Stop and think about this a little. Well actually don’t. As it is we already probably do way too much thinking. I have read that our thoughts are not really us, that we are just observing our thoughts, and that right there is it. We spend so much time observing and reacting to our thoughts that we seldom pay close attention to what those thoughts actually are, and how they affect every decision we make or do not make. According to some studies, science has posited that we have on average about 6000 – 60,000 thoughts per day, that wide of an array depending on the study you read, and some studies go even further to state that about 85% of those thoughts are negative and 95% are repetitive. Simply wow.
So according to these numbers, no one is really immune to this. No one truly walks around daily with a mind full of positive thoughts. In fact it seems like positive thought is this fleeting experience that we are only graced with occasionally.
Like many I spend way too much time in my head, having thoughts of self doubt, not being good enough, being too good, thoughts fueling procrastination, thoughts about where you are in life, thoughts about where you’re going, thoughts about money and family and friends, thoughts about your career, the list can go on and on in one version or another. But oftentimes while having these thoughts we simultaneously allow ourselves to fall victim to them. We unconsciously react. Our bodies react, we feel down, our moods change, we sulk or feel overwhelmed. We take this journey with our thoughts and if we’re lucky sometimes we try to derail them, while they’re happening. For me it’s this constant battle, I have these conversations with myself opposing what I might be thinking negatively. It’s like an argument no one will ever hear. Sometimes the me that’s observing wins, other times it’s just a losing battle. The times I do win however, are those times I tune in, and pay attention to the thoughts and most importantly, recognize that I am really not the one having the thought, that I am the one observing the thought, listening to it.
I first read about this concept in the book The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer. In the first chapter of the book he speaks of the voices inside our heads. The incessant chatter, the back and forth banter, the conversations that if we step back a little we realize that there is another consciousness listening to these thoughts.
Without uttering a word through your mouth, say something in your head like “I am amazing!”. Say it a few times. Did you not hear that? You absolutely heard your thoughts. But who is the you that heard your thoughts?
There is a part of you that is witnessing this noise. Our mind is hyper active and constantly creating scenarios that make dealing with the world easier for us. Most if not all of these scenarios are not real, but we react and move as if they are. We create a world in our mind because we can control our mind and not the world. And there it is again. We can control our mind.
But how do we separate ourselves from our thoughts so that we are not held hostage by them? How do we deal with those thoughts that render us stagnant, perpetuate self doubt, procrastination, and even worse self-hatred?
I have noticed those times when I am able to be present and aware of my thoughts without judgement, it helps me to identify and distance myself from them. This comes with practice, it is acknowledging that the one witnessing the thought and the thought are different. In those moments I am able to attempt to challenge the thought. Even question whether it is based on fact or some fantastic fictitious series of events hatched up in my mind. I look at it rationally and attempt to replace them with more balanced and realistic ones. Of course this is not possible for every possible thought, but with practice you become keenly aware when your mind is beginning to take you to that familiar place.
For some, affirmations might be helpful. Science has suggested that positive affirmations repeated often enough do help combat the effects of negative thoughts. Our mind is what we can control and thus what we feed our mind often, it believes. Remember our mind creates the world we live in. The more we say a thing, the more we believe it to be so.
For others it might be focusing on things they are grateful for. That attitude of gratitude we hear so much about is actually backed by science. Feelings of gratitude create a rush of good feeling neurotransmitters like dopamine which generally result in an overall positive boost in the mind.
Exercise is another method that can be employed to combat the pervasiveness of negative thoughts. Endorphins are released when we exercise, and as we may know endorphins are directly connected to an improvement in mood. The more consistent we can be with it the better our overall mood can be.
There many other methods that I’m sure can help with training our minds to combat the effects of our thoughts.
Nothing about this is simple or can happen with the snap of a finger. We are seasoned and well practiced and like any old habit, this too is hard to break. The continuous awareness that is required can only come from a place of stillness. A recognition and acceptance of the fact that we are truly not our thoughts and that the way we interact with this world is based heavily on the stories we have hatched up in our minds. We are amazing at creating fiction.
Fear takes us on ridiculous journeys that to us only, appear real, but comes with real consequences. The power within our thoughts, negative or otherwise is quite possibly the most active ingredient in how our lives are shaped. It is in our best interest to find ways to build new habits in dealing with our thoughts. For me it’s actively paying attention to them. We speak a lot about separating ourselves from the negative aspects of our lives, as we strive to attain a certain goodness. But if we do not address our thoughts, the crux of it all, its just as they say, wherever you go, there you are. As a man thinketh so is he…