Prescription for a peaceful mind.
This is the second post in a series reflecting on the book The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. This summary and reflection cover chapter 2. If you are just joining, please take a moment to read You are less defeated than you think you are which is a reflection of chapter 1. Please leave a comment and share how the concepts from chapter 2 connect to your personal life.
Just what the doctor ordered
An idiom is a type of figurative language that expresses a particular sentiment, but it does not literally mean what the individual words themselves mean. An example of an idiom we use in the English language is “just what the doctor ordered” and it alludes to a physicians prescription for a cure. The saying refers to just the right thing that is or was needed to help improve something or make one feel better. There is an awesome collection of Dr. Pepper commercials on Youtube from the ’80s and ’90s that are great examples of the company using the idiom, “just what the doctor ordered” to help sell soda. Check out this commercial from 1992 that basically says that because college life is super tough, Dr. Pepper soda is a magic cure and will make help one get through anything difficult.
Is your mind consumed by your hectic and busy schedule, constant stress at work, pressures to move quickly on every project, noisy gadgets from technology everywhere, fear of missing out, and trying to keep up with the Joneses? If you answered yes, what is one thing that would help improve this and make you feel better? What would you say is just what the doctor ordered? What would cure your insanity?
A Peaceful Mind
In chapter 2 of The Power of Positive Thinking, Peale reveals his prescription for a peaceful mind. He says that to be happier and healthier you need to empty your mind of struggles and change the pattern of your thoughts.
It is impossible to fill your mind with peace if it is consumed and full of negative garbage. So before you can even begin working on strategies for a peaceful mind, you have to figuratively throw your negativity overboard. Peale explains that when you have anxious thoughts, "imagine standing at the stern of the boat and imaginatively take such anxious thoughts out of mind, drop it overboard, and watch it disappear in the wake of the ship.” This strategy really does work! For example, at my office we use an strategy called the FIB. The FIB, affectionately called the F*#K It Bucket, is our way of releasing negativity. When we have a challenging moment, or we find ourselves consumed in negativity, we vent it out loud and then symbolically throw it in the FIB. The physical action of throwing something imaginary is a strange psychological tool that seems to work for us. We feel cleansed and our minds become free of the negativity. In turn, we end up being able to focus on work again and we are more creative and productive.
Thought change takes work and requires effort. But Peale believes working on a peaceful mind is worth it because, “when old fears, hates, and worries that have haunted you for so long try to edge back in, they will in effect find a sign on the door of your mind reading Occupied.” The key is to keep the mind positive and strong so negative thoughts are repulsed and don't want even bother knocking on your door.
5 strategies to help you maintain a peaceful mind.
Think peaceful thoughts. Take a moment to let mental pictures of serenity fill your mind. Take a deliberate excursion to a moment, place, or memory that feels peaceful to you. For example, I will never forget a day when I was in 5th grade and I came home from school feeling stressed because I was given an assignment to read a novel. I didn’t particularly like reading at that time. I decided to grab my book, ride my bike to a park nearby and I sat alone under an extremely large tree. It was a perfect midwestern day because the sky was blue, the temperature was probably 80 degrees, and there was a very light breeze that kept the humidity at bay. The park was large and there was no one around. I was alone, sitting under this tree soaking in the silence and I remember feeling serenity. I opened my book and I began to read and I enjoyed it in a way I never thought possible at that age. When my mind is cluttered with negativity, I take a deliberate excursion to that memory and the serenity I felt in that moment.
Speak positive thoughts. Peale teaches that it is important to talk peaceful to be peaceful. Think about your place of employment for a moment. It is really easy to get caught up in stress talk, but changing some of the words you use and replacing them with more positive words can flip the vibe in a room real fast. Peale believes, “depending upon the words we use and the tone in which we use them, we can talk ourselves into being nervous, high-strung and upset. We can talk ourselves into either negative or positive results.” Another way to speak positive thoughts and get your emotions under control is to reciting poems, quotes, or prayers out loud. One of my favorite quotes is, “The real value of setting goals is not the recognition or reward, its the person we become by finding the discipline, courage, and commitment to achieve them.”
Start each day positively. Peale believes that “thoughts create words, for words, are the vehicles of ideas. But words also affect thoughts and help to condition if not to create attitudes.” If you start your day happy and content then your day will tend to be more pleasant and successful.
Practice daily silence. This may not come easily for you if you live a hectic lifestyle, but it would be ideal to devote 15 minutes per day to complete silence. No talking, no reading, no writing. Practicing silent meditation forces you to throw your mind into neutral. Eventually, with practice, you will move deeper into the sounds of harmony and the beauty of God. Silence is healing, soothing and healthy practice.
Release guilt. Peale explains that many people who “lack inner peace are victims of a self-punishment mechanism.” The key to a peaceful mind is to forgive yourself for any sense of guilt, whether big or small, that you may not have released. Guilt really isn’t a feeling, it is more of a mental thing that infects feelings. Holding guilt for anything will cause tension in your heart, mind, and soul. This strategy connects well with practicing daily silence. Through practicing meditation, breathing deeply and slowly can help release the stress in your body and mind. It can allow you to to observe, accept and release guilt while helping your focus and create new, positive beliefs and thoughts.