Mindful Tip #4: Master your mind

Most people, most of the time, are not consciously aware of what they are thinking about – yours truly included.

At the same time, you know the impact that your thoughts can have on you. You can become depressed, angry, frustrated, lonely, disappointed, fearful, worried, sad, and doubtful – just to name a few. On the positive side, some thoughts can make you smile, laugh out loud, feel a sense of pride, cause you to relax, and make you feel confident.

The majority of the time, your thoughts directly control how you are feeling at any given moment – regardless of whether you are consciously aware of it or not.With that in mind, wouldn’t it be great if you could better control what you were thinking so that you could change how you were feeling at any time?

You can!

Below are five simple steps you can use to control your thoughts and stop negative thinking, remove toxic thoughts, and better control your feelings.

How to Control Your Thoughts in 5 Simple Steps

Step 1 – Learn to Stop Your Thoughts

One of the first things you need to do is to learn to stop in the middle of your thoughts (good, bad, or just boring). At various times throughout the day, catch yourself thinking. How are you feeling? What are you thinking about? Why are you thinking about that topic?

This is much easier said than done. Usually, when you’re feeling frustrated, upset, tired, or angry about something, your tendency will be to “press on” or “fight through” or “get past” whatever it is that you’re feeling. This is not a good strategy.

Instead of pressing on, take 5 minutes to stop what you’re doing, and think about your thoughts. The next few steps will help.

Step 2 – Identify Your Negative Thoughts

The better you become at stopping your thoughts, the faster this step will become for you. In the meantime, I can give you a tip to make it a little bit easier: begin with how you’re feeling and work backwards. Every feeling we have is the direct result of something we were thinking. Therefore, if you’re feeling anxious, begin by stepping back for a minute, and asking yourself, “Why do I feel anxious?”.

But don’t stop there!

What about it is making you anxious? Did you previously have a bad experience in a similar situation? Did you miss your last deadline? Did you receive some toxic feedback from your boss? Was it something else? Identify what that root cause is.

Keep in mind that the event making you anxious is usually just the vehicle your mind is using to create the emotional state – it is rarely the root cause of the emotional state.

Step 3 – Write Out Your Mental Movie or Mental Tape

If you did the last step correctly, you’ll begin to identify the movie, or tape, that is playing in your mind.

By default, the majority of people have negative mental movies and tapes that fire off inside of their minds – not positive ones. When a current situation reminds us of a previous situation we tend to replay that movie or tape. Even if we had five successes and one disappointment, it is the disappointment our minds will return to because most of us want to avoid pain more than we want to seek out pleasure.

What you need to do is identify what that movie or tape is and write it down. Why? Because you want it out of your head. Inside of your head, it has power and seems much larger than it really is. Written down, it is now outside of your mind and you gain a distance from the emotion that it creates.

The term for this is dissociation and writing out your mental tapes is just one form of doing that. It’s also the easiest because it requires nothing more than a pen and a sheet of paper. Dissociating yourself from an event means to remove yourself from the first-person position in the memory.

By writing out your mental movies (what happened, what was said, what was felt, etc.) it removes you from being immediately associated with the pain and allows you to step back and gain a little bit of outside perspective on the situation. My coaching clients often tell me that this simple step usually calms them down in a big way because, getting your tapes out of your mind removes some of their power.

Step 4 – Find the Lie

Behind every negative mental tape is a lie about ourselves that we are choosing to believe whether consciously or subconsciously. A key step is to identify what that lie is. The lie could be that you’re worthless or that you’re a failure or that you’re a nobody. Maybe you were told that you are dumb or that you’ll never find a spouse who will love you. Whatever it is, identify it and write it out next to the mental tape.

Step 5 – Recognize the Truth

The only way to combat a lie is with truth and right now is the time to seek out what the truth about you is. At this stage, we recommend meditating or praying to a specific deity. Whatever route you choose to take, you must determine the truth.

Once you have the truth ready to go, write the truth next to the lie. Write the truth in the first person and write it in positive phrasing. So, instead of writing, “I am not a failure,” write down, “I am a successful person who has accomplished many great things.”

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