Why We Need Healthy Thoughts and How to Have Them

By Judy Mills

Photo by Emily Fletke

Photo by Emily Fletke

“I don’t have time for this.”

With that one phrase lodged in my mind, I sensed the beginning of a breakthrough.  

I felt mentally beat up, with my frustration level rising to an all-time high. What I “didn’t have time for” wasn’t measured in minutes or hours. It was the wear and tear my thoughts were having on my whole being. 

For weeks, I allowed an unhealthy cocktail of thoughts and emotions to fill my days. From a hurtful incident with a friend to insecurities running wild, I was on a never-ending rollercoaster -- whipped around and thrown upside down by “I can’t,” “I’m not” and “Why did she treat me that way?”

Something had to give!

WHEN BOUNDARIES ARE NEEDED

I needed to put boundaries around the thoughts I allowed myself to think.

Like walls and fences, boundaries protect us from what has the potential to harm us. They’re limits we set so we can thrive, both as an individual and in our relationships with others. Brené Brown defines them simply as “our lists of what’s okay and what’s not okay.”  

Some of us work hard to set boundaries around the way we allow people to talk to us and treat us. But do we set boundaries around the way we talk to ourselves? Are the thoughts we allow really okay? 

My husband once told our daughter, “If other people spoke to you the way you speak to yourself, I’d beat them up.” He wouldn’t have actually beaten them up; he was just making a point. The harm our daughter inflicted on herself through her negative self-talk — all of which came from the way she thought about herself — made him heartbroken.   

PUTTING LIMITS ON OUR THOUGHTS 

Our thoughts should not be allowed to go wherever they want, whenever they want, for as long as they want. 

The Bible’s teachings on the mind and our thought life are insightful and liberating. God tells us to control our minds and meditate on things that are true, compelling, and gracious. He challenges us to think the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly.  

IT’S TIME TO LIMIT OUR THOUGHTS

Be it about ourselves, others, or circumstances we’re facing, there are benefits to ordering our thoughts according to God’s guidelines. God says, and science proves,* that we become what we think. Our thoughts mold us. We gain life by thinking healthy and true thoughts

While the process of healthy thinking has to be repeated to be effective, it’s not complicated. It’s simply noticing, evaluating, and choosing to accept or reject our conscious thoughts.  

One neuroscientist recommends writing down your thoughts at that moment you feel tense, anxious, or overwhelmed. I gave this exercise a try and discovered I wasn’t drawing a direct correlation between many of my thoughts and the anxiety I felt. Seeing my thoughts in black and white made it easier to recognize the negative effect they were having on me. 

Try this three step process for yourself: 

  1. NOTICE what you’re thinking. This means taking your mind off auto-pilot and becoming aware of your thoughts. 

  2. EVALUATE whether or not those thoughts are true and life-giving.  

  3. ACCEPT OR REPLACE the thought, depending on its nature. If the thought is healthy, nurture it. If it is unhealthy, reject it and replace it. 

What impact are your thoughts having on you? What boundaries do you need to set in your mind?   


Resources:

Use the following resources to dive deeper into the effects and power of our thoughts.

This interview is loaded with insightful information: https://therefinedcollective.libsyn.com/episode-059

*Dr. Caroline Leaf is a scientist who has written extensively about the power of our minds and the effects of our thoughts.  This video features a snippet of her wisdom:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuNUDBlrR7A Check out her website: https://drleaf.com.