(Yes, You Read That Right)
Thoughts navigate their way across your mind constantly. From your first moment of consciousness after waking until you close your eyes to sleep (and sometimes, long after that ha!), you’re generally thinking about something. So don’t listen to you your son when he says, “nothing.” 😉
These thoughts might include everyday reflections:
- “What a gorgeous day. I should really go for a long run.”
- “I need to do my math today.”
- “Gotta remind mom to add oatmeal to the grocery list.”
Or more complex, deeper introspections:
- “I wonder what dogs sound like to people.”
- “What do I want to do to improve my life?”
- “What are my long-term goals for after high-school?”
Regardless of whether or not you realize it, and how shallow or deep they are, the thoughts you have each day pile up quickly! Can you take a guess at how many thoughts you have each day?
Scientists in a 2020 study concluded that the number is over 6,000! They discovered this number by using brain scans to study thought worms – detectable patterns of brain activity – that emerge spontaneously.
Since each new thought generates a new “worm,” researchers can recognize when one thought ends and the next begins.
“What we call thought worms are adjacent points in a simplified representation of activity patterns in the brain. The brain occupies a different point in this ‘state space’ at every moment. When a person moves onto a new thought, they create a new thought worm that we can detect with our methods,” Dr Jordan Poppenk, study author and Assistant Professor at Queen’s Department of Psychology, said in a statement.
“We also noticed that thought worms emerge right as new events do when people are watching movies. Drilling into this helped us validate the idea that the appearance of a new thought worm corresponds to a thought transition,” Poppenk said.
Based on their initial work, they estimated that the average person has about 6,200 so-called thought worms, over the course of any given day. That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? And it naturally follows that something you do that frequently must inevitably impact you. Your thoughts are powerful!
Positive Thought Worms vs. Negative Thought Worms
Most people accept their thoughts without questioning them, even if they are irrational. Do you ever feel completely caught up in one line of thinking, only to discover it isn’t true? The time and energy you waste isn’t worth it, for a number of reasons.
For one, because of the way our brain and body communicate, our thoughts have a profound impact on every cell in our bodies. We know that pleasant thoughts, like looking forward to the weekend or an activity you enjoy, bring joy and excitement.
On the other hand, negative thoughts can linger and affect our mood and mindset. Worries about relationships, work performance, or health symptoms cause stress and can distract us from our daily tasks. They can deplete our energy and ability to focus.
We tend to give more importance to these negative thoughts due to our negativity bias, even if they don’t pose an immediate threat. While the number of negative thoughts per day varies, mental health issues like depression and anxiety can contribute to a cycle of unwanted thoughts and physical conditions when left unaddressed.
This topic is especially important to keep in mind for people with ADHD and ADHD-like symptoms. Many people with ADHD have negative thoughts originating from external influences, such as negative comments or frustrating experiences.
These thoughts come from many places. Some come from what other people have told them about themselves: “You can’t do anything right!” or “Why can’t you ever listen?” Others originate from experiences in which they are frustrated at home, school, or work. A person may think, “I’m stupid. I’m worthless. Nothing I do matters anyway.”
At an average of 6,200 thoughts a day, you can’t afford to let negative thoughts persist. There’s something you can start right now to do about it!
Teaching people with ADHD to control and direct their thoughts in a positive way helps them in all areas of their lives. Here are the positive thinking principles that Dr. Daniel Amen uses in his psychotherapy practice with teens and adults.
Think About It
1. Every time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals. That’s how your brain works: You have a thought, an electrical transmission goes across your brain, and you become aware of what you’re thinking. Thoughts affect how you feel and how you behave.
2. Every time you have a mad thought, an unkind thought, a sad thought, or a cranky thought, your brain releases negative chemicals that make your body feel bad. When you are upset, imagine that your brain is releasing bubbles with sad or angry faces, looking to cause problems.
3. Every time you have a good thought, a happy thought, a hopeful thought, or a kind thought, your brain releases chemicals that make your body feel good. Whenever you’re happy, imagine that your brain is releasing bubbles with smiling faces.
4. If you don’t question your thoughts, they will go unchecked. Your thoughts don’t always tell the truth. Sometimes they lie. I knew a boy who thought he was stupid because he didn’t do well on tests. When we tested his IQ, we discovered that he was close to a genius. Don’t accept every thought that goes through your head.
5. Choose to think thoughts that make you feel good, not thoughts that make you feel lousy. If your thoughts are negative, talk back to them. If you can correct negative thoughts, you take away their power over you.
What can you do right now to put Dr. Amen’s advice into action? Practice awareness of your thoughts. Keeping it simple, keep track of the positives and negatives to notice any patterns. Talk about what you want to do about those patterns with someone you trust.
If you need an extra boost, we’re here to help!
Yours in the journey,
Excerpted from Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 7 types of ADD, by DANIEL G. AMEN, M.D. Copyright 2013.