On the cusp of the Canada Day long weekend it’s hard not to think about perspective – you might view this as the second long weekend of the summer or the second-last; if the weather is hot and sunny you might say it will have been a “good” weekend or a “bad” one if the weather is wet. Regardless of the way you choose to see it, the choice is ultimately yours.
People often wonder about that, whether they truly have any choice about how they view things, because thoughts occur so quickly – almost automatically. This is true. As our sense organs perceive elements of the environment around us, the brain is constantly labeling, judging and understanding everything that’s coming in. Look around you right now and you might be able to appreciate that somewhere, deep inside your head, your brain is quietly rhyming off the names of everything it’s seeing and hearing. But even as it’s doing that, you can also purposely cause certain thoughts to come to mind. For example, think right now about what you did on last year’s Canada Day long weekend. Now think about a summer weekend from your childhood. You have just taken control over your brain!
Because thoughts and feelings are so closely connected (see earlier articles on Reacting AND Responding, Anxiety – Automatic Protection) our emotions and physiology often react to sensory information before we’re aware of it consciously. This can have the effect of leaving us feeling hijacked and out of control. But when you remember that you always have a choice about how you want to view things you can reframe those instantaneous reactions into something that feels more empowering.
A client recently provided a good example of this when he worried that his vacation might be ruined because he had to take his computer and work phone away with him on holidays. Knowing that he absolutely had to stay in touch over the break, he felt better by focusing instead on the fact that technology made it easy for him to be away on vacation AND periodically remain connected with important tasks back at work.
Choose to have a good holiday.
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice that helps people learn to manage anxiety, stress and depression.