Having a mood disorder often leaves you feeling like you are a servant to your mood. When the brain does not work in this perfect mode, it is frustrating and can be debilitating. I suffer with this challenge much like the rest, but I have made it my life mission to move from the servant I used to be to the leader I am today. My moods jump up and down depending on a number of things, which may include nothing at all. I enjoy being able to get up and go to work, hang out with friends, and do other activities and events. I knew if I wanted to function at a capacity that allowed me to enjoy life, then I had to get a hold of the mood jumping.
I spent a lot of time held hostage by my bipolar. I have always functioned through it, but I was simply going through the motions. In order to move past the prison, I had to take step in a different direction.
First, I had to stop being a victim to myself. My own thoughts were downers, never mind what the world was dishing out. If I wanted to help change my mood without a pill changing it for me (which in my case never worked), I had to take responsibility and control. This began with my thoughts.
Our minds think anywhere between 50,000-80,000 thoughts A DAY! That averages out to 2100-3300 thoughts AN HOUR. In my darkest and most depressed days, I was probably responsible for all 80,000 being negative and depressing. If you want to turn this cycle around, you literally begin to do two things- think positive thoughts and control how your mind wanders. This is no easy task. The ‘experts’ say 80% of those thoughts are negative, so this gives us some idea of the workload. Trust me we have the power to change this. Ask anyone who knows me personally family and friends will attest to my positive thinking and attitude. (Most of the time)
I did not necessarily believe in myself to accomplish this, but I believed Jesus in me would show me the way. The more I turned to scripture and the words of Christ, and talked to him before reacting, the more confidence I had in myself in getting a hold on my thoughts. Tackling this every day was therapy for me. I gained incredible insight into my own weaknesses and doubts. When you are intentional in paying attention to your thoughts, you see yourself with a better and brighter lens.
To change my daily thoughts I had to consider a few things, and most of them had to do with my own power to choose:
- Happiness. Feeling a certain way is a choice. Instead of relying on people and life in general to determine my happiness, I had to rely on myself, and my thoughts played a big role in that. When I felt joy, happiness followed. Where did joy come from? Not the situation with my kid that caused a headache! Joy came from being content and at peace with the Lord, no matter what was going on around me. Joy comes from trusting God- in all circumstances. This requires discipline and commitment.
- Possessions- Be content with what you have. Your needs are met if you have a roof over your head, food to eat, and clothes to wear. We cannot escape bills. There is a current movement for simplicity, and I LOVE IT! Be intentional in appreciating that your needs are met, rather than wishing and thinking about things you want.
- Relationships. How we respond to others matters, and drives our thoughts. If my husband and I argue, my thoughts run rampant all day long, and are usually negative. It is exhausting and fruitless. We cannot allow relationships to control our thoughts. We must respond with calculated sincerity over uncontrolled reactions. Take time to step out of heated or disturbing situations. Go for a walk, read, do what you do to quiet your mind. Only come back to the situation after you are calm and can seek solutions over negativity. Keep those thoughts positive in the breather time.
- Finances. We are all stretched, broke, ok, or rolling in it. Whatever it is for you, never let finances consume your thoughts. Take time to budget and plan specific times in the week for your bills and finances. For many, the topic of money is depressing itself.
- Health. This may be specific to me, but my health stayed at the forefront of my thoughts for a long time. I had back-to-back surgeries for five years straight. Tormented with thoughts of biopsies, failing organs, a messed up neck and the outcome of these surgeries, my thoughts always moved toward the worst-case scenario. I filled myself negativity without one single negative outcome. What a waste.
- The World. We are living in difficult times. I get it, but the Bible tells us to transform our mind (Romans 12:2), to keep focused on the goal set before us (Philippians 3:14), to run the good race (1 Corinthians 9:24). Reading my Bible is the most thought-controlling thing I do. Filled with the Word of God is armor for my thoughts. There is a confidence in approaching my day with Him in my mind and a deep reminder that my prize awaits. This is a temporary home, my goal is heaven bound.
You have to make this list for yourself. What fits into my life, may not fit into yours. I had to take steps to realign my thoughts and ensure a healthier mind, and lessen the impact of my moods on myself, and others around me. Who I am today is a direct reflection of the commitment I made to take control of a disorder that once controlled me.
What steps do you take to control your thoughts and aim for a more positive approach to dealing with mental health issues?