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Day 25: The power of our thoughts

November 8, 2023

For today’s blog, I want to start with a little experiment.

All you have to do is watch the video below and answer these questions:

  1. Where was your attention during the video – what did you focus on?
  2. If the video was 20-30 seconds longer, what would you see in those 20 – 30 seconds?

Now watch this video and answer the same questions.

If you are like most people, your answers differed between the first and second video.

Movie makers know this. They use music to guide our emotions, direct our attention and help us predict what’s going to happen. But, this knowledge allows movie makers to mislead us too. They  can use music to mislead us by directing our attention to particular things and leading us to make false predictions.

Our thoughts do the exact same thing. They form the soundtracks to our lives, shaping where our attention goes, how we apply meaning and what predictions we make.

The Practical Implications

I learned about the concept of “shark music” from Dr Dan Siegel, professor of Psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine. He teaches this concept to parents and shows how “playing shark music” can cause us to change our moods and bring far more stress to a situation than might be warranted.

For example, when helping a child with their homework, if we start to play the shark music of, “she’s never going to get this…and then she’s going to fail her exams…and if she doesn’t have a maths qualification, she can’t get into university…and…and…”

Da da. Da da. Da da. Dun dun dun dun dun…. (That was the best I could do to phonetically create the Jaws theme tune!)

Since learning about “shark music”, I’ve worked hard to catch my mind playing it and switch it off. I’ve realised the most important thing I can ever do for my stress levels is stay in the moment and not time-jump to some other point the future where catastrophe looms.

It’s even true for little things – like when my son refuses to do basic things like use his cutlery or brush his teeth by himself. I used to stress out wildly about these things because the shark music made it that I’d still be harping on about them when he’s 11, 12, 13 or even 14 years old – so I’d react in the moment as though I was reacting to all those future moments too, and the reaction would get bigger.

Sometimes my mind switches shark music on without my permission, and before I know it I’ve not only made the mountain out of the molehill, I’ve climbed it too!

The cool thing I’m learning is that when these things happen in our minds, we can come straight back down the mountain as fast as we went up it. The choice is instant. The thing I’m still working on is the moments where I decide I want to stay up there because, “I’m right dammit!”

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