Your brain does not live in a vacuum. It lives in your body. You might even say it is part of your body, no different from your heart, liver or lungs. It’s a big ol’ mass of cells, working together to perform vital functions to keep you alive. And, it thinks. Oh, does it ever.
Thinking. It's the thing the brain got really famous for. "I think, therefore I am?" Damn that's giving a lot of credit to thoughts, hm? Sometimes it's more like "I think, therefore I am...miserable!" amirite??
It is really, really hard to control what goes on in the brain. Contrary to all the advice out there about forcing yourself to think positively, or “making your own sunshine,” the truth is that thoughts are frequently involuntary and uncontrollable. Trying to control your thoughts is almost like trying to control your stomach. Go ahead, force your stomach to stop digesting. Can you do it?
Nope, you can't.
It’s really hard to force your brain to stop thinking the thoughts it likes to think. Even when those thoughts are mean, like "you are a complete failure," or "everything sucks all the time," they're still hard to stop.
Thoughts like those can be problematic because of how they influence mood, which can then influence behaviors.
For example, you think "Everything sucks all the time," leading to a feeling of hopelessness. What kind of behaviors are you likely to engage in once you're feeling hopeless? Probably not the things that will move you toward your larger life vision. Maybe things more like binge-watching Netflix and shoving ice cream in your mouth.
Since you can’t control your thoughts, and thoughts influence mood which influences behavior, does that mean you can’t influence your behavior?
Nope, it doesn't mean that at all.
Instead, work it backwards. Grabbing control of your behaviors in any way you can is an incredibly effective way to create changes to your thoughts. See, when you’re trying to change they way you think, you gotta sneak up on your brain. You can’t let it know you’re coming.
Target easy behaviors you can alter, quickly and immediately.
Eat something fresh.
Touch something soft.
Get on your knees and pray.
Now, tune in to how your feelings have responded to the action. Simply by noticing whether or not your feelings have shifted, you’ve learned something about yourself and changed the script. It’s powerful stuff.
TLDR: If you're having trouble lifting your mood by changing your thoughts, try changing your actions instead. Let your thoughts go on their merry way, like background music to your actions.