I’ve never heard that term before and instead of searching google to prove that I’ve somehow invented that concept I’ll simply assume it’s not unique; someone has created that concept already and I’m simply discovering it in my own mind.

My question is, why isn’t thought-health normalized?

Or in dude-bro speak: Bro, do you think healthily?

Ok, that doesn’t flow quite so well.

But healthy thinking seems like such an important aspect of having a healthy life that one would expect it to be at the fore-front of our daily lives.

What is it exactly?

Take everything you know about what we describe health as. Like, everything. Don’t eat sugar. Don’t overeat. Make sure you exercise. Get regular check-ups. Generally, do things that are good for your health and avoid the things that are bad for your health.

This is simple stuff and we’ve all heard the various mantras that culminate into “do good, avoid bad” regarding health.

Now, take all that and apply it to your thinking.

This is such a simple formula and yet people don’t treat it as a general issue that should be prioritize. In fact, I’d say taking care of your thoughts may be more important than taking care of your body. And yes, I make a distinction between those two. While “brain health” is physical health, your brain and your thoughts are not synonymous.

A healthy brain is arguably vital to creating the best environment for healthy thinking, you can still have healthy thinking if your brain is not optimal.

How then, does one think healthily?

Very simple,

Eat Brocoli

Only consume things that will be good for you. This does not mean live in an echo chamber. It does not mean avoid exposure to ideas that cause dissonance. Quite the opposite. You build a muscle by stretching and ripping the fibers. As they heal and grow back, they grow more muscle fiber. Hence, bigger muscles. So, increase your consumption of thought-provoking ideas and information. Exercise those ideas. Consume information that expands your knowledge. Share the knowledge you have. Create a routine that helps you learn. Learn new things. Anything that grows your mind, keeps it agile, and allows you to think better about things. Anything that gives you perspective and understanding. Consume that. It’s healthy-thought food.

Avoid the Sugar

Avoid consuming negative things. What are negative things? Anything that “brings you down”. An abundance (or any) news that’s filtered through news outlets is decidedly bad for you. They manipulate messages in order to keep your attention in order to sell advertising. News outlets are for-profit companies and they profit directly off your attention. They will do anything to keep it.

Uncurated social media is very negative. What does uncurated mean? A few years ago I found myself on Facebook getting angry and engaging in uncountable arguments with people over various subjects. SO much so that I temporarily disabled my Facebook account. After about 5 days I realized that I used Facebook for more than just interaction, but for programming (I was writing a Facebook app at the time) and other business uses. On top of that, there were people that I, in fact, wanted to keep in touch with. My solution was to go through my entire Facebook friends list and unfollow everyone. Absolutely everyone. My feed was beautifully clean. I didn’t have anything that touched my feed that I didn’t specifically allow there. Mostly page updates from companies and groups I wanted to follow as well as group updates from my special interests. When I wondered how someone was doing, I followed them again, because I missed seeing their updates. I was very aggressive in protecting my feed so any negativity was removed. My Facebook feed was no longer the wild-west of social media but a well curated and very useful feed of information that I actually cared about.

Chronically negative people can introduce negative thoughts. Constantly making unhealthy decisions can create negative thoughts.

I think you catch the drift.

Go to the damned gym

What is health without some routine to maintain it? Physically, many people have different goals when they hit the gym. Some want to change their shape, some want to become ripped, others just want to keep their body fit. But above all, healthy is a state where your body is not fighting itself, but focused on fighting other things. If you only drink pop and chips, your body is going to try to fight that stuff but after a while, your body will also change negatively. It will create unhealthy fat areas that required your heart to beat harder in order to maintain blood to these areas. It puts stress on your heart. Now, your body is fighting itself by trying to keep up with it’s own maintenance as well as fight things that may require energy in your immune system.  A healthy body is not spending most of its time trying to deal with the stress the rest of the body is putting on the system.

Cutting out your “thought carbs” and eating your “thought broccoli” is not the end-all be-all of thought-health. One must set up routine exercises to maintain a healthy level of thinking.

What does that look like?

Routine meditation. Routine exposure to different ideas. Routine exposure to different perspectives. Learning to say no and practicing saying no to things that will not enrich how you think but cause you to experience emotions that that counter growth.

I think you get that it’s a routine. Keep your mind fit, and healthy.

No debbie downer-ing

Look, one of the super-keys to thought-health is perspective. We all experience events that can put us into a negative place. You absolutely get to choose how to look at that event. Was it negative? Was it positive? Was it negative but you got something out of it that gave you something more?

I was in a tornado 11 years ago. Directly in it. My wife and one daughter were in the car with me and the other daughter was at home. Every other car around us but for one was tossed and the people in the cars were dead.  The other car thankfully had a bank fall on the vehicle which kept it from flying away. Our vehicle was wedged between cement-filled metal pilons so couldn’t take flight.

It was terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

But on reflection, I realized that it was one of the best days of my life. Perhaps because I didn’t lose my wife or one of my daughters. I was lucky. But why would I view that day as one of the best days of my life?

Because I know how fast you can lose everything. It was almost a blink of the eye from the time I realized the weather was bad to the time almost everything we could see was flattened.

How fast can you lose it all?

That my friends, is perspective. When, in the blink of an eye, you can lose the most precious things in your life. Not enough to pay the bills this month? Ya, but my family could be lost in the blink of an eye. Would my bills matter if that happened? No. I could lose my family, but I didn’t.

Someone cut me off in traffic? Ya, but my family could die in the blink of an eye, and they didn’t.

Someone say something that offends me? Ya, but my family didn’t die. I still have them.

I go back to that tornado and that feeling often, because what incredible perspective. That at a moments notice I could lose my family. Beside that, almost nothing gets even close to mattering. That gratitude that my family is alive is felt every moment and that perspective allows me to let almost everything negative fall off me like water off a ducks back.

So, when something bad happens, I choose to experience gratitude because of the perspective I have. This is truly a choice

I’ll leave you with a parable I recently heard.

Long ago, there was a farmer in a very small village. One day, the farmer’s only horse got out and ran away.

The people of the town came to the farmer and told him that it was such bad luck.

The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse ran back home and brought 8 wild horses with it which now the farmer had.

The people of the town came to the farmer and told him that it was such good luck.

The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the farmer’s son road one of the wild horses. The horse threw the son off and he broke his arm.

The people of the town came to the farmer and told him that it was such bad luck.

The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day soldiers came through the village looking for conscripts for the war. Because the son had a broken arm, the soldiers did not take him.

The people of the town came to the farmer and told him that is was such good luck.

The farmer said, “Maybe.”

We don’t know what effect an event may have on us. You can decide it was good. You can decide it was bad. You can wait and see. But you always have the choice to see what good can come of the event, regardless of how bad we may think it was. When you focus on the good and choose to see that good, you give yourself a huge boost in thought-health.