What if I told you that you could get rid of your own depression or anxiety? Would you be interested? What if I also told you that there is a possibility of healing schizophrenia and OCD? Would you believe me? Probably not. If it were that easy, don’t you think we would have a lot less mental illness in this world? Apparently, that is not the case. Mental illness seems to be growing at an exponential rate in our nation and our world currently. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We wouldn’t need a month dedicated to mental health awareness if we could eradicate it, would we?

Might I propose to you that we have the power to control our brains? Not that the brain controls the mind but that the mind controls the brain. Research cited in Science Daily shows that 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical and behavioral illness comes from one’s own thought life. Excuse me, what? If you are depressed, you are most likely having negative thoughts running through your brain all day which changes the chemicals you are releasing into your brain. Science is proving that negative thinking is not the norm. Your brain is hardwired for love. You are hardwired to think optimistically. We function better in this life when we are thinking positive thoughts. So, what thoughts are you allowing into your brain today?

There is a verse in the Deuteronomy 30 that says, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” Did you catch that dose of responsibility at the end of that verse? Choose life so that you and your descendants might live. Not only does positive thinking fuel your brain to live a more positive life but it also gives life to your children and their children and all those that come after you. You have a responsibility to change your brain right now. You have two options set before you, life and death, positive or negative thoughts.

However, as I said before if it were that easy, wouldn’t we have a lot more whole and healthy people? Yes, it’s a simple concept but its hard work. Changing your thought life is a process. At one point in my life, I was consumed by negative thinking. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought horrible things. I was in a deep depression, having panic attacks every day and sometimes all day. Until one day when I started learning about how your thought life affects you. There were several things that I did to make a change in my life.

The first thing I did was, I sought out a counselor. If you would like advice on finding a good counselor, please ask me. I have dozens of counselors in the East Atlanta region that I can suggest and even some in the Metro Atlanta area. Please let me stress to you that it is absolutely okay to see a counselor. There is a stigma that if you see a counselor, then you are crazy. I would like to propose to you that every one of us is a little bit “crazy” (even though I don’t like that word). I like to imagine seeing a counselor as sitting down with one of your friends and just sharing life. I am also always open to sitting down and talking over coffee. If you’re feeling unsettled about sitting down with a counselor, I will let you in on some secret information. A lot of counselors chose their profession because they have walked through something really hard themselves. There isn’t one thing that you have experienced or done that someone else hasn’t also experienced or done. You are not damaged. I actually always tell everyone to be kind to themselves. When we make mistakes, sometimes we are just doing what we think is best at a time when we are hurting with only the information that we have at that moment. Forgive yourself. If you feel the need to see a counselor, then do it. If not, find a family member or friend who will listen.

When I saw a counselor, I was told that I could practically work on changing my thought life by using affirmations. Take a piece of paper and write down ten good things about yourself. If it feels weird because its not what you really think about yourself, do it anyway. Every morning when you wake up, stand in front of the mirror and say those ten affirmations to yourself. Do this every day for 21 days. In order for a thought to become hardwired into your brain, you must actively think it for 21 days. I know you may be thinking that just because the thought is hardwired does not make it accurate. I would like to say that anything good that you have to say about yourself is probably true because it’s most likely coming from your heart.

The final thing that I did was I found a community of people. You need community. Our brains are also hardwired for relationship. Relationships are hard and messy but they are rewarding to our brains. There is something valuable in being fully known and fully loved in a tight-knit community. When you’re in community and thinking negative thoughts about yourself, someone will probably tell you the truth faster than you will tell it to yourself. If you can’t find a good community, come to Awake Coffee Community, and we will embrace you with open arms because community is what we do and we do it well.

I want to add that if you read this and you are impacted by it, please do not ever completely stop taking any medication and do not stop seeing a doctor. These are steps you can take to finding freedom in your life. I have a B.A. in Psychology, but I am not a doctor. If you are struggling with mental illness of any kind, please seek help. You are worth it. Every day when you wake up, you are given a choice of life or death. Choose life. You owe it to the world because you have gifts and experiences that no one else in this world has.

I gathered a lot of information from Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book, “Switch On Your Brain.” I would highly suggest that you read this book and support this incredibly brilliant woman.

Lauren Roberts