It happens every so often: I’ll be having a good day, minding my business and enjoying myself, when a thought pops into my head. Sometimes it’s an anxious, irrational thought. Other times it’s a negative thought about myself, one that I’ve likely had a hundred times before. It doesn’t matter what the thought is, really; what matters is whether or not I engage with it (or them, if the thoughts are persistent enough). This daily challenge can change things for me in a moment, and it’s what I want to reflect on today.
Here’s an interesting fact from the Cleveland Clinic: Every day, your brain processes about 70,000 thoughts. That is a wildly high number, especially considering there are 86,400 seconds in a day. If you get the standard eight hours of sleep, you’re talking about more than a thought per second.
And that’s where the trouble comes in. When it comes to negative thinking or thought spiraling (which I’ll share more about next week), all it takes is one thought we get stuck on, or pay more attention to than we should. All it takes is a moment of rationalizing an irrational thought and suddenly, our brain is off to the races. This doesn’t mean our actions are always impacted, but such a big shift in our thought process could change the outcome of our day. If it happens over and over again, it could start to shape the way we see the world – and ourselves.
I’ve learned a lot of things when it comes to dealing with mental health challenges. No matter what they are, each thing comes with a varying degree of difficulty. They can be very clear things to learn or very difficult things to process, but it’s always a challenge to figure out how to go forward with what I’ve learned. Some things are harder to accept than others, and some take more time. Even though I’ve gotten better at dealing with it, the idea that a single thought can distract me and interrupt my day is something I still struggle with.
At a moment’s notice, my day can go from nothing special to challenging. And it’s all because of a momentary lapse in dealing with one of the thousands of thoughts we have every day. It can distract me from interacting with the people I love, or a good conversation I’m having. It’s something I can get stuck on while trying to do other productive things. Even though there are so many times I successfully deal with some of these thoughts, all it takes for me to lose focus one time, and my brain is headed in another direction.
We do it every single day, but processing thoughts isn’t always as easy as it sounds. All it takes getting stuck on one or two thoughts to interrupt our flow, and then we face a challenge. Either we engage with these thoughts and try to figure out how to get out of that thought process, or we lean on what we’ve learned about ourselves to move through them. It’s a challenge that comes to people every single day at a moment’s notice, and it’s something I hope to learn more about and grow from.
Have you ever had a thought pop into your head that you knew would lead you down a rabbit hole? How did you (or do you) deal with those thoughts? Let me know in the comments!