The original version of this pamphlet was published January 1935. I revised it in August 2010. You'll feel Mr. Fox when you read it. It's quite long, so take your time. It's a doozy of a read!
The subject of diet is one of the foremost topics of the present day in public interest. Newspapers and magazines teem with articles on the subject. The counters of the bookshops are filled with volumes unfolding the mysteries of proteins, starches, vitamins, and so forth . . . the whole world is food-conscious.
Experts on the subject are saying that physically you become the thing you eat — that your whole body is really composed of the food you have eaten in the past. What you eat, they say, is the foundation for the physical health of all the tissues composing your body — and there you are.
Of course, no sensible person has any quarrel with all this. It is perfectly true, as far as it goes, and the only surprising thing is that it has taken the world so long to find it out. But in this article I am going to deal with a subject that is equally profound and far-reaching in its effects: mental dieting.
One very important factor in your life is the mental diet on which you live. It is the food which you furnish your mind that determines the whole character of your life. It is the thoughts you allow yourself to think, the subjects you allow your mind to dwell upon, which make you and your surroundings what they are.
Everything in your life today — the state of your body, whether healthy or sick, the state of your fortune, whether prosperous or impoverished, the state of your home, whether happy or the reverse, the present condition of every phase of your life in fact — is conditioned by the thoughts and feelings which you have entertained in the past, by the habitual tone of your past thinking. And the condition of your life tomorrow, and next week, and next year, will be conditioned by the thoughts and feelings which you choose to entertain from now onwards.
Photo by Kirk Gollwitzer
In other words, you choose your life. You choose all the conditions of your life when you choose the thoughts upon which you allow your mind to dwell. Thought is the real causative force in life, equal to or greater than all others. You cannot have one kind of mind and another kind of environment. This means you cannot change your environment while leaving your mind unchanged, nor can you change your mind without your environment changing too.
If you change your mind your conditions must change too. Your body must change, your daily work or other activities must change; your home must change; the color-tone of your whole life must change, for whether you are habitually happy and cheerful, or low-spirited and fearful, depends entirely on the quality of the mental food upon which you feed yourself. Please be very clear about this. If you change your mind your conditions must change too. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. With thoughtful practice, you will see that your mental diet is really the most important thing in your whole life.
A thoughtful person will realize this essential truth immediately. The practical difficulty in applying it, however, arises from the fact that our thoughts are so close to us that it is difficult, without a little practice, to stand back and look at them objectively. Yet that is just what you must learn to do.
You must train yourself to choose the subject of your thinking at any given time, and also to choose the emotional tone, or what we call the mood that colors it. Yes, you can choose your moods. Indeed, when you understand this, you gain control over your life! Moods habitually entertained produce the characteristic disposition of the person concerned, and it is his disposition that finally makes or mars a person's happiness.
You can be healthy, you can be happy, and you can be prosperous - if you have a good disposition. If you are sulky, or surly, or cynical, or depressed, or superior, or frightened half out of your wits, your life cannot possibly reach its highest level of worth. Be determined to cultivate a good disposition, and you will gain everything life has to offer. Be determined to start now; carefully select all day the kind of thoughts that you are going to think. Shape your life into the kind of thing you want it to be because this is the true path to happiness.
In short, if you want to make your life happy and worthwhile, you must begin immediately to train yourself in the habit of thought selection and thought control. This will be exceedingly difficult for the first few days, but if you persevere you will find that it will become rapidly easier, and it is actually the most interesting experiment you could possibly make. In fact, this thought control is the most thrillingly interesting hobby that anyone could take up. You will be amazed at the interesting things you will learn about yourself, and you will get results almost from the beginning.
Now, many people know this truth; they make sporadic efforts from time to time to control their thoughts, but the negative thought stream is so close, and the impacts from outside so constant and varied, they struggle to make progress. Keep steady! Form a new habit of thought which will carry you through when you are preoccupied or off your guard as well as when you are consciously attending to the business of the day. This new thought habit must be mindfully practiced, and the foundation of it can be laid within a few days.
The way to do it is this: make up your mind to devote one week solely to the task of building a new habit of thought, and during that week let everything in life be unimportant as compared with that. If you will do so, then that week will be the most significant week in your whole life. It will literally be the turning point for you. It is safe to say that your whole life will change for the better. In fact, nothing can possibly remain the same. This does not simply mean that you will be able to face your present difficulties in a better spirit; it means that the difficulties will go.
This is a profound way to alter your life, and being in accordance with Nature and the Universe, it will succeed. By working in this way you do not have to struggle to change conditions over which you have no control. What happens is that you apply these principles, and the conditions change spontaneously. You cannot change conditions directly — you have often tried to do so and failed — but go on a seven day mental diet and conditions will change for you.
This then is your prescription. For seven days you must avoid dwelling - even for a single moment - on any kind of negative thought. You must watch yourself for a whole week as a cat watches a mouse, and you must keep your mind on thoughts that are positive, constructive, optimistic, and kind. After one week, the habit of positive thinking will begin to be established, and something incredible happens. Your entire vibration increases! You feel vibrant! Some extraordinary changes for the better will have come into your life, encouraging you enormously, and then the future will take care of itself. The new way of life will be so attractive and so much easier than the old way that you will find your mentality aligning itself almost automatically.
This seven day mental fast is only for one week in your life, and it will definitely alter everything for the better. For the rest of your life here, for all eternity in fact, things will be utterly different and inconceivably better than if you had not carried through this undertaking.
If you make a false start, or even if you go on well for two or three days and then for any reason "fall off" the diet, the thing to do is to accept your misstep, rest your mind for several days, and then to start again afresh. There must be no jumping on and off, as it were. You remember that Rip Van Winkle in the play would take a solemn vow of teetotalism, and then promptly accept a drink from the first neighbor who offered him one, saying calmly: "I won't count this one. Well, on the seven day mental diet this sort of thing simply will not do. You must positively count every lapse, and whether you do or not, Nature will. Where there is a lapse you must go off the diet altogether and then start again.
Now, in order to forestall difficulties, let’s consider them in a little detail. First of all, what is negative thinking? A negative thought is any thought of failure, disappointment, or trouble; any thought of criticism, or spite, or jealousy, or condemnation of others, or self-condemnation; any thought of sickness or accident; or, in short, any kind of limitation or pessimistic thinking. Any thought that is not positive and constructive in character, whether it concerns you or anyone else, is a negative thought. Do not bother too much about the question of classification, however; in practice you will know whether a given thought is positive or negative. Even if your brain tries to deceive you, your heart will whisper the truth.
Second, you must be quite clear that what this practice calls for is that you shall not entertain, or dwell upon negative things. Note this carefully. It is not the thoughts that come to you that matter, but only such of them as you choose to entertain and dwell upon. It does not matter what thoughts may come to you provided you do not entertain them. It is the entertaining or dwelling upon them that matters. Many negative thoughts may come to you all day long. Some of them will just drift into your mind of their own accord seemingly, and these come to you out of the race mind.
Other negative thoughts will be given to you by other people, either in conversation or by their conduct, or you will hear disagreeable news perhaps by letter, email, or telephone, or you will see crimes and disasters announced in the newspaper headings. These things, however, do not matter as long as you do not entertain them. In fact, it is these very things that provide the discipline that is going to transform you during this epoch-making week.
When the negative thought presents itself — turn it out! Turn away from the newspaper; turn out the thought of the unkind letter, or jealous remark. When the negative thought floats into your mind, immediately turn it out and think of something else. Best of all, think of God, or Nature, or whatever encourages you to smile, relax, and become centered. A perfect analogy is furnished by the case of a man who is sitting by an open fire when a red hot cinder flies out and falls on his sleeve. If he knocks that cinder off at once, without a moment's delay to think about it, no harm is done. But if he allows it to rest on him for a single moment, under any pretense, the mischief is done, and it will be a troublesome task to repair that sleeve. So it is with a negative thought.
What of those negative thoughts and conditions which it is impossible to avoid at the point where you are today? What of the ordinary troubles that you will have to meet in the office or at home? Such things will not affect your diet provided that you do not accept them by fearing them, by believing them, by being indignant or sad about them, or by giving them any power at all. Any negative condition that duty compels you to handle will not affect your diet. Go to the office, or meet the cares at home, without allowing them to affect you. They are there, you acknowledge their existence, but when you retain your inner peace, positive mind, and power, all will be well.
Suppose that you are lunching with a friend who talks negatively — do not try to shut him up or otherwise snub him. Let him talk, listen mindfully, but do not absorb what he says, and your diet will not be affected. Suppose that on coming home you are greeted with a lot of negative conversation — do not preach a sermon; quietly acknowledge its existence, but simply do not absorb it. It is your mental consent, remember, that constitutes your diet.
Suppose you witness an accident or an act of injustice - instead of reacting with pity or indignation, do anything that you can to right matters, give it the right thought, and let it go at that. You will still be on the diet.
Of course, it will be very helpful if you can take steps during this week to avoid meeting anyone who seems particularly likely to arouse the devil in you. People who get on your nerves, or rub you the wrong way, or bore you, are better avoided while you are on the diet; but if it is not possible to avoid them, then you must take a little extra discipline — that is all.
Suppose you have a particularly trying ordeal next week. If you have enough spiritual understanding you will know how to meet that in the spiritual way; but, for our present purpose, wait and start the diet as soon as the ordeal is over. Take this mental diet seriously; think it over well before you start.
People often find that the starting of this diet seems to stir up all sorts of difficulties. It seems as though everything begins to go wrong at once. This may be disconcerting, but it is really a good sign. It means that things are moving; your goal is in view! Suppose your whole world seems to rock on its foundations. Hold steady; let it rock, and when the rocking is over, the picture will have reassembled itself into something much nearer to your heart's desire.
The above point is vitally important and rather subtle. Dwelling upon these difficulties is in itself a negative thought which will throw you off the diet. Accept that your world is rocking in appearance, but to refuse to take the appearance for the reality. Allow your newfound positive perception to become your reality!
A closing word of advice: Keep this tremendous project strictly to yourself – make a confidential deal with your soul. When you have come through the seven days successfully, and secured your demonstration, allow a reasonable time to elapse to establish the new mentality, and then tell the story to anyone else who you think is likely to be helped by it. And, finally, remember that nothing said or done by anyone else can possibly throw you off the diet. Only your own reaction to the other person's conduct can do that.
Safe travels on this wonderful, life-altering journey!