Monday, July 3, 2017

Controlling Your Thoughts

1] Stop and take a deep breathe. Pause an out-of-control train of thought by literally thinking, "STOP!". Take several deep breathes to collect yourself before moving on, which allows you to address your thoughts clearly and with a level head.

By focusing your mind on your breathing for a moment, you give yourself some distance from your thoughts and make them easier to manage.

Studies show that it takes 90 seconds for neurochemical triggers to fade from your brain and return you to a normal brain chemistry, so try counting to 90 to calm yourself down.

2] Remain in the moment. Constantly ruminating on the past, which you have no power to change, or projecting into the future, which you cannot possibly predict, is a sure way to lose control of your thoughts. Focus on the here and now -- the very tangible situation you are in that you can control, and your thoughts will follow.

Many spiritual practices recommend staying in the moment to promote inner peace and clarity.
A simple question to ask yourself is: what can I do right now to change how I feel?

3] Observe your thoughts without judgement. After pausing, return to your thoughts without critiquing yourself for having them. Consider why you are having such thoughts and what made you feel like you lost control of your brain. Taking an objective look at your thoughts will help you make sense of them without spawning negative emotions.

Stick to objective, concrete facts. If you are in a fight, don't cast blame or guess why the other party is angry. Consider what events lead to the fight, what can be done to end it, and what specifically made you upset.

Instead of "I'm really bad with at making money, it's my fault that I am not successful at work" think "I haven't been successful yet but G-d willing, my day will come".

If you are having trouble, write your thoughts down and read them back to yourself.

4] Take action to address your thoughts. Sitting with your ideas without action leads to an endless cycle of thoughts. Make a plan to address your thoughts and worries, as uncertainty is often at the root of rogue thoughts. If you can't stop thinking about work, for example, make a plan to separate your work life from your home life by taking time off, working less from home, or finding new work that you enjoy.

Oftentimes we cannot control our thoughts because we are scared to act on them.

Once you make these plans, you need follow through with them

5] Put yourself in a comfortable environment. The outside world profoundly affects your inner world, so if you are in an environment where you feel uncomfortable or out of control then your thoughts will mirror those feelings. Put on music that relaxes you or the like.

6] Temporarily divert your thoughts with another activity. Go for a run, read a book, or call a friend to take your mind off the thoughts at hand. Do something that you can do immediately and does not allow you to sit around longer with your rogue thoughts.

Make a note of the activities that help you relax and work them into your weekly schedule.

Remember, however, that this is a short-term solution. You should still work on ways to contain your thoughts when you cannot "escape" them.

7] Talk to someone to get your thoughts out in the open. Having a fresh perspective on your thoughts can often clear them away in minutes, and sharing your feelings keeps them from repeating in your head over and over again.

Good people to share with include friends, parents, and professional therapists.

If you are uncomfortable, start by saying "I have something to get of my chest," or "I've had something on my mind all day, would you mind listening for a moment?"

Do not try to choose your thoughts, but control them as they come. The human brain is an incredible organ capable of making imaginative leaps, recalling memories, and finding insights at a moment's notice, and you will never control every thought. Think more about controlling your thoughts as they arrive, not repressing thoughts you don't want to have.

Thinking about ignoring something, paradoxically, never works. Every time you think about not thinking about something, you are of course thinking about it!

8] Make your thoughts and mental health a priority. Take care of your brain by getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, managing your stress levels, and maintaining a positive outlook on life.
Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly promotes good mental health as well as physical.

9] Know what events trigger difficult thoughts. While you should not avoid all of your problems, be aware of the things that move your thoughts in a negative direction and prepare yourself when they arise. Structure your day so that you end on a positive trigger, like creative work, family time, or a good book, allowing you to spend downtime thinking about the things you love. 

Take a few moments each day to pause and take stock of your life.
Be aware of your thoughts during "trigger moments", again forgoing judgement or self-critique.

10] Reframe your thoughts in a positive or non-intrusive light. Reframing your thoughts puts them in context of the world around you, allowing you to better understand them. For example, instead of worrying that your boss shot down your presentation because she/he dislikes you, recognize that they are thinking about other workers, the company, their bosses, and the bottom line, not only their feelings about you.

For example: When someone you love hasn't called in a while, it is likely because they are busy, or stressed, not sick or in danger.

11] Recognize that there are many things you cannot control. Don't obsess about things that you ultimately cannot control -- other people, the weather, the news, Trump's next tweet -- and instead focus on yourself. When you think about things outside of your control, remind yourself that the only person you can control is yourself, and work on that. This does not mean you shouldn't try to impact the world around you -- rather that you will always have the biggest impact on your own thoughts.