Hi! Allow me to get right to the chase: You’re in control of your own thoughts!
If you don’t feel like you are, you can be. You should get on that shit. It’s a process, something you become increasingly good at with training. That it might take some effort at first, but…That shouldn’t stop you.
Because the premise you can’t govern what goes on in your own damn head is weird and wrong on so many levels. For the most important argument, you need to see that it’s your own fucking head we’re talking about. If you can’t do it, nobody can. Then it’s basically just going to be a big wheel of crazy attached to your neck for life. It will always spin out of control unless you take control. Plus, if you have chosen to think your thoughts cannot be ruled, you have chosen a defeated point of view that allows you to never even try. There is nothing to gain there.
I have always believed I’m in charge of what goes on in my head. That’s why I started exercising this authority* over time by deciding on the things I wanted to think about. And the more I trained, the easier this became (Pro tip: This is the case for anything in life).
The things we spend most of our time thinking about will shape our lives in a few different ways.
1. We identify with our thoughts. We identify with the behavior that come from our thoughts.
If I think a lot about writing and consequently write, it shapes my identity into that of a writer. If I think a lot about unhealthy food, I will consequently eat more of it and ultimately think of myself as an overeater.
The things we think and do, we eventually internalize. We make it a part of our personality. So if you think about it (get it? because we’re talking about thoughts?) we should really pay attention to our thoughts as they end up in the big pile of stuff that makes us who we are. That’s why it pays to think positively about yourself and to focus on the good things that you do: It shapes who you are.
2. We will see what we think about reflected in our lives.
Whether it’s because we prime ourselves and it’s just an attentional thing or because the Universe slides it towards us in a ‘here you go it matches our vibration’ type of way, what we think about comes into focus and into play. If I focus on the people I find annoying, their role in my life will grow and I will find more things to get annoyed over. If I focus on the people that I love, love will become more important in my life and I will find more things to love.
3. The way you think will make you feel a certain way.
You can pick up your emotions by training yourself to think good and positive. Try it now: Think of three things that happened this week that were awesome. You’re bound to feel that, maybe even accidentally smile a bit. You basically feel yourself cheering up.
Yu can make yourself miserable. If I’m going to focus on the shitty weather, or my hip that hurts, or my procrastination, I feel my emotions going down in response to my thoughts. I start feeling lousier. This does not help me.
Your emotions will play a crucial part in your day-to-day life and how things will turn out, and you can help them by thinking a certain way.
Now for anyone who hasn’t had that much practice or is just getting started (or wants a refresher course!) I jotted down a few basic things to get in that pretty head of yours:
Start like you’re stupid. At first, use short, general sentences and catch phrases to have bouncing in your head for a while. They work great. I know it sounds silly but they are easy to remember, easy to repeat and can completely change the general tone in your head! Some easy ones are “I expect miracles”, “I’m positive and happy”, “I make my life ridiculously amazing” and “I’m awesome.”
An obstacle people encounter is their rationale going “…but I can’t control everything with my thoughts! How do I do this!” and the panic/helplessness that can ensue from that. Relax, and adopt the following “I may not be able to control everything, but I can still work with my thoughts” or “I have no control over other people/that situation, but I am in control of my own thoughts.” I don’t focus on the things I can’t control, I work around them with the things that I do control.
Think about what you want. Make it a habit to focus on the goals, hopes, dreams, wishes and what not. Not even going my usual Universe preachy road, by doing this you keep your eyes and thoughts on the correct things.
When you find yourself worrying or obsessing about something negative, snap yourself out of it. Direct your own attention to something positive. This is weird at first, but it will become a second nature too. Now when I find myself coming back to the same issue I just go “Have I gotten the important lesson out of this? Have I given it enough of my emotional and cognitive attention?” If the answer is yes, beating myself up over something is not going to add anything new to the situation. So I take a breath, go do something else and focus on something pleasant.
(Think of these little Pacman ghostsies as thoughts. If you could pick a few thoughts, what would they be? And now, start thinking them.)
The most important thing here though is that you learn that you can guide your mind and thoughts. You are not powerless. You are in control over your head, and the more you practice the easier this becomes. You can totally sculpt and shape what’s happening in your own head. It’s basically Thought Play Doh. Go clay.
The concept of ‘Not Thinking’ was always lost on me. And ridiculous. Like most people, I honestly could not grasp how one could make their head shut up: my thoughts never stop racing through some sort of colorful vortex of mental images, words and the occasional hilarious meme*. It’s entertaining, but exhausting. Not to mention the fact that when you’re completely focused on what’s already in your head, nothing new can get in.
I can’t read a book when all I’m doing is thinking about the books I’ve read before; all the words will tumble right out of my attentional system. I can’t enjoy a conversation with someone when I fill in their sentences in my head beforehand; I’d make for a lousy conversational partner. I can’t enjoy my run while I’m having an inner monologue on whether or not I have to pee; I won’t notice how great (or not great) my run is going!
I accidentally learnt how not to think because of Bikram Yoga classes. And not really because the teacher tells you not to think, because like most people everyone I learn best through experience.
First, it’s just so damn hot in class that you have to pay attention to how you breathe. If you don’t, well, sucks to be you. That’s the most important thing, especially when you’re new at it. You’d be surprised how little time you have to think about other things when you are focused on inhaling and exhaling. Next, I found that if you want to be able to hold a posture, say, like this and not fall on your ass, you can’t pay attention to anything else. Not the people around you and not the groceries you have to pick up later.
After a while the breathing and focusing became not just a necessity: I just liked my classes more when I focused completely on what I was doing: trying to do crazy postures while sweating profusely and trying not to fall over. The more I did that, the more I liked the classes and the easier things were. Which made me develop the following premise: Being distracted by your own thoughts makes most things in life harder, while concentrating on what’s in front of you makes them easier.
And that is what solved the whole ‘not thinking’ thing for me. You don’t really stop thinking, you just direct your attention to what you are doing right now. You make that the most important thing and let your thoughts just..go. Your thinking might continue, but they are secondary to whatever it is that you are concentrating on right now. Your focus is on something else than your monkey mind.
Not thinking is basically doing what it is you are supposed to be doing. You can always get all up in your head later during the day, right?
No negativity allowed in your head is a very nice sentiment. We should all only say, think and feel good and positive things. What a wonderful world it would be! It really would be great if we could only be positive, but the reality is that every now and again, we’re going to say, think and feel bad things. About ourselves, about other people, things and situations. Because as awesome as it would be, last time I checked we don’t live in Carebear Land.
Shit happens. We say dumb shit. We do dumb shit. And sometimes, we feel shitty. If you tell me that you never do, come find me! I’ve never met a My Little Pony before and I’d very much like to.
Sometimes, you are cranky. Sometimes, you have people around you that you don’t really get along with. And there are things about yourself you’re not crazy about. And you know what? That should be okay, not tabooed. Because the more you don’t allow yourself to feel something, the more you pretend you don’t, the bigger it gets and the worse you’ll feel. Why? Because you’re feeding it. You’re focusing all your energy on it.
From personal experience I can definitely tell you that that’s true. The less I allow myself to feel a certain way or think something, the more it bothers me. On top of that, I also have to deal with an increasing amount of guilt that I’m apparently made out of more than just happiness and gratitude, which doesn’t really help matters either.
It’s not a good idea to pretend you don’t ever feel, think or say anything bad. Here’s what I think is a good idea.
Let it out. Be honest with yourself. Like, “there is someone in my life who annoys the fuck out of me.” Or “I’m angry at myself for not working out”. Or, “I should not have made that mean comment the other day, that wasn’t very nice of me.” And “I feel kind of off today”.
By doing this, stating these things as objectively and clearly as you can, you can let it out without making it any bigger or smaller. It is what is it, and that’s okay.
I said acknowledge. That does not mean you should relish. Once you’ve let it out, you should move on. It makes no sense for me (or anyone else) to Facebook stalk someone I don’t like and get increasingly more annoyed. Nor is it constructive for me (or anyone else!) to obsess over that work-out I skipped. Nobody benefits by me declaring I am Satan, just because I said something offensive to someone a week ago. Neither should I crawl into fetal position when I’m not feeling so great. I get very little done in fetal position.
It’s okay to let it be there (see step I). What’s not okay to spend more attention to it than is absolutely necessary.
Find out why something or someone bothers you so much. This is actually another reason why you shouldn’t dismiss bad thoughts or feelings: they sometimes give you valuable insights.Think about the negative thoughts or feelings and ask yourself why you think or feel that way?
If you know you’re cranky because you lack food, rest or sex, you know how to fix it: eat, sleep or hump! If I don’t like a girl because she fucked my ex-boyfriend while we were dating, that’s pretty easy to evaluate. I can pretend all I want she is an idiot with stupid hair, but the truth of the matter is that something she did once hurt my feelings and that’s why I don’t like her. It can be more subtle too, like a mismatch in personalities or the fact I’ve judged someone early based on their likes or who they hang out with.
That one work-out I skipped is no big deal on its own, but I feel ashamed of not taking optimal care of my body. This can result in sadness, self hate spiral and fetal rocking. Now I know I want to be proud of how I take care of my body, which means I should take good care of my body.
(A very common problem here is jealousy. When you’re jealous, that’s a sign your life lacks certain things you want that you see in the lives of other people. It tells you something about you, not about someone else.)
Just let it go. Easy as that. You acknowledged it, reflected on it, if that’s all you need to do, just breathe and let it be.
Go do something positive, something that improves your life and that takes the focus off the negative stuff.
So what you don’t like someone? You have so many people in your life you do like! Go see them! Visit someone you love, text your best friend, meet an interesting stranger, have coffee with your grandparents.
So what you didn’t work out today? You did the day before (or the day before that, or whatever), and you can tomorrow. Plan a fun work-out. Call a friend to go to the gym with you. Dance in your room. Do a Tracy Anderson in front of the mirror.
And so what you’re not feeling as awesome as usual; you can still boost your mood, even if its just a little! Work out, smile, watch a funny movie, have a nap, write down a Gratitude List, walk your dog. Before you know it, you’ve forgotten you were grumpy in the first place.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that while negativity may be a part of our lives, we can be very constructive about it and use it to help our lives, and eventually: our moods. Have a great weekend, you guys!