Matter over Mind
You've certainly heard the phrase "mind over matter," and the concept has a long history in the fields of philosophy, psychology and even evolutionary sciences. The earliest known use of this may be in 19 B.C. when the poet Virgil wrote in his epic poem, Aeneid, book 6, "the mind drives the mass."
The concept being our thoughts create our emotions, our actions and ultimately our identity. The evidenced based psychotherapy treatment, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, also uses this premise of mental and behavioral change. There is plenty of proof that this works and it's a solid place to begin personal growth. But, what about when it doesn't work? We've all experienced thinking about changing a bad habit and maybe even using positive self-talk to move in a healthier direction, but frequently we have more difficulty with a consistent change in action despite our positive thinking or good intentions. What if we try turning this phrase on its' head and see where that gets us? Take the action and choose an intentional behavior before we have even convinced ourselves we can or want to do it.
Take a recent example from my life: I am someone that has never really liked yoga. Some might say I hate yoga. I typically find it either boring, intimidating or spiritually inauthentic but I am someone who is fairly physically inflexible and my body could benefit from a consistent practice. That said, the other day I signed up for a yoga class two days in advance, giving myself plenty of time to gear up mentally, to start changing my thinking. The morning of the class, I woke up thinking "I don't want to go. Maybe I've slept in too late and already missed it. Maybe I'll just skip it. I can go another day." I was telling myself all kinds of reasons why I shouldn't go, couldn't go and probably wouldn't go. After getting up and realizing I still had plenty of time to make it to class, I decided I would go through the motions of going without having to change my thinking, or be in the "right" mind set. I was going to hate it and that was that. I put on my yoga pants, I filled up my water bottle, I got in my car and drove to the location all the while thinking, "No, no, no, I don't want to go. I hate yoga." I was still in this negative thought space at the beginning of the yoga class but as I moved through the process I noticed my thoughts beginning to shift and grow and stretch. I softened, I let go of my old story just a little. I watched how I started to feel better despite my grouchy attitude. Slowly I began new thoughts. "This does feel good. I could use more of this. This isn't so bad. I can learn something here." I let my action change my thinking.
This experience affirmed one of my long held truths and that is the power of intentional behavior to alter mood and thought. Next time you have a mental obstacle you can't seem to think your way around, try taking action, do what you're avoiding while letting yourself think the same thoughts. You may find the power of action work its' magic on you too. Matter over mind.