It feels appropriate to dedicate this month’s blog to the topic of love. However, this is not a blog about Valentine’s Day traditions of date nights, chocolate hearts and mushy cards. Today, I want to dive into the actual emotion of love as a daily experience, explore how it is sensed within us, and inquire how an internal state of love can not only improve our health and well-being but, more profoundly, shape and transform our life.
Ok, this is a tall order, so bear with me.
There has been a lot of research investigating the role love has on improving our life, from reducing stress, improving happiness, increasing our longevity, and easing anxiety. Much of these benefits have been attributed to hormonal shifts that occur within the brain and body when love is experienced. Examples of this include decreases in cortisol (the stress hormone), increases in dopamine (the reward neurotransmitter), release of oxytocin (the hormone responsible for feeling safe), and an increase in serotonin (the hormone which uplifts our mood). It has been proven that when it comes to a healthy life, quite literally, “love is the answer.” Even if it is only part of the answer, it is a very big part which should not be taken for granted.
Along with these amazing internal benefits, there is another aspect of love that has the potential to transform your external experience. This is where love truly gets interesting. So interesting that I hope what I’m about to share next will peak your interest in making love an intentional part of your cognitive and emotional repertoire each day, in your home, in your classroom, and in your community.
When we allow love to enter our daily thoughts and feelings more frequently, it has a profound effect on every aspect of our life and here is why:
I am sure you are familiar with the saying, “You are what you eat.” It is a mantra that has been drummed into our minds, right?
It is safe to say that science suggests that more importantly, “We are what we think and feel.” Our thoughts and feelings create our beliefs and our view of the world we live in. When we think thoughts of love and feel the emotion of love, we believe, and begin to see a world that is more loving.
Conversely, when we think thoughts of fear, horror and worry and feel emotions of hate, anxiety and distress often, we begin to view the world around us as hostile, a world in which we must hide, fight, and protect ourselves from at all costs.
How does this happen? Our thoughts and feelings create a filter over the lens through which we view the world. When seen through the filter of love, compassion, and joy, our eyes view a very different world. We perceive daily situations, interactions, and people in general as displaying more kindness, joy, and gratitude. Opposed to when we view these same things through a filter of overwhelm, hate, and judgment which make us then perceive the world as being more overwhelming, stressful, disappointing, etc.
Our thinking and emotions create our own personal reality every minute of every day by the thoughts and feelings we choose to think and embody. This is why two or 10 people can view the same thing and have two or 10 different interpretations of what was witnessed or experienced.
Yes, we get to choose. I know often it seems like your thoughts and feelings consume you. That is an illusion. The reality is, we have free will to decide, intend, and practice the thoughts in our mind and the emotions in our body.
If this is new to you, that’s ok. It may be even a bit off-putting. You see, our thoughts and emotions are our responsibility and our power. It is easy to push the blame for a bad mood or angry thoughts and actions on the behaviors of others or the disturbing things that we witness in the day. It’s like that student that keeps pushing your buttons because they refuse to listen to the “rules” and therefore, you become outraged and annoyed.
Been there? Me, too. Until, I really began understanding how powerful my ability to shift HOW I am seeing things. Through years of practicing the application of the LOVE filter and gaining awareness of my conscious and unconscious thoughts and self-dialogue, I truly experience and see more joy, kindness, and peace in my life than I did 15 years ago.
So here are a few things to consider to help you get your LOVE glasses on.
- I pretty much always start here – Take a minute or two just to observe your thoughts. These can be thoughts in general or thoughts regarding a specific challenge you are faced with. Observe and listen to what that chatter is saying and try not to judge. You may be surprised at the comments your mind has to say. When you sit in stillness your conscious and unconscious thoughts start to percolate. Sometimes I even find myself saying, “Wow, where did that thought come from?”
- Remember, thoughts produce things. Every thought produces matter on some level. It’s simple science!!! Which means that our minds are so powerful that we not only create our own peace and joy, we can create our own misery as well.
- As our mind is babbling on and on, our body is listening. Every cell of our body responds to the thoughts in our head. We call that emotion. Think of it as if your thoughts were the teacher and the cells in your body were the students…and they were all obedient, good students who follow through with all of the mind’s suggestions. Essentially, the body performs/acts/behaves in accordance to the dominant thoughts rolling through (conscious and unconscious).
- Our personal power lies in our ability to direct our habitual thinking towards love rather than thoughts based on fear, hate, despair, etc
If you notice that there are more of these harsh, unpleasant thoughts circulating your mind, here are a few statements you can start to introduce to yourself and see if it softens the mind’s voice and releases the grip of negative thinking:
- I am in control of my thoughts.
- I can choose another thought.
- Thoughts are just thoughts. They come and go. I can release what does not serve me.
- I let go of negative thoughts.
- I release the grip of this negative thought.
- I have the power to choose loving thoughts.
- Today, I choose to be happy (or peaceful, calm, joyful, content, grateful).
- My loving thoughts hold great power.
- I embrace the present moment – releasing the past and not jumping into the future.
- My NOW can be easeful.
- I am loving.
- I choose to share loving thoughts, words, actions and feelings with others.
- I accept and love myself and others exactly as they are.
Sometimes, a little more brain power is needed when those pesky thoughts continue to arise. One of the most helpful processes I have utilized is called, “The Work” by Byron Katie. In her workshops, she guides participants in identifying the gripping thought that comes up and asks them to investigate that thought’s validity.
1. Is it true? (Yes or no? If no, move to question 3)
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no?)
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? What emotions arise when you believe that thought?
What images of past and future do you see when you believe the thought? How do you treat yourself and others when you believe the thought?
I have found this process to be so beneficial. It really helps me to see how ridiculous some of those thoughts in my head really are. If you’re interested in learning more about “The Work,” Byron Katie has an amazing website with fabulous resources.
Some of these ideas may be a leap of faith – I get it. We are conditioned to protect ourselves, and have gotten comfortable with the habit of being negative, thinking negatively, and reacting in negative ways. You have to admit, there is not a lot of room for joy there.
So I invite you to try some of this on. You really have nothing to lose, do you? And everything to gain.
I hope today’s “love note” brings you happiness and helps you see how truly powerful you are.
If you know someone who can benefit from this, please pass it on. We are all in this crazy world/life together and if we can bring more love into it, we are surely creating a more peaceful, happy, and loving life for all.