Have you ever heard the phrase “Thoughts think themselves”? You would’ve had instances where despite everything you do to stop it, your thoughts may still go in directions that you don’t intend for them to.
The mind works fairly independently and even as you strive for control over different aspects of your life, the one-piece where you are likely to struggle with the most is when it comes to the thoughts your mind creates and the feelings that emerge.
There is a need to recognise that thoughts come unbidden. Attempting to control them is a fight that you are likely to lose. Different thoughts and varying images will keep popping up in your mind across time. Often these may not even be related to each other and you may feel flummoxed as to how your mind drew associations which seem absolutely improbable.
There will be thoughts and images that relate to something that happened in the recent past, perhaps earlier in the day, others that were much more in the past and then even those which indicate something about the future.
It is highly unlikely that your mind would be looking at something that is happening right then, at that moment when you are attempting to perceive what all it is conjuring.
It may be able to stay away from immersing itself in engaging in a self-perpetuating dialogue for a little while. But eventually, it does end up in that place where an internal dialogue ensues.
This clutter is a regular feature for every person’s mind. Losing sleep over it does no good. The more you give it attention and focus on attributing meaning to it, the more it leaves you troubled.
Here are some helpful ways in which you can manage yourself better in such moments where you find your mind inundated with varying thoughts.
1. Try to bring yourself to the present moment
Keep striving to give your mind reminders about being in the present moment. Each time your focus shifts to the past or present remind yourself to come back to where you are and to what you are doing. Make a concerted effort to give yourself these reminders.
2. Observe but don’t immerse
Even as the thoughts reverberate through your mind, attempt to be an observer instead of permitting yourself to get immersed in an alternate dialogue within your own mind. Continual reminders to adopt this approach are known to be helpful in successfully navigating the contours of difficult internal dialogues which can become difficult to control otherwise and can impact moods and well-being.
3. Choose the behaviour
You can’t make a choice about what thoughts come to your mind or the emotions that they lead to. You can certainly work towards the behaviours you indulge in instead. Make a choice to choose to focus on your actions and doing what you need at a given moment in time to keep moving forward and not getting stuck with your thoughts or feelings.
4. You are not your thoughts or feelings
It is easy to fuse your sense of who you are, your sense of self, with the thoughts or feelings that come to you. Work towards defusing yourself from these and remember that your thoughts and feelings do not represent who you are as a person. There is much more to you and these thoughts and feelings that do come to you unbidden are just one aspect that demonstrates how your mind works.
5. Bring acceptance
Just as there will be good days and bad ones, there too will be good thoughts and bad ones. Accept them and their presence and do not feel rattled on account of them. Stop making excessive attempts to rid yourself of them and instead just let them be, just the way you let the good and bad days come and go in your life.
Be gentle with yourself and with your thoughts. Let them be and do not let the thoughts take away your sleep. Solve for the problems that are solvable and let the other thoughts come and go, just the way in which water flows in a river.
Kamna Chhibber Heads Mental Health for the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare. Having completed her MPhil in Clinical Psychology she is a trained therapist working with children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about working in the space of child-adolescent mental health, relationships, trauma and abuse.
She designs and creates programs for implementation in schools, corporate organizations and NGO's that are directed towards enhancing mental health and well-being. She is a writer and author of books and is regularly featured in publications on issues pertaining to mental health. She has co-authored 2 DIY Life Skills books for children, a book titled 'Let Him Not Sink', a manual for adults who work with children providing them information and knowledge to intervene when a mental health problem emerges and 'A to Z of Empathy', that enlists 26 skills to make children and adults empathetic.
She has also co-created a comic series on mental health called 'Laugh n Learn with Dr Parikh - Study and Exam Skills' and has also recently released her next book which she has co-authored and is titled 'Raising Confident Children'. She is a speaker and regularly conducts seminars and workshops relating to mental health across diverse platforms.
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