A study from Queens University in Ontario measured how often we shifted from one thought to the next (through some very fancy scientific methods that we don’t need to go into here). They called each of these a thought worm.
Unfortunately I’m quite visual and now have images of worms wriggling around in my head.
Interestingly they described each thought worm as a transient cognitive or emotional state. If we start to think of our thoughts as being a cognitive or emotional state we can start to grasp how important it is for us to make sure those thought worms lean more towards the positive.
We all know how easy it is to get caught in a negative spiral. Each negative thought takes us from one unpleasant thing to another. The more negative our thoughts are the more negative our feelings are. So around and around that loop we go – feeling worse, thinking more bad things.
What if we tried instead to make our worms happy. What if they were wriggling with joy instead of twisting in despair.
There are so many ways we can focus our thoughts to be more positive.
I was just flicking through Rick Hanson’s book ‘Hardwiring Happiness’ (it’s a great book – covers how to rewire your brain for more happiness in a 4-step process). He suggests practicing taking in the good. The good can range from noticing something beautiful around us and paying attention to it, to noticing and generating good feelings inside us.
Our brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality so when we imagine something that made us feel good previously, we will have those same good feelings now.
And if we do that our worms will more likely wriggle to another feel-good memory or look for other beautiful things to appreciate.
Think about how you might create a more happy-filled fertile ground for your worms to wriggle around in.