When you hear the word ‘thought-catcher’ what comes to mind for you? It could be a special book where you write down thoughts that you want to keep. It could be a template for designing a special document where you want to capture the ideas from multiple contributors.
In this case, it’s neither of those things. I am writing about you and the thoughts that come into your mind – what you catch – what comes, what stays, what you do with those thoughts, whether you consciously choose what to keep and what to let go, and what impact these thoughts have on your life and your physical and emotional wellbeing.
You can listen to the audio version of this blog here.
I talked about thought-catchers when I was interviewed by Joy McClymont in her hub chat with Off The Track Training participants. It’s a strong image. All thoughts have a particular frequency. Imagine an image of a rolling frequency heading your way, a frequency of a particular thought. Now picture it leaving by rolling out the other side of your head; or picture it staying in your head by becoming a circular motion rolling around inside. When it is rolling around inside you have caught it. The question is whether you’ve caught a thought that is helpful or not-helpful to your wellbeing?
We know how negative thoughts can weigh us down, and we also know how positive, uplifting thoughts make us feel better. The Institute of HeartMath has become renowned for its studies on the response of the physical body to different thoughts. By studying the activity of the heart in between each heart beat, called the heart rate variance (HRV), the Institute of HeartMath has been able to graph the HRV of the contrasting emotions frustration and appreciation. I discuss this extensively in my book “Eat … Think … Heal”.
As this diagram shows, when a person is experiencing frustration, the HRV is random and erratic. This contrasts with the clear pattern of coherence achieved through feelings of love and appreciation. The contrast is striking. It is also interesting because of its physiological impacts.
When there exists high heart rhythm coherence (as with feelings of appreciation), three important changes happen in the body.
- This increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows the body to heal and regenerate.
- Plus, it contributes to efficient and harmonious functioning of the cardiovascular, nervous, hormonal, and immune systems.
- Also, the body’s heart rhythms, breathing and blood pressure tend to synchronise.
This powerful list of benefits deserves a few moments consideration. Perhaps you may choose to read the previous three dot points again.
‘OK’ you say, ‘That’s interesting and sounds worthwhile. Now how do we produce these thoughts of appreciation in our busy, bombarded world?”
That’s where the thought-catcher comes in. If appreciation generates coherence in our body, and frustration generates incoherence in our body, then we must surely want to try to ‘catch’ our thoughts of appreciation and gratitude, and ‘let go’ our thoughts of frustration and anxiety.
I am not suggesting that you should never have thoughts of frustration and anxiety. This happens to all of us. What I am suggesting is that holding on to them so that they are constantly ‘caught’ is not helpful to your physical health or your emotional happiness.
I have two suggestions that may help.
- Breathing is a big help
One of the points about a coherent HRV is that this allows our respiratory system to oscillate in synchronicity with our heart rhythm. Developing a deep rhythmic pattern of breathing for a short focus immediately calms your body and gives you space to consider your thoughts. Here’s a simple technique:
(a) place the palm of your hand just under your chest on the sternum.
(b) as you breathe in, imagine your breath passing through this point, down into your diaphragm
(c) as you breath out, imagine your breath passing back through this point as your diaphragm shrinks and your ribs come together
(d) once this breath becomes more rhythmical, your can ‘quiet’ it further and relax into the feeling
This can result in a true feeling of inner calm which allows you to become aware of your thoughts
- Become aware of your thoughts
I mentioned this as part of the interview with Joy McClymont. Every moment of every day is not always flat out with an outward focus. There are times when you can shift inward to reflect on the thoughts that you have been ‘catching’ and allowing to roll around in your head. As you build awareness, you also build confidence to take more control of which thoughts you keep and which thoughts you let go. Try this:
(a) Once your breath has been calmed and you can focus on your thoughts, spend time with one thought that comes into your mind. Allow it to roll around for awhile.
(b) Make a choice whether or not that thought is helpful to you. If it is helpful, picture yourself storing it in a spot in your mind. If it is not a helpful thought, picture it rolling out of your mind into the open space and rolling away.
Gradually becoming aware of your thoughts – through a simple process of focuses rhythmic breathing and quiet reflection for not more than five minutes each day – can have a profound impact on your health.
Try it! You have nothing to lose!!
To help you on your way, I really like this short saying: “Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day.” Find that good and put your thought-catcher to work for your physical and emotional well-being.
Until next time, remember … Let nature be the doctor.