The average person has 46 thoughts per minute, which calculates to about 70,000 thoughts per day. With the current Coronavirus disruption and polarized political upheaval, it’s hard to stay positive. In fact, there’s a good chance that a high percentage of those thoughts may be driven by fear, anxiety, anger, or a slew of other uncomfortable emotions.
When our minds are filled with fear or anger-based thoughts, it can be challenging to work productively, interact kindly or even get a good night’s sleep. When you’re caught up in thoughts that don’t feel good, you also run the risk of lowering your energy levels and even weakening your immune system.
While you can certainly try to chase away those fearful thoughts the minute they arise, it is a losing battle. Fortunately, there is an easier way to get yourself thinking more positive thoughts, and even a way to change the types of thoughts that enter your head in the first place. That’s by paying attention to your state of being.
What is Your State of Being?
Your state of being refers to your overall emotional state at any given time. People generally slip into and out of different emotional states throughout the day without even consciously realizing it. Sometimes we may slide down into a lower emotional state and feel like we are stuck there. It can feel very hard to get out of that kind of rut and everything seems worse when looking at the world from that perspective.
Note that I am using the phrase “state of being” and the word “emotion” interchangeably. Another word you could use is “mood.” All point to basically the same idea for the purposes of this article.
The important thing to understand about the relationship between your state of being and your thoughts is this:
Your state of being will generally dictate the types of thoughts you’re going to have. Your state determines your thinking most of the time. There can always be exceptions to this but for the majority of the time as you go about your day, this is true.
When you’re in a happy, creative, grateful state of being, your thoughts will generally be in sync with the state and it will be easy for you to “think positively.” The same is true when you are in a frustrated, overwhelmed, discouraged emotional state. From that place, it will be virtually impossible to see things positively. You’ll tend to see the glass as half-empty wherever you focus your attention.
In case you’re wondering how I came to my understanding of this topic, my husband was trained as a personal and business coach with a successful coaching practice for many years. He made some key discoveries about the importance of state of being and how learning to “shift states” can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your life. Simply by changing the quality of the thoughts that you think.
We’ve all heard the mantra “just think positive,” as if that’s an easy thing to do. The most effective way to do this is to focus on your state of being (not your thoughts), and shift that first. This creates the environment for more positive thoughts to flow naturally.
It’s impossible to control all of your thoughts. There are too many of them. But you CAN learn to shift your state of being. Doing this will indirectly allow you to have much better control over the quality of your thoughts.
States of Being Scale
Below is a Scale of States of Being that my husband used in his coaching practice. It gives you a quick rundown on 19 different emotional states, along with where each falls in the overall scale. The words on each line are in resonance with the state of being, so they are examples of a few common emotions or states that are aligned at that level.
Emotions can largely dictate how we act and what we think. Emotional states ranked from one to seven tend to bring on positive thoughts, while those ranked eight to 19 tend to bring on negative thoughts. The way to get your mind to churn out mostly positive thoughts is to keep your state “averaging” in the top seven levels of this scale. Ideally, we personally shoot for averaging around level three.
- 1. Enlightenment / Peace / Bliss / Euphoria / Excitement
- 2. Joy / Gratitude / Appreciation / Empowerment
- 3. Passion / Reason / Love / Freedom / Wealthy / Healthy / Confidence
- 4. Forgiveness / Compassion / Transcendence / Acceptance
- 5. Optimism / Willingness / Hopefulness / Enthusiasm / Eagerness / Happiness / Productivity
- 6. Positive Expectation / Belief / Trust
- 7. Contentment / Neutrality / Courage / Affirmation
- 8. Pessimism / Boredom
- 9. Frustration / Irritation / Impatience / Dissatisfaction
- 10. Overwhelm / Confusion / Annoyance
- 11. Doubt / Skepticism / Procrastination / Indecisiveness
- 12. Pride / Scorn / Contempt
- 13. Anger / Hate / Revenge
- 14. Desire / Craving / Discouragement / Disappointment
- 15. Fear / Anxiety / Worry
- 16. Grief / Regret
- 17. Apathy / Despair / Powerlessness / Hopelessness / Judgmentalism / Ridicule / Embarrassment
- 18. Guilt / Blame / Resentment / Jealousy / Competitive / Depression / Rage / Racism
- 19. Shame / Humiliation / Insecurity / Unworthiness / Bitterness
How to Attain and Maintain a Higher State of Being
I believe some people are just more optimistic by nature. For the most part, that has been true for me personally. Yet I can still get drawn into a negative thinking if I spend too much time exposed to or dwelling on things that put me into negative states.
My husband used to be more prone to falling into a pessimistic or even depressed state on an occasional basis. By learning and regularly applying these concepts over time he was able to shift out of that completely and now easily maintains a very positive, light-hearted outlook and demeanor.
My favorite way to get out of the negative and into a positive state of being is by engaging in uplifting activities and cutting out things that tend to bring me down. Here are some of things that have worked over the years and especially lately.
- Stop watching the news: Avoid news as much as possible and do not dwell on it because it is almost always negative. If you want to know what’s going on in the world, use a good-quality news site online, and scan the headlines to get a gist of what is happening. Dig into the details only when necessary. Neutral and non-emotional reporting is best, but it’s harder to find these days. Stay away from sources that are using the news to polarize, politicize and sensationalize the stories.
- Don’t watch movies or TV shows that have negative themes: There’s way too much murder and mayhem on TV and in movies these days. Avoid it all and stick to more lighthearted types of entertainment.
- Have some kind of daily spiritual connection: Whether you like to meditate, pray, or simply express gratitude daily for everything you have, this type of practice will bring you into a higher state. I try to stay in a overall state of gratitude throughout my day as much as possible. Even saying “Thank you” each time a new VO job request shows up in my email inbox helps keep me in that zone.
- Listen to music with positive vibes: Listening to upbeat music, or any music that makes you happy, relaxed or energized is one of the quickest ways to boost your emotional state. Much of the popular music today is aligned with the lower levels of the states of being scale, so be careful what you listen to.
- Exercise: Exercise can include traditional workouts, but it can also include anything that gets you up and moving. Play with your kids or your pets. Dance around the house. Take a daily walk or run through your neighborhood or a nearby park. Just get up and do some jumping jacks once in awhile. I got a new hula hoop for Christmas last year and I’ve been using that daily for some fun movement for a few minutes a day. Getting your body moving and energy flowing will naturally raise your state of being.
- Get out in nature: Getting into nature is a great way to raise your state of being. Vitamin D and sunshine definitely help lift your spirits. It’s also an ideal place to tap into a spiritual connection.
- Laugh more: Laughter has been called the best medicine, and for good reason. It’s been shown to help decrease stress, soothe tension, relieve pain and enhance your immune system.
- Get into The Flow: The Flow is a state where you’re fully engrossed in what you’re doing and nothing else seems to matter. You may lose track of time as the outside world melts away. If you have a job you love, getting into the Flow can happen automatically when working on a project. People find getting into the Flow happens when they’re creating art, gardening, playing sports or engaging in any type of activity that truly brings them joy.
Be Especially Aware of What You Consume on Screens
Just as “you are what you eat” refers to what influence good food can have on your physical well-being, “you are what you consume” can also apply to the types of things you read, watch or expose yourself to on a regular basis.
Consuming large quantities of panic-inducing headlines can drag even the most upbeat person into a downtrodden state. So can movies or books filled with violence, hatred and anger.
My family and I have been trying to avoid watching any TV that can drag us down into a negative state. That drastically limits our TV viewing choices, but we’ve been able to find stimulating, positive entertainment. Here are some examples of what we watch now:
- HGTV: Almost all of the shows on this network have an overall positive vibe and are about transformation and improvement. Notice how you feel as you watch to help you gauge what kind of impact it is having on you.
- Streaming Favorite Sitcoms: There are so many funny, well-written sitcoms that we still love to watch to make us laugh out loud. Favorites include: “Frasier,” “Seinfeld,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Office” and “Mad About You.” With streaming options, you can find many of your favorites for free or very low cost.
- Sports: It’s been amazing to find out that watching great games from the past is still a great way to pass the time. “The Last Dance” documentary has been must-see TV for us every Sunday night for the past few weeks. We’ve also been watching many of the ESPN “30 for 30” episodes which are always fascinating.
- Game Shows: Fun to watch and good for your brain in terms of learning and recalling information. Favorites include “Jeopardy,” “Deal or No Deal,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and even “Wheel of Fortune.”
- Certain Reality Shows: You have to be careful with this category, but a couple of our favorites are “Shark Tank” and “The Profit” (both on CNBC network). Many reality shows are all about the drama, and that can actually take you into lower states. So look for shows that are interesting and uplifting.
When you create an environment and habits that help you attain and easily maintain a positive state of being, you’ll find your thoughts become more positive automatically. It’s something I’ve found very useful for keeping me happier, healthier and more serene, no matter what’s going on in the outside world.
I understand that many people are suffering greatly right now and experiencing very real challenges, problems and setbacks. The whole world is going through a situation that is completely uncharted territory. Huge uncertainties lie ahead for all of us and it truly seems that life will never be the same.
But, my response to all of that is to roll with it. To focus on what is working and what is good. To improve in the areas where I can make improvement. To look for new opportunities that are showing up.
I’m sure there will be some who will read this article and conclude that I am avoiding reality or just sticking my head in the sand. That is not the case. I am very much aware of what is going on in the world. But the difference is, I do not dwell on it. I put very minimal attention on the bad news and focus on the positive aspects of my situation. This is a choice and a discipline that I have cultivated over my entire life. It is an intentional way to respond to hardship and adversity and I have found it to be a very successful strategy time and time again. It is arguably one of the key secrets to my success in my profession as well as in relationships and my overall life in general.
I hope this information is useful in some way to you. Please share your comments and questions below.
Jackie Rechler says
Thanks Debbie for sharing…this was such great information and seems truly accurate!
Shane G Casey says
Realyy like what you’ve written here Debbie. As i’m still a ‘baby’ in the v/o game it (6yrs) it can become very disheartening at times. I’d never seen the 19 emotional states listed before so gives me plenty of food for thought and good suggestions too. Take care. Shane
Kim Handysides says
Very insightful and generous advice on weathering not only our current storm but life in general.
I had not seen the 19 emotional states broken down like this before, but it makes so much sense. The whole post is timely and resonant.
Debbie Grattan says
Thanks for reading and commenting Kim! Hoping to get a chance to pop on one of your morning calls here soon. Paul is so jazzed meeting you and Ed!