Out of all the bad habits there are, I think the habit of compulsive thinking is the worst. By that I don’t mean creative thinking or using your mind for a specific purpose, e.g. when you’re thinking through a problem to find a solution (something quite different to worrying about a problem!).
So this week’s blog is about how to stop your brain from thinking.
The Problems It Causes
I see the problems of out of control thinking all the time at work. It manifests as things like:
- insomnia – your mind is racing so you can’t sleep
- stress – your mind won’t stand still, constantly thinking about all the things you’ve got on
- anxiety – you are often worrying about things, even tiny things
- depression – you are thinking negative thoughts the whole time
Generally people don’t know where the ‘off switch’ is, so they can turn this racket off and have some peace inside their head instead. This is through not knowing there’s and off switch, or not knowing how to use it any more through lack of use.
Know it or not – you have a choice over the thoughts you allow to stay in your head. Some people are in the habit of letting any old thought that pops in free reign to run riot. A thought like “I don’t feel well” can be allowed to grow, have a life of its own, and mushroom into “I think I’ve got cancer – I’m going to die!”
How to Stop Your Brain From Thinking
So how do you find the off switch?
In my own experience I needed to find mine because I needed to switch off the doubting thoughts I was having about setting up a blog and writing a book – these thoughts were holding me back and making me feel incapable of taking any action. They needed go ship out and clear off!
In Andy Shaw’s Bug Free Mind books I learned how to regain control of my thinking again. It all started with thinking about something nice from my life, and holding onto that thought (and only that thought) for 15 seconds. Sounds really easy until you try it. So try it.
I chose a thought about my cat trying to eat my dog’s dinner out of her bowl. My dog picked her bowel up and trotted off to the other side of the room. Good plan you might think, but unfortunately she tipped the bowel practically upside down and left a trail of food across the floor. The cat did well out of this. Well, I found it funny..
So this was my thought, I chose it because I felt happy when I thought of it. And that’s what you want here – something positive.
It took me over 10 attempts to hold onto this thought, without being interrupted by all the other crap that kept rushing in like “you haven’t go time for this” or “what shall I cook for dinner tonight?”
But because finding my ‘off button’ was so important to me I kept at it. Like anything that you practice, you get better, and then you get good. When you start getting good at this, you get to the end of your thought and you find yourself thinking about nothing at all for a while (maybe just seconds to start with) – your mind is as calm as a mill pond.
This is a very peaceful and tranquil place to be. It takes practice to get there. Any new skill takes practice to acquire. Is your peace of mind worth giving this a go, and keeping at it until you can switch the row off?
It helps enormously to relax your body when you’re trying this at first. Your mind naturally slows down when you take the time to relax the muscles of your body.
Controlling Your Mind
Learning to control your mind is the key to how to stop your brain from thinking.
When you have learnt how to create calm inside your head, you can then consider which thoughts you are going to allow to take root.
It’s possible for any horrible thought to pop in from nowhere. However, when you’re in control you can decide whether to give it airtime, or whether to switch it off or change it into something else.
In my opinion, learning how to stop your brain from thinking, and controlling what you think about is the foundation of a happy and successful life, and overcoming common mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
In future blogs I’ll build on this foundation, but what would you like to know how to deal with? Pop a comment below and let me know.
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