Mind over matter: The use of willpower, or one's mind, to overcome physical obstacles and conditions. What a powerful saying. Do you know where that phrase came from? It originated from the book The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man, by British geologist Sir Charles Lyell, in 1863. Similar concepts even appeared much earlier. In the ancient Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, the deity Krishna said "with practice and indifference to worldly objects, the mind indeed can be restrained". Mind over matter, ain't that the truth. The human brain is by far the most powerful tool we have, and it's really up to us to use it however we please. Before I delve into my own personal thoughts and experiences, I'll briefly go over the scientific aspect of the matter. Have you heard of the term amygdala hijack? Probably not, but it's essentially a panic attack. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, and pleasure. It's responsible for triggering the fight or flight response when you're in a life or death situation or immediate physical danger. An amygdala hijack is when your amygdala releases too much cortisol and adrenaline and triggers the fight or flight response in a situation that isn't life threatening or putting you in immediate physical danger, such as an argument, someone pissing you off, a bad day at work, an intrusive thought or memory, etc, resulting in a surplus of anxiety and/or anger, negative emotions, and irrational reactions. People who suffer from anxiety, panic disorders, and PTSD have amygdala hijacks far more often than the average person. So what's solution to controlling amygdala hijacks, and inappropriate emotional reactions to situations in general? Mind over matter. Now I'm not a medical professional, or a professional of any kind, and I'm not saying that simply learning to control your emotions and thoughts is the cure all to mental illness and all your life's problems, but it's certainly a huge (and necessary) step in the right direction.
I've struggled with anxiety for all of my adult life, and the majority of my teenage years as well. I can't pinpoint exactly where it started, but it definitely got worse after a traumatic event during my high school years. I don't tell people about my anxiety disorder because, let's be honest, who wants to talk about what's wrong with them? I also choose not to talk about it because I don't want people to think I'm attention seeking or making excuses, because I would never do that. Everyone has their own problems that they have to deal with so I'm sure they don't want to hear about mine on top of that, and 36% of the adult population has an anxiety disorder so I'm definitely not alone. The truth though? It f**king sucks. It affects absolutely EVERY single aspect of my life every minute of every day. It has complete control over me. Why? Because I let it. I allow it to have control over me. I guess I'm not as good at the whole "mind over matter" thing as I thought.
The human mind is a funny thing, we often seem to forget that we have complete control over our thoughts, our emotions, our lives, and how we respond and react to situations. I've always liked the analogy "your life is a ship in which you are the captain." The same goes for your thoughts and emotions, your mind is a ship in which you are the captain. When our thoughts start to go where we don't want them to, and the events in our lives take a turn for the worse, we often feel as though we're losing control of the ship, we let go of the wheel and let the stormy sea take us wherever it pleases. We do this because of stress and fear of the unknown. Going into uncharted territories is scary, you don't know what's to come, you're unsure of what will happen or where you'll end up. But isn't it better to venture into uncharted territories while you're in control? Isn't it better to grab the wheel and navigate the ship the best you can, even if you're unsure of where you'll end up, than to just let go and allow the sea to take control? I'm preaching to the choir here, I've always struggled with having control over my thoughts and emotions, I think we all do. I tend to be the captain who just gives up and lets the sea take me wherever when the storm gets too strong, or in other words when life gets too stressful. But this is all part of my journey of self awareness and personal growth. Acknowledging the areas of your life and mind that need change and what you need to do to change them is the first step in actively doing so. Learning to take charge of your life and have full control over your thoughts and emotions isn’t easy, but it’s possible and anyone can do it. Actually, it’s how our brains are meant to work. You just need to want bad enough to change, and to take control of your own destiny, which all starts with learning to take control of your thinking. I’m going to wrap this up with some key elements on how to enforce mind over matter.
- Always strive to be a better person. Don't compare yourself to anyone else, only compare yourself to your past self, never to other people. Don't strive to be better than anyone, strive to be a better person than you were yesterday. Personal growth, the will to do better and be better will not only give you a goal and sense of purpose, it will make you feel better about yourself and increase your self esteem as you witness it actually happening.
- Stand up for yourself. If anyone in your life makes you doubt yourself or question your own self worth, get rid of them. You are your own worst critic, we constantly doubt ourselves and beat up on ourselves enough as it is, therefore, we don't need people in our lives who do it to us too. ONLY make time for people who believe in you and see your potential, who want to see you succeed and do well, who encourage you and build you up, because you don't deserve anything less.
- Get rid of your intrusive thoughts. As mentioned many times, the mind is a very power tool. I suggest everyone read "The power of positive thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. What you think about, you bring about. Thinking negative intrusive thoughts will not only worsen your mood but putting those thoughts and energy out into the universe could actually make it your reality. Replace the negatives with positives. Instead of getting down on yourself and saying things like, "I'll never be successful", "I'll never be happy", "I hate my life", "No one likes me", say "I will be successful", "I am happy and will continue to be happy", "I will make my life into a life I love", "not everyone is going to like me and that's okay. I will focus on the people who do like me and make sure they know I appreciate them". Always think positive.
- Don't sweat the small stuff. Easier said than done, but this is a big one. I'm sure we've all heard the saying "don't cry over spilt milk". Sometimes our emotions get the best of us and the amygdala starts reacting and releasing stress hormones. This is when we need to take a step back and take a deep breath, this is when we need to practice mind over matter. Our mind is the most powerful tool we have, use it as a gift and not a curse. Learn to control it, don't let it control you.