If I’m honest, I’m making a massive assumption here, so if a vet or other qualified animal healthcare professional reads this and wants to set me straight, please do. Zebras may be massively prone to ulcers, but I seriously doubt they get them for the same reasons humans sometimes do.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our thoughts determine our reality. Now don’t get me wrong, reality is perfectly capable of deciding itself whether we want it to or not. But the way we think, about what is happening right now, about what will occur in the future can impact our emotions and stress levels. And the weird thing is, it doesn’t always matter if the thoughts we have are real or imagined. The impact on our emotions can be precisely the same.
The thing about zebras is that, on the whole, zebras don’t respond to thoughts of lions. They react only to real lions. Humans respond to thoughts of lions (real or metaphorical). And we then experience stress, anxiety, worry, and all the rest of that bundle of stuff that usually comes along simultaneously.
If we take the lions out of this for a minute and start thinking about this in terms of negative thought patterns, we can get a little more practical.
When negative patterns and thoughts occur over a sustained period, the effect can be slowly chipping away at our resilience. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can influence how we think, how we view ourselves and our self-talk.
Our brains are programmed to continually evaluate and think about the situations we encounter, about past experiences and future events. Our thoughts play a pivotal role in how we perceive a problem and what we believe affects how we feel and ultimately what we do – something happens, we think about it and then respond.
For example – if we think about being faced with a lion right here, right now, what might we think? How would we feel? What would we do? What would be going on physically in our bodies?
Thinking impacts us physically, emotionally and behaviourally. Given how variable our thoughts and experiences are over time, it would be difficult to regard resilience or well-being as fixed-states. Instead, they are both areas that can be built, or disturbed, on an ongoing basis.
So, my invitation to you is to be more zebra. Focus on what is happening in reality (even though that alone can be challenging enough) and try not to let your mental processes add to your burden. Getting a little better at this each day will add up to a big positive change over time.