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The Mind Can Make a Heaven of Hell

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Everyday, humans are faced with making choices. Some of them are desirable, and some of them are not so desirable. We often choose to do things for the benefit of others, or we do them out of mere obligation. Either way, we can wake up everyday and choose to have a good day, or we can dread what’s to come. The mind is extraordinarily powerful, and our thoughts control and determine almost everything that happens to us. John Milton once said, “The mind is its own place, and in itself/Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n”. Milton’s words lay the foundation of how we choose to live our lives. If we express positive thoughts, feelings, and actions, we are living in our own heaven on earth. On the contrary, if we constantly dwell on the negativity, we are experiencing our own hell.

Milton’s words relate to intrapersonal communication: the internal dialogue we have with ourselves everyday. Our intrapersonal communication begins the minute we wake up everyday and lasts till our heads hit the pillow every night. It dictates what kind of day we are going to have, it determines our confidence, and it helps us develop a perspective of ourselves and the people around us. In order to make a “heaven of hell,” it is important to have positive intrapersonal communication. In other words, our self-talk can help us overcome emotional distress and live our best lives. Today, it is common to ask the question, ‘Is the glass half empty or half full?’ This question is similar to Milton’s quote in the sense that it indicates that a particular situation could be viewed negatively, or positively. Whatever way we view it depends on our intrapersonal communication.

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Creating our own heaven on earth involves positive self-talk. This does not mean that people should ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Rather, it just means that individual’s should approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. Thinking the best is going to happen and not the worst dictates how the situation may unfold. Oftentimes, replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones results in a positive outcome. Researchers have found numerous health benefits to positive thinking. These include an increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, and better psychological and physical well-being. Milton’s quote reminds us that the situation itself may not be so bad, it may just be our own perspective.

While positivity contributes to an overall better life, negativity works in the opposite way. Milton’s quote also mentions that our mind can make a hell of heaven. This refers to the negative self-talk we often encounter. The critical inner-voice drives rumination, self-blame, and self-loathing. It often shames us and scares us, leading us to not live up to our full potential. Researchers found that negative self-talk can affect us in damaging ways. Negative self-talk was linked with higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem. This can lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. Critical inner dialogue has even been linked to depression. But there are many ways we can minimize negative self-talk and create our “heaven of hell.”

Minimizing negative self-talk can be done in a variety of ways. In my own life, I have found it extremely rewarding to surround myself with positive company. When I’m surrounded by happy people, their happiness rubs off on me. Positive company also has the power of helping you through negative situations. Rather than being alone and dwelling on your own negative thoughts, being with others can uplift you and help you put things into perspective. I have also found it helpful to reassess my situation. I often get anxious when thinking about the future, asking myself a lot of “what if?” questions. When I realize I am doing this, I stop and reframe my situation to the present. I remind myself that all we have is today. Nothing can be done about yesterday, and nothing can be done about tomorrow. Putting myself back in the present helps me think in a more positive manner, helping me create my heaven of hell and looking at my glass half full.

Milton’s quote reflects how we can choose to live our lives. If we express positive thoughts and feelings, we are making our own heaven on earth. But if we constantly dwell on the negativity, we are experiencing our own hell. The way we view things is our own choice, and it is reflected in our own self-talk. Creating our own heaven on earth involves positive self-talk, but we shouldn’t just ignore the unpleasant situations that life throws at us. Instead, we should approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. The benefits of positivity outweigh the damaging effects of negative self-talk. Milton’s quote is a reminder that everyday, we should wake up and put our energy into having a great day because all we have is the present and harping on negative situations will do us no favors.

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