In doing so we shape our own and other people’s lives.
Here is another point to consider, when we think about something, not only does it trigger an emotional response, but it also generates a physiological one. That’s why when we think of something stressful our body responds with physical expressions of stress (tension, rapid heart rate, irregular breathing, cramped stomach). In that moment your mind is picturing your boss yelling at you, your body is actually responding as if it were actually happening – what your mind perceives becomes your reality.
Are you creating a nightmare for yourself?
First of all, no one is saying that you should examine and evaluate every single one of your thoughts; I’m not even sure it’s possible. What you can do, however, is become more aware of your thoughts when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, unhappy or disconnected. By taking the time check in and look at your thoughts you actually get a chance to correct faulty, potentially stressful assumptions.
Think about all the times we walk around thinking things like: “I have no time!” or “Nothing is working out today!” or “What if [insert catastrophic outcome or scenario]?” What you probably realize by now, is that each one of those thoughts impacts you directly.
When you tell yourself you have no time, you feel stressed and potentially helpless because you believe you can’t do what you need or want to do. The reality, however, is that you don’t have enough time to do everything you want/need to do and you need to prioritize, which is not quite as awful as the initial thought would have you believe.
“Nothing is working out today!” is similarly stressful. Can you imagine a day where that statement is factually true? Me neither, because it is truly impossible. Imagine the hopelessness and helplessness that would ensue if it were true; it would be overwhelming.
You may think that when these kinds of thoughts cross your mind you insert an automatic caveat, but you don’t, and you pay a huge emotional and physiological toll.
What you can do:
So next time you catch yourself saying “what if” or worrying about something that has yet to happen, or next time you notice that you are feeling down take the time to check your thoughts, focus on the here and now if you are worrying about the what ifs, and make sure that your perception is as close to reality as possible. What you think is your reality, make sure it’s as close to factual as possible, living in a fantasy, or a nightmare won’t serve you well!