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Change Your Mind, Change Your Feelings


The relationship between thinking and feeling.

That’s got to be about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!  I remember my 17-year-old self clearly thinking this when Matty, one of the football captains in my high school days, told me he ran 10 miles.  Apparently he went from Diehl to Asbury Park and back. If you’re not from New Jersey you don’t know how far this is, but it’s roughly 10 miles. 

In hindsight, I now realize that he might have also been on the cross country team while he was playing football. He was a slender, tough kid who loved Bruce Springsteen.. What surprised me was that anybody would run 10 miles!  We would banter back-and-forth about this during football practices all the time. Honestly, I haven’t talked to him since high school. I can only imagine what he would say now.  I remember telling a good friend of mine about this before I started getting into marathons, Iron Man, and ultras. Just the other day we were having a conversation, and somehow Matty came up. He said, “I wonder what Matty would say if he knew you were doing all this stuff. You obviously feel a lot different about all of it now.” 

He had me dead to rights.

It’s funny, but how we think about something, creates the feelings we have around it. Likewise, how we feel about something can definitely invade our thoughts.  Therefore, it stands to reason that when we change our thoughts, we change our perspective. I mean seriously, if I think about it, 10 miles back in the day during football practice seems doable. I’m not saying it’s a walk in the park now, but I just finished a 20 mile training run and it didn’t seem like dragging my body through the gates of hell.

Perspective changes over time. I think about that a lot. I’m not talking about my perspective now as an adult versus that of my teenage self (though it has changed a lot!).  As I’m now training to run a race of 100 miles, I notice that what one mile means to me in the beginning of the race definitely changes as I get to the end of it, or at least in the later stages of it. In the first 5 miles of the 50k that you’re racing you’re still filled with optimism, hope, and fresh legs.  Those last 5 miles at the end feel like an endless journey.

What I’ve learned is that if I want to change my feelings I have to change my thinking. I know it sounds cliche, but let me explain:

Sometimes you’re really just having a crappy race. Or maybe sometimes you’re just having a difficult parenting moment.  Perhaps it was one of those days at work where you just wish you could’ve stayed at home. If you are focusing on the pain of that race, the tantruming toddler, or the irritating meeting you’re sitting in, then, yeah, it can all feel pretty bad.  But, if you try focusing down on a memory of a really good race, a fun time you had with your child, or a success you’ve had at work, you’ll draw in some of the uplifting feelings that come along with those memories.  

Another way you can change your thinking is through your activities–literally putting your brain onto something else.  Maybe go out for a run or a walk, see a really good friend and talk it out, or even just take some time to play with your kids if you have any.  When you do this, your brain can’t focus on more than one thing at a time (despite what we tell ourselves), so you are giving it a break from the stressful feelings and drawing in (or creating within yourself) emotions of your own choosing.

These might be trivial changes.  Neither of these tools will solve the problems going on in your life. But that’s just it, whatever is going on is going on in your mind, and thinking your way out may not be the answer this time. But you can change the way you are thinking to create the feelings you want.  This may give you a small bit of relief for a while.  But if you keep practicing changing the way you are thinking, over time it will become more automatic, and you’ll be able to choose the emotions that you feel.

If you would like to learn tools and skills to help you reduce your emotional isolation, lessen your avoidance of shame, fear, and anxiety, to reach your goals, break old habits, or create new ones, I can help. We can meet virtually or in person at my office in Waterbury, Vermont.  Just click the button or the link below for a free consultation and let’s talk. Click to Select a Date & Time for your free consultation.

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