There’s a baby boomer in Coronado, California, who has written a book that focuses on positive approaches to life after 50. Hey, that’s us! So we asked Donald Weinhouse, PhD, to condense one chapter for BoomerCafé, and here it is. The title? LET GO of Nonproductive Thoughts.
One way for a baby boomer to live with more joy in life is by letting go of recurring nonproductive thoughts; it relieves your mind and body of atremendous burden. When you diminish thoughts of personal deficits, injustices suffered, opportunities missed, the shortcomings of others, envy, jealousy, guilt … your mood is enhanced, the health of your cardiovascular and neurological systems is strengthened, and your attention for incoming information and sensations is increased.
Your time is much better spent enjoying an evening meal, rather than mentally cursing the driver who cut you off in traffic; likewise, experiencing pride in your sibling’s accomplishments, as opposed to envying her new luxury beach-front house; the same goes for relishing life’s possibilities instead of drowning in guilt over past shortcomings and future fears.
To make room for thoughts that will improve your life, let go of those that won’t.
To let go of recurring thoughts that pull you from living in the moment and lead you in negative, nonproductive directions, first become aware of them. Observe what your attention is focusing on and remind yourself that you’re in charge of this process. Take charge of your thoughts and how you respond to them.
By observing your mind’s wanderings, you’re more able to identify patterns of how you’re thinking and thereby become better prepared to change focus.
Don Weinhouse’s book – The Boomers’ Guidebook to More Joyous Living – is available at Amazon.com.
Negative thoughts that intrude on your consciousness do so as reminders, or catalysts, encouraging you to confront people or issues that have not been resolved. When this is the case, the best way to let go is to deal with them. (I can’t stop thinking this lump in my breast might be cancer. I’m having trouble concentrating and am always nervous.) Check it out! See a physician. Get some tests.
Of course the thought in the previous example should be dealt with before letting go, but most negative thoughts can and should be quickly eliminated. (If I had kept that stock, I’d be a lot wealthier today.) Let it go. Take the energy being wasted on looking back and put it to better use. Thoughts like this are of little value and are better discontinued and replaced with ones that are productive and nourishing.
One of the best ways to eliminate these negative thoughts is to replace them with something positive. Two entities cannot exist in the same space at the same time. If you wish to let go of a negative thought, consistently replacing it with a positive thought puts you back in charge of your consciousness and gets you moving in a desirable direction.
It often works more efficiently when one specific, positive thought or action is consistently linked or matched with a recurring negative one. Rather than allowing your consciousness to drift off freely and fixate on how those damn X#%s are ruining the country, take control and switch your focus to tightening your stomach muscles, or saying a silent prayer, or visualizing the smiling faces and names of relatives. Replace the daily, or perhaps hourly, silent “broken record” of resentment toward your boss’s incompetence and poor people-skills with trying to slow your heartbeat or visualizing beautiful nature scenes or focusing on positive thoughts about your substantial salary and benefits or…
When you realize you’re drifting toward the negative, switch over to the positive. The confidence and calm generated by the positive should, over time, reduce or possibly even eliminate the occurrence of the negative.