Optimistic Thinking

Buddha “We are what we think. all that we are arises from our thoughts. With our  thoughts, we make the world.”

John Milton “The mind itself is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, or a    hell of heaven.

The way that we think creates our experience of the world. Wisdom from poets,  philosophers and sages hold this to be true, and contemporary psychology agrees: think depressing thoughts and you become depressed, think happy thoughts and you become happier. This is the basic message of CBT : we can learn to control our thinking.

To put it another way : what we pay attention to, how we interpret what happens to us, the stories we tell ourselves about our past, all create what we will experience in the future.

Why is one person a cheerful optimist while others see more of the downside in situations? As we have all found from experience, forcing ourselves to “think positively” doesn’t last. 

In the course, I combine Mindfulness which teaches a detached way of allowing our thoughts to drift on, like clouds drifting accross the sky,  with explicit training on how to challenge unhelpful thought patterns, that seem almost “automatic ” to us. Narrowing the scope of negative thoughts is one of the major steps in developing more optimistic thinking skills.

But CBT isn’t the full story either. Psychologists and neuroscientists are pretty much agreed that only a small proportion of our actions are influenced by our conscious mind ( what Daniel Kahnemann calls System 1 )while the bulk of our way of thinking and action is more a product of our unconscious ( System 2.)

What we need is to change around the balance in our mind, at both a conscious and unconscious level. Some of our more anxious and depressing thoughts, come from mind sets that can be quite deep seated, that were formed during the conditioning process in our early years.

Through relaxation and meditation, we can have more access to our “deeper mind” and literally “stream in” more productive ways of thinking. We can even re-vist our past, and highlight the good stuff, which can serve as a solid foundation for a brighter future.