How to manage those random thoughts for peace of mind
Are you a passive receiver of all your crazy thoughts? Did you know that 90% of the thoughts that come into your head are just ‘noise’ – random nonsense? They aren’t useful, helpful or productive. So, do you want to be someone who passively receives all these crazy thoughts and whose life is affected negatively by taking notice of them? The trick is to be selective about the thoughts you choose to focus on!
I have a few strategies to help you to become a better, more efficient ‘thought manager’. It is possible to see your thoughts as mental ‘nudges’ that come to you regularly that should not be focused on. Either because they are not true or because there is no evidence for you to pay any attention to them. Thoughts like “You can’t do that” or “You are too old for that, too incompetent etc for that”. Ignore them…
These thoughts are created from early experiences. Often from childhood when we feel helpless and are dependant. Now as adults, we have far more power and autonomy and we need to learn not to listen to the fears and self doubt that plague us. These types of thoughts are known as self limiting beliefs and they are not helpful yet most of us (if not all of us) still tend to listen and believe our thoughts. Our thoughts are not facts, they are NOT true representations of reality therefore we need to keep our mental filter on and dismiss the unhelpful thoughts. I am going to give you some clear examples of the types of thoughts that we all think but that we have no evidence for. Therefore – we must learn to dismiss these thoughts and not pay them attention. Acknowledge that they are there – they will come, you cannot stop that but you can say to yourself “there I go again, stop it..I am listening to silly nonsense thoughts where there is no evidence” and then purposefully focus elsewhere. Without trying there will be another bunch of nonsense thoughts to replace the first lot.
No one is ever short of nonsense noisy thoughts. We all live with a noisy mind but learning to calm that mind an manage the thoughts is a mental skill that can lead to more peace of mind. I know this as I am living proof of this!
Unhelpful thoughts you need to dismiss and not pay attention to:
Making assumptions – we often ‘mind read’ assuming we know what someone else is thinking eg. That person was unfriendly this morning, they must be annoyed at me.
Catastrophising – imagining worst case scenarios that may never happy. Don’t do it, You don;t know for sure and you are just making yourself miserable by believing these thoughts.
Black and white thinking – this is when you narrow the options and see life as one thing or the other. Think about it – there are so many nuances and exceptions to the rule in this world – black and white thinking is unrealistic and too limiting. There may be good and bad but there are many shades inbetween. No one is all bad or always lazy etc
Negative mental filter – do you focus on what is wrong rather than adopting a balanced view of the world? Force yourself to look for the good too. What is going well?? You will find there is something but you need to look for it at times as we tend to default to the negative.
Compare and despair – do you compare yourself to others in a negative way? You don’t have all the info, you don’t know what is really going on for others so try not to do this.
For more examples of unhelpful thinking styles – go to this website: get self help
What you can do to manage your thoughts more effectively:
Remind yourself that your thoughts are not facts, you don’t have to believe every thought you think.
Learn to dismiss unhelpful thoughts. Another one wil be along soon. When I catch myself mind reading, catastophising etc, I literally say to myself; “Stop it” this isn’t helping you.” Then I ask myself, “Is there another way to look at this that helps me to feel less upset?”. You will find there is always another way to look at something.
For example – when my son was born, my mother-in-law was quite bossy and controlling when she was around my son. At first this really upset me and made me feel inadequate but when I thought about it, I told myself she might not necessarily be helping to annoy me and if she did want to help out more I didn’t need to see this as a reflection on me as a mother (unhelpful thinking style = personalizing)it meant more time for me to rest! When I looked at it this way, I felt much better…
Passengers on the bus
Imagine that you are a bus driver and you need to get your bus from point A to point B. Thing is, you have all these annoying noisy passengers on your bus shouting at you. They are telling you that you might get them lost or that you are a useless bus driver or they might be warning you that you might have an accident..or what if you get lost? If you listened to all these passengers you’d porbably get nothing done. Think of these passengers as being your noisy useless thoughts. Tell them to sit back down and be quiet. They are just making you afraid or being self critical. Learn to see your thoughts as passengers travelling with you – you don’t have to listen to them. Focus on what you hve to do, not what the scary nonsense thoughts tell you.
Instead pay more attention to useful positive thoughts that encourage you and praise you.
Break out of your mental prison – don’t let your thoughts bully you and control you. Show them whose boss. Our thoughts overdo it when trying to keep us safe and tell us we can’t do things or try to frighten us not to do things. Don’t listen to those limiting thoughts – they are not on your side. As the saying goes – when you are in your mind, you are in enemy territory. I know with my mind, that is often thw case…although less so since becoming a more efficient mind manager and learning not to take my thoughts seriously.
Photo by Marco Nürnberger