There are a number of great quotes out there on the power of changing your thinking—I know because I have used many of them myself! But the power that is in your mind, and your ability to change your life using your mind, is more than just a great phrase to put in your Facebook bio or on your fridge. As I discuss in this week’s blog and podcast with award-winning mental health journalist Lacey Johnson, when you change your mind, you change your life. By harnessing the power your thinking has over your reality, you can embrace who you are in the age of social media and digital mirages, and learn how to define your own success and happiness.
Lacey saw this in her own life. Her mother, grandmother and aunts died in a tragic accident when she was a young child. Growing up, Lacey experienced a deep sense of abandonment that her mother had (as her family constantly told her) “gone to heaven”, as well as shame that she had survived the accident. Because she did not deal with these feelings, they affected her ability to connect to others, and she ended up in a series of toxic relationships that resulted in a lot of pain and an unwanted pregnancy.
Around 10 years ago, Lacey discovered the work of Bruce Lipton, which changed her life. She recognized that she had to embrace and deal with her past and change her thinking. Although this required hard work and patience, it was one of the best things Lacey has ever done—it completely shifted her worldview and the direction of her life. She realized that when she started believing that she truly deserved a good life, opportunities to create the good life she wanted started manifesting themselves.
Lacey now spends her time writing about how others can also shift their mindsets, and optimize their lives and connect with others in deep and meaningful ways. As she often says in her articles and interviews, if people truly knew how powerful their minds were, they would never allow themselves to “doggie paddle” in a negative thought!
This is true even amid a global pandemic. Life is a series of curveballs and adventures—we need to accept that there will always be uncertainty and the unknown. The current COVID-19 pandemic has removed the illusion of control and certainty that we thought we had over our lives. Although this can be incredibly challenging to deal with, there are ways we can still make the most out of our everyday lives:
- Embrace the uncertainty. I have a great podcast (episode #122) and blog on dealing with the unknown and embracing uncertainty in life.
- Always look for the good and beautiful. “Stop and smell the roses” is not just a nice saying. It is a great mental self-care practice, and can really help you get through tough times when everything seems hopeless or scary.
- Remind yourself that some things haven’t changed. In the moments when uncertainty and fear take over and you find it difficult to disconnect, take gentle notice of the things that haven’t changed, such as the flowers blossoming around you and or the clouds moving about in the sky.
- Journal. As I always say, writing is a great way to bring clarity to our thinking and organize what is going on in our heads! As a journalist who writes about the realities of the pandemic on a daily basis, Lacey has found that putting her thoughts down on paper has really helped her deal with the magnitude of everything that is going on. She writes down what is popping up in her mind over and over again, then divides her thoughts into what is from her and what is from other people. If it is something from someone else and she doesn’t want to give it mental space in her head, she says “I don’t own this thought” and gets rid of what doesn’t serve her. Remember, just because someone tells you something doesn’t mean you have to accept it! You get to decide what to believe and accept as a part of you.
The same can be said for the way we use social media. As Lacey notes in a recent article, technology can be both positive and negative. It can connect us, but it can also disconnect us, robbing us of the “now” moment and turning us into a collection of mirages, or manufactured presences in a digital world. And, unfortunately, the “mirage” effect of social media has very real results—more and more people are dying of isolation, loneliness and suicide. We are wired for relationships, but many of us find ourselves isolated and out of touch with our community because now, in the digital age, we live in the shadow of meaningful connection.
To make the most of social media, we need to let go of the need to please our audience, which sets us up for a world of disappointment. We should always examine our intentions before we post or engage with others on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Living to please other people turns us into an illusion of our true selves, damaging our self-worth, identity and mental health. The need to be known and accepted for who we are is integral to a life well-lived—the mind craves authenticity.
Alas, one of the darker sides of social media is the way it encourages narcissism—a pretty hot topic these days! As Lacey describes in her recent article for The Oprah Magazine, narcissism is a spectrum. Someone who has more narcissistic traits than average person (i.e. someone who is high on the spectrum) isn’t necessarily a “narcissist”. Rather, narcissism is a description of a behavior pattern that has taken over their mind and life. And, unfortunately, social media is pretty good at supporting narcissistic character traits across the spectrum. Not only can it encourage self-absorbed behavior and a grandiose sense of self, but it also highlights a narcissist’s need to prove that they are special and their desire for constant self-validation, while encouraging a way of connecting with people that requires little empathy or understanding.
This is why, if you know someone who is a narcissist, it is best to avoid getting in fights on social media or head-on confrontations, as their goal is to defend themselves, no matter the cost. It is far better to set up boundaries to protect yourself, and make peace with the fact that you will not get the reaction you want—they will never see things from your perspective. It is also important to be gentle on yourself when dealing with a narcissist: you are not the one to blame for their behavior, so don’t take that burden on yourself (for more on dealing with a narcissist and protecting your mental health, see my recent blog and podcast episode #173).