Nurturing a Healthy Thought Life
2016 was a tough year for many.
The world saw a tremendous amount of transition, disaster and loss of life. For individuals, many also experienced uncertainty, uneasiness, depression and hopelessness. I was not immune to these emotions given the global situation but also due to a tremendous personal loss with the passing of the person who probably knew me best in the world and loved me unconditionally - my father. In the midst of difficult times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and experience ‘emotional overload.’
As we ended 2016, I took some time to reflect on what does this all mean? How do we deal with transition, tragedy and trepidation especially when we have no direct control over the context and causes? I got some inspiration from a great book I’m reading by Chip Ingram. I was reminded of the importance of checking my thought life which I have greater influence over and found myself asking “How healthy has my thought life been?”
If we fill our minds with hours and hours of social media posts, political banter, videos and stories that are negative and critical, movies full of violence, hate and betrayal and TV shows flaunting materialism and celebrating greater consumption and read magazines that constantly remind us that we are not ‘enough’ (thin enough, smart enough, rich enough), I wonder how healthy this environment is to nurture and hold our thoughts.
What you put in is what you get out. We know this in practice with sayings like ‘garbage in, garbage out’ but why not for our thought lives? What we put in our minds is far more critical to not only our psychological and emotional wellbeing but also to the world and to those around us.
In the reality of life and the overwhelming amount of ‘input’ we receive on a daily basis, it’s nearly impossible to manage the quality of that input. But perhaps if we started to shift the balance of quality input to 80% higher quality, life-giving input in the things we read, watch, hear and speak about.
In 2017, what if we were much more intentional about the environment we were nurturing for our thought life to flourish?
What if we managed the quality of what we read to be content that was values-based, well researched and thoughtful? What if we shifted the balance of the words we speak to be more life-giving and encouraging with others vs. critical or negative? What if we chose to invest more time listening to people who inspired us and motivated us to dream bigger dreams? What if we set an 80/20 rule to mean that 80% of our input for our thought life would be higher quality?
If we started to cultivate a healthier environment for our thought lives, would that change the tragedies and loss we experience? Of course not. It would not bring my father back. But I believe it would give us greater roots and capacity to deal with the storms and rains that will come from time to time.
And then...we can wait in anticipation for the flowers to bloom again.