A few days ago, I posted some tips to keep us mentally healthy during these stressful times.  I stated the importance of developing new “anchors”.  In this article I would like to consider the importance of “intentional thinking”.

    Cognitive psychologists believe that anxiety is driven by our patterns of thinking.  With the realistic threats imposed by COVID-19, it is entirely reasonable that a good proportion of our thoughts focus on a multitude of worries and concerns.  The key is to modulate these thoughts so that they are not dominated by two toxic underlying themes:

  1. There is nothing I can do about it (a theme of helplessness)
  2. Others won’t help me (a theme of hopelessness)

It is important to focus instead on what you have control over (a theme of empowerment) and what others can and will do in offering support (a theme of optimism/hopefulness).  It is also important to have thoughts that are energetic, positive, and exciting to balance out fearful and worrisome thinking.   Here’s how to do this:

  1. Develop and then practice a “mantra” that is comforting for you.

A mantra is a phrase or short sentence that is said over and over again.  In today's times, it could be, “I will get through this” or “We will all pull together” or “Time will pass and we will be fine”.  Again, it has to be one that is suitable for you and one that you can believe in…or at least hope for.  It needs to be a phrase that reflects hope and optimism.  Then, practice this mantra.  Use it many times a day and repeat it slowly several times as you breathe slowly and assume a restful position.  At first, doing this may seem artificial and a little trite; but if you stick to it you may likely find that it is genuinely calming.

  1. Pick a theme that makes you feel good and spend at least 10 to 15 minutes going over this theme.

For example, if you love sports think about your favorite team and go over, in your head and in detail, five of the most exciting games you ever saw your team play.  Or, if you have several grandchildren, think about the five sweetest things each one of them has done.  The idea is to make yourself become self-absorbed for a considerable period of time about a particular topic that brings you joy.

       I have always been amused by the fact that so many of us willingly engage in activities that make our body healthy, but we find it unnecessary or “forced” to engage in activities that help our mind.  In these times, it is very helpful to do regular “mind workouts”

Ralph Hesse