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Self-help is a choice

June 8, 2017
Father John Catoir

One of the most important things you can do to improve your mental health, and strengthen your spiritual life is to find a way to fill your mind with uplifting thoughts because the thoughts you wallow in today, will always filter down into your feelings tomorrow. Terminate panic, eliminate self-pity and focus on joy.

Uplifting spiritual thoughts will liberate you from a good bit of mental misery. Toxic thoughts, on the other hand, will always make you feel sad. So much emotional pain is the direct result of fear. But Jesus said, “Fear is useless, what you need it trust.”

We all know that you can reduce negativity by the simple act of counting your blessings. Make a habit of filling your mind with uplifting ideas. Jesus said, “In this world you will have many troubles, but take heart, and cheer up, for I have overcome the world.”

Everyone has the power to change the bad habit of being gloomy. Dorothy Day called it the “duty of delight.” But how do you do it? Follow me closely on this. The mind only has room for one set of thoughts at a time. If you decide to think good thoughts, the toxic ones will have no room to fester.

Healing can begin the minute you decide to move out of the self-imposed mental swamp that drags you down. You can’t be discouraged if it takes a bit of time. Gaining control is like turning off the furnace of an overheated building. The furnace may be off, but the heat only fades away gradually.

Here’s another mental trick. Do not identify with your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. You are the observer of your thoughts. A suicidal obsession is an evil intruder. Cast it out! When you start slipping into a dark state of mind, stop it. Say “No!” Dis-identify with those negative thoughts.

You are a child of God, destined for an eternity of happiness in heaven. Live your life by faith. Don’t give in to morbid sulking. Terminate that lazy mental discipline, which steals your joy.

Holding on to hurtful thoughts will only perpetuate the pain; therefore reject sad ideas, especially memories that make you cry. Cast them aside. The will says yes or no. Do not let the past drag you down.

I’ve been writing books on this subject for over 35 years, and I’m still working on it; so I know it won’t be easy. But the need for mental discipline is acknowledged by every religion in the world, and by science as well. Persevere! Faith can make a difference. Turn to the Lord, and ask for help. You are never alone. God is right there helping you every step of the way

Poisonous thoughts will hang around only when you do nothing to dispel them. Pray for the grace to live in the present moment. Instead of wallowing in the past, or worrying about the future, let your eyes, your ears, and all your senses work for you.

Good music can rock you out of a funk. I prefer Dave Brubeck, but I enjoyed the hard rock band Shinedown. Their song “Be a Simple Man” touched me. Here are a few lyrics: “Take your time, be a simple man, don’t live too fast. Find love and don’t forget the one above.” Ah yes, wisdom comes from many sources.

May the Lord be your strength and your joy.

Catoir_Fr. John - web 100x125Father Catoir is a priest and canon lawyer of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey.

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