How do we cultivate inner strength?
Our experiences matter, not just for how we feel in the moment, but for the lasting traces they etch in our brain. Our experiences of happiness, worry, love, and anxiety can make real changes in our minds. There’s a traditional saying that the mind takes its shape from what it rests upon. If we keep resting our mind on self-criticism, worries, grumbling about others, hurts, and stress, then our brain will be shaped into greater reactivity, vulnerability to anxiety and depressed mood, a narrow focus on threats and losses, and inclinations toward anger, sadness and guilt.
On the other hand, if we keep resting our mind on good events and conditions (someone was nice to us, there’s a roof over your head), pleasant feelings; the things we do get done; physical pleasures; and our good intentions and qualities, then over time our brain will take a different shape, one with strength and resilience hardwired into it, as well as a realistically optimistic outlook, a positive mood, and a sense of worth.
So look back over the past week or so, where has your mind been mainly resting?
In effect, what you pay attention to what you rest your mind on is the primary shaper of your brain. While some things naturally grab a person’s attention, such as a problem at work, a physical pain, or a serious worry….on the whole, remember we have a lot of influence over where our mind rests. This means that we can deliberately prolong and even create the experiences that will shape our mind for the better.
This practice of growing inner strengths is both simple and authentic. First, look for opportunities to have an experience of the strength. For example, if you are trying to feel more cared about, keep your eyes open for those little moments in a day when someone else is friendly, attentive, including, appreciative, warm, caring, or loving toward you – and let your recognition of these good facts become an experience of feeling cared about, even in small ways.
Second, help this experience actually sink into your brain – the good that lasts - by staying with it for a while, helping it fill your body, and getting a sense of it sinking into you as you sink into it. In essence, growing inner strengths boils down to just four words, applied to a positive experience: have it, enjoy it. And see for yourself what happens when you do.
By:Dr. Jozelle Miller
Milton Cato Memorial Hospital