How to Get a Piece of Peace in Your Life

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Controlling Your Mind

This comes from Daily Om, which is a wonderful source of daily wisdom. It supports a message I have had as a theme in some of my posts, and I thought it was worth repeating. This is backed by empirical evidence that it is the most successful method to changing chronic thought patterns and emotions that are not due to diagnosable mental or physical conditions.

Controlling Your Mind
Unwanted Thoughts

Negative thoughts exist for most of humanity. When they arise, they can spiral into a deluge of gloomy thoughts or even depression. There are times when it seems impossible to stop thinking of the world's ills or replaying every moment of a bad memory. It's like having a song stuck in your head, only more intense and emotionally draining. Unwanted thoughts that persist can distract you from your life. Luckily, there are ways to consciously release them and to trick your mind into refocusing its attention on more positive subjects.

When unwanted dark thoughts are swirling in your head, it can be difficult to concentrate on anything else. You need to take back your attention and to refocus it. Start by shouting out loud or inside your mind something jarring and to the point, such as "Stop!" or "That's enough!" Any word or phrase is fine, as long as it is momentarily shocking. Doing so may be enough, or you may want to try thought stopping. First, take a few deep breaths, relax, and picture a scene in which you feel comfortable, optimistic, and good about yourself. Note every detail, even if the setting isn't a real place. Next time unwanted thoughts occur, yell "Stop!" and then immediately begin imagining your scene, replacing the unwanted thought with something positive.

Never try to "think away" an unwanted thought because you will simply strengthen it. It can be helpful to share your unwanted thought with someone, thereby lessening your mind's preoccupation with it. If you're uncomfortable doing so, simply distract yourself when unwanted thoughts begin cycling. Recite the alphabet, tackle some chores, do a puzzle, exercise (which released hormones that may quell unwanted thoughts), or perform a conscious breathing meditation.

It's natural to experience negative thought patterns or even obsess over a memory, but there is no need to let it overwhelm you. It may be difficult at first to replace negative thoughts with positive ones or to concentrate on a puzzle when you can't let go of a thought. Techniques like thought stopping and using other forms of distraction to rid you of unwanted thoughts get easier and easier with time and it really does work.

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