It never seems to fail. You’re trying to concentrate on your work, but your mind wanders off to a completely unrelated topic. Or, maybe you’re about to go on a first date, but all you can think about is how horrible your last few dates have been. These are examples of unhelpful thoughts.
Unhelpful thoughts can be distractions or be destructive. Neither is helpful.
Your mind is a terrible thing to waste, and if you can’t manage your thoughts, you’re not using your mind to your advantage. Imagine how powerful you would become if you could ignore or replace your negative thoughts! You could accomplish more and get greater enjoyment from your life.
Use these strategies to manage thoughts that don’t support you:
1. Maintain space between yourself and your thoughts. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to engage with your thoughts. You don’t focus on every person, tree, and car you pass when you’re driving down the road. Most of these things pass through your awareness without you pursuing them further.
- You can do the same thing with your unhelpful thoughts. Allow them to simply pass on by.
- Your thoughts are simply something that you experience. You are not your thoughts. If something doesn’t serve a purpose in your life, ignore it. What is the point in dwelling on it?
2. Understand that it is your brain’s nature to produce random thoughts. The thoughts you experience say little about you. It’s the nature of your brain to produce thoughts. It’s always going to give you something to think about.
- Occasionally those thoughts are useful. Frequently, they’re frivolous. Sometimes, your thoughts can be quite disturbing. Understand them for what they are and then move on.
3. Meditation is a helpful tool for understanding the nature of your mind. The first thing you notice when you attempt to meditate is the random and restless nature of your mind.
- Focus on your breathing. When you find yourself fuming about your boss, wondering what happened to your high school friends, or making a mental grocery list, simply redirect your attention back to your breathing.
4. You can focus your attention on a thought of your choosing. You can think about anything you choose to think about. You can think about riding a flying bicycle, eating a lemon, or what you need to accomplish today.
- When you’re experiencing an unhelpful thought, you can decide to think about something more useful. Recognize that you have the power to direct your thinking as you see fit.
5. Apply logic. Poor thinking leads to poor decision making. When your thoughts are leading you astray, put your logical mind to good use. Ask yourself what a sensible person would do in this situation. What is a logical, intelligent decision for your circumstances? What would you advise a friend to do?
Are negative or distracting thoughts getting in your way on a regular basis? You’re not alone. The human brain loves to stay active and will wander from one idea to another if you fail to take control of it.
The key is to focus your attention on what you intend and avoid getting too involved with your random thoughts. Just allow them to pass.
If you’ve never meditated before, this can be an excellent way to learn how your mind works and how to deal with random, intrusive thoughts. Most importantly, remember that you are not your thoughts. There’s no reason to take them personally.