How to control your thoughts

By: June Silny

July 21, 2015

In the last blog, I talked about the benefits of mind control and how we distract ourselves when the negative voice gets too loud. Hopefully by now you are ready to receive the “how-to” steps for silencing that voice and taking back control of your mind.

For those of you with ADHD or if you love someone who has it, please understand that ADHD thoughts are longer, stronger and harder to control. The ADHD brain is wired for repetition. Rumination sets in. When that happens, it’s even harder to stop. But don’t give up; it is possible to control.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a negative voice inside his head. It’s part of life. It’s called free will. It gives you the chance to make smart choices, improve your self and grow to become a better version of yourself.

(We’ll talk about that in the next blog … BECOMING FRIENDS WITH YOUR NEGATIVE VOICE)

But until those benefits happen, you have to deal with negative thoughts that ambush you all day and night. Sometimes they hide in the depths of your subconscious mind, and at other times they are right in front of your face. During the day, negative thinking is more manageable. You are distracted by work, family, and responsibility. Then night rolls around, and you think you’re ok. You fall asleep but four hours later, you are jolted awake staring into the darkness. Did you ever notice that your negative voices are louder in the dark?

That’s when you lose control. Your twisted thoughts distort reality. Not knowing what to do, you sit back and watch the horror movie in your mind. Helpless and spiraling out of control, you try hard but can’t stop the frightening images your imagination has created.

Since negative thoughts are sneaky, and they appear in disguise, they show up as fear, doubt, or anxiety. Just one small thought and your imagination is triggered, tumbling into a wild whirling cyclone that knocks you off your feet. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can change your thought process.

TAKING BACK CONTROL

Mind control is a character strength that improves the quality of your life. You may not be able to stop the initial trigger thought, but you can take back the controls and not succumb to them. You don’t have to get swept away.

Here’s how to get a grip on it:

1. Be aware. Be prepared.

When you are aware, you are mentally strong enough to fight off the thoughts you don’t want. Negative thinking happens to everyone. No one (that I know) can escape the initial trigger thought. What matters most is what happens after it that one thought. I’m not saying that you should become anxious waiting for negativity to arrive, it just means that when you are aware, you recognize when that trigger thought happens and knock it out immediately. The more aware you are, the quicker you grab hold of your mind and take back the control.

2. Name it.

When you are stuck in negativity, and feel yourself falling into dark thoughts, stop the cycle by naming it. Whether you whisper it, or say it out loud, naming it causes a separation in your subconscious mind. That is enough to break the cycle. When I was suffering from panic attacks, naming what was happening is what saved me. The negative force is strong but you can be stronger. Name it to stop the cycle.

3. Fear is illogical.

I remember when I was having hurricane shutters put up on my 14th-floor apartment. The workmen were hanging on ropes on the side of the building. There was no balcony beneath them or anything to fall onto, except the ground below. When they finished, they came into the apartment. I was standing there with my sweet, gentle 85-pound Labrador on a leash when one of the high-flying workers freaked out. He was so afraid of my dog; he wouldn’t step foot in the apartment. He’d rather stay on the balcony railing 14 stories high (where he jumped to) than come near my dog. I had to take my dog to another room so he could come in. It taught me an important lesson; a person can be incredibly brave in one aspect of life, and illogically fearful in another. Fear makes no sense.

4. Erase and Replace.

Sometimes just saying, “erase and replace” is enough. It’s a positive mantra that kicks out negativity and makes room for positive thoughts to enter. It also helps to have a “replace” statement ready for use when you need it. One word is all you need. You may choose, “stop” or “no” or “go.” Chant it. Repeat it over and over again. Scream it, sing it, or be creative. Find a replacement word or phrase that will stop the negative cyclone. Other simple and helpful phrases are, let go or everything is fine. Find a replacement that will stop the negativity. Isn’t that why the song from Frozen become so popular? Even little kids subconsciously appreciate the importance of letting go.

5. Do a reality check.

Many times I’ve given myself a gentle pat on my face just to snap back to reality. The imagination is a strong force when the negative thought cyclone gets hold of it. You believe what you think. When in reality, it’s just a movie you have created in your mind. And if you’re a creative person; your creations are intense, making them more realistic. If you’re into statistics, this one is easy. What are the chances of your visions becoming reality? Sadly, our loved ones put themselves in situations that haunt us all day and night. So it’s up to you to wipe out those thoughts and bring yourself back to reality.

6. Present Moment Mindfulness

If you are going to take control of your thoughts, you need a mental support system. Present Moment Mindfulness works instantly. When you are caught up in the negative whirlwind, recognize it, erase and replace, and bring your attention to whatever you are doing. If you are washing the dishes and feel your mind meandering onto a dark path, notice what you are doing and whisper it, I am washing the dishes. I feel the soap bubbling on my hands. The water feels warm, and then let yourself go with it. It sounds silly at first, but it really works. My favorite phrase from a meditation I used to teach is… breathing in I feel calm, breathing out I feel ease. Calm, ease, calm, ease.

7. It’s your choice.

Remember, this is your freedom of choice; your chance to determine which path you want to take-who you want to be with, what career you want to be in, and what you want to eat for dinner. It’s up to you. You get to choose how long the negativity stays in your mind.

Let me know if you can do it! It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

– See more from June Silny’s blog: junesilny.com

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

To view HUNDREDS of articles and videos on ADD/ADHD, go to addrc.org

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Are you happy? The question itself is loaded with meaning, and most of us would give mixed answers if we were honest. Much of life is comprised of mixed-bag scenarios in which we are content with some parts of life and dissatisfied with others. As tempting as it is to rely on a change in circumstance to find fulfillment in life, the truth is that your outlook determines your happiness, not your circumstances. Therefore, learning how to control your mind is crucial for building a sense of serenity with yourself and your life, whatever your circumstances. As you master how to take control of your mind, you’ll find the path to lasting, unshakeable contentment.

Ready to learn how to control your mind?

How to control your mind: The role of mindfulness

Understanding how to control your mind begins with realizing that you are in full control of your state . Since your mind, body and emotions are interconnected, you can use mind-body techniques to bring greater cognizance to your thinking, which in turn influences your feelings. As you embrace the practice of living in the moment, you become more adept at maintaining self-awareness in any circumstance. And, as Tony Robbins says, it is the practice of embracing self-awareness in the current moment that ultimately drives lasting happiness . In fact, research on self-determination theory demonstrates that the more you feel you’re in control of your circumstances (by staying grounded in the moment), the more productive and fulfilled you’re likely to feel . Along these lines, resist the urge to take a “TGIF” approach to life, living for the weekend (or whatever high points you tend to prioritize over the duller, more mundane points in your life). Instead of wishing you were somewhere else, embrace your existence in the present and you’ll be well on your way to learning how to control your mind.

Tools for learning how to take control of your mind

How exactly do you go about influencing your state? Meditation and priming are your primary tools for learning how to take control of your mind.

How to control your mind with meditation

Have you ever felt that your mind is out of control, beset by anxiety as your thoughts barrel along aimlessly at a million miles a minute? When your thoughts are on auto-pilot, the prospect of learning how to control your mind might seem impossible. However, meditation is one of the most natural ways to calm and center your mind. The philosophy of meditation centers on the fact that the mind can only focus on one thought at a time. When you meditate, you simply draw your focus to something calming like your breath or a mantra such as “I am calm and relaxed.” If you get distracted while practicing meditation, simply begin again without beating yourself up. Meditation requires repetition to master and as you build it into your day-to-day routine, you’ll find that mindfulness becomes more natural.

How to control your thoughts

How to control your mind with priming

How to control your thoughts

Like most of us, you’ve probably had the experience of waking up in a bad mood you can’t seem to shake. When this happens, you likely wonder how to control your mind when you simply don’t feel up to it. This is where the power of priming comes into play. Priming engages the mind by first engaging the body by taking several deep, cleansing breaths to cultivate a positive physical state. As you focus on your physical state, you’re then able to clear your mind and focus your thoughts on the present moment. As you practice priming consistently, you’ll find that it becomes intuitive. By building intention into your thought processes, you more fully understand how to take control of your mind.

Recognizing limiting beliefs

As you build mindfulness practices like meditation and priming into your day-to-day life, you’ll begin to discover more and more about the beliefs that shape your outlook on life. Beliefs are multifaceted, stemming from mental, emotional, spiritual, cultural and physical influences. Beliefs are therefore very powerful in shaping how we view ourselves and the world, informing what we believe we can and can’t accomplish in life. It is part of human nature to accept our beliefs without questioning them. Mindfulness practices seek to address this tendency to turn a blind eye. Instead of simply accepting all our beliefs, we must commit to investigating whether our beliefs are certifiably true, or whether they are the product of circumstances and experiences that do not accurately reflect who we really are. The good news is that while you cannot change events or experiences in your past, you can change how you perceive those events. You can learn how to control your mind by reframing your beliefs in light of your highest self worth. Commit to being honest with yourself, and you’ll become able to uncover limiting beliefs that may seem functional but actually keep you from reaching your full potential.

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This article was co-authored by Tracy Carver, Ph.D. Dr. Tracy Carver is an award-winning Licensed Psychologist based in Austin, Texas. Dr. Carver specializes in counseling for issues related to self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and psychedelic integration. She holds a BS in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University, an MA in Educational Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Carver also completed an internship in Clinical Psychology through Harvard University Medical School. She was voted one of the Best Mental Health Professionals in Austin for four years in a row by Austin Fit Magazine. Dr. Carver has been featured in Austin Monthly, Austin Woman Magazine, Life in Travis Heights, and KVUE (the Austin affiliate for ABC News).

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Do you seem to wake up on the wrong side of the bed every day? If you find that negative thoughts are starting to control your life, take action before stress starts weighing you down. Learn to identify and eliminate negative thoughts, then replace them with positive exercises. Not only will opportunities start to present themselves, but you’ll have the power to change your frame of mind, as well as your day.

Many Christians struggle with this issue, especially in our highly technological world, but taking control of our thoughts is essential. Proverbs 4:23 states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The “heart” includes the mind and all that proceeds from it. Someone said that every sin we commit, we commit twice, once in our thoughts and again when we act upon those thoughts. It is easier to rid our lives of sin if we attack it at this fundamental thought level rather than waiting for it to become rooted in our lives by our actions and then try to pull it out.

There is also a difference between being tempted (a thought entering into the mind) and sinning (dwelling upon an evil thought and wallowing in it). It is important to understand that when a thought enters our mind, we examine it based upon God’s Word and determine if we should continue down that path or reject the thought and replace it with another thought. If we have already allowed a habit to form in our thought lives, it becomes more difficult to change the path of our thoughts, even as it is hard to get a car out of a deep rut and onto a new track. Here are some biblical suggestions for taking control of our thoughts and getting rid of wrong thoughts:

1. Be in God’s Word so that when a sinful thought enters our mind (a temptation), we will be able to recognize it for what it is and know what course to take. Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4) responded to each of Satan’s temptations with Scripture that applied to the direction He knew His mind should take instead of beginning down the path of the sinful thought. When tempted to meet His physical need (turn stone into bread), He recited the passage about the importance of relying upon God. When tempted to serve Satan in order to obtain the glory of the world, He brought up the passage that says we are to serve and worship God alone and speak of the glory that belongs to Him and those who are His. When tempted to test God (to see if God was really there and would keep His promises), Jesus responded with passages that stress the importance of believing God without having to see Him demonstrate His presence.

Quoting Scripture in a time of temptation is not a talisman, but rather serves the purpose of getting our minds onto a biblical track, but we need to know the Word of God AHEAD of time in order to accomplish this. Thus, a daily habit of being in the Word in a meaningful way is essential. If we are aware of a certain area of constant temptation (worry, lust, anger, etc.), we need to study and memorize key passages that deal with those issues. Looking for both what we are to avoid (negative) and how we are to properly respond (positive) to tempting thoughts and situations—before they are upon us—will go a long way to giving us victory over them.

2. Live in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, chiefly through seeking His strength through prayer (Matthew 26:41). If we rely upon our own strength, we will fail (Proverbs 28:26;Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 26:33).

3. We are not to feed our minds with that which will promote sinful thoughts. This is the idea of Proverbs 4:23. We are to guard our hearts—what we allow into them and what we allow them to dwell on. Job 31:1 states, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman” (NKJV). Romans 13:14 states, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Thus, we are to avoid periodicals, videos, websites, conversations, and situations that will set us up for a fall. We should also avoid spending time with those who would encourage us down these wrong paths.

4. We are to pursue hard after God, replacing sinful thoughts with godly pursuits and mindsets. This is the principle of replacement. When tempted to hate someone, we replace those hateful thoughts with godly actions: we do good to them, speak well of them, and pray for them (Matthew 5:44). Instead of stealing, we should work hard to earn money so we can look for opportunities to give to others in need (Ephesians 4:28). When tempted to lust after a woman, we turn our gaze, praise God for the way He has made us—male and female—and pray for the woman (for example: “Lord, help this young woman to come to know you if she does not, and to know the joy of walking with you”), then think of her as a sister (1 Timothy 5:2). The Bible often speaks of “putting off” wrong actions and thoughts but then “putting on” godly actions and thoughts (Ephesians 4:22-32). Merely seeking to put off sinful thoughts without replacing those thoughts with godly ones leaves an empty field for Satan to come along and sow his weeds (Matthew 12:43-45).

5. We can use fellowship with other Christians the way God intended. Hebrews 10:24-25 states, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Fellow Christians who will encourage us in the changes we desire (best if of the same gender), who will pray for and with us, who will ask us in love how we are doing, and who will hold us accountable in avoiding the old ways, are valuable friends indeed.

Last and most important, these methods will be of no value unless we have placed our faith in Christ as Savior from our sin. This is where we absolutely must start! Without this, there can be no victory over sinful thoughts and temptations, and God’s promises for His children are not for us, nor is the Holy Spirit’s power available to us!

God will bless those who seek to honor Him with what matters most to Him: who we are inside and not just what we appear to be to others. May God make Jesus’ description of Nathanael true also of us—a man [or woman] in whom there is no guile (John 1:47).

Want to change your inner world? Better control your mind, as well as your thoughts? Here’s the only way possible.

Maybe you don’t have any trouble with your thoughts, but I do. Thoughts pop into my mind without my permission faster than a mosquito bites my skin on a sweltering summer afternoon. And, equally without my permission.

Descartes, father of modern philosophy, pointed to both the distinguishing characteristic of human beings and to the biggest curse of human beings when he made his famous statement, “I think. Therefore, I am.”

The fact that you and I can think, reflect on the past, imagine the future, even to be conscious of our own consciousness is what distinguishes humans from all other animals. The fact that you and I CAN think, reflect and so often regret the past, imagine and so often fear the future, even to be unconscious of our own capacity to be conscious is the biggest curse humans live with and so try to escape from almost continually.

In other words, “Thoughts,” as Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, “can be our best friends and our worst enemies.” I would highly recommend his book entitled Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. I heard him speak for the first time just last week and love the way he blends the best in psychology and the science of happiness with Buddhist teachings regarding the mind and its many afflictions.

Until what is on the inside – that is, your mind – is corrected, the external world, that is, how you perceive and experience the world around you will be a mere reflection of it.

In other words, if the world around you is to you an unfriendly, hateful, scary, and judgment-filled place, why is this so? Have you ever sought to know why? Is this the way the world really is? Or, is this the way you really are? Often we project onto the world, as well as onto other people, the afflictive, negative thoughts and emotions that we cannot admit. Or refuse to acknowledge.

More and more, I am convinced, you and I create the world in which we live. Pop psychologists glibly suggest, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” While this is true, the problem for most people is how to change their negative thinking and the afflictive emotions that are its inevitable consequence.

Want to change your inner world? Better control your mind, as well as your thoughts?

Here’s the only way possible:

1. Meditate daily. If you’re one of those persons who quickly excuses yourself as having tried meditation and discovering it does not work for you, that’s the first thought you need to change. Why? Because it isn’t so. So much of our thinking is just that – wrong. Deceitful. And, the most deceived person is one-and-the-same deceiver. You CAN learn to meditate and you must, if you wish to learn to control your thoughts and your thinking.

Books on meditation are as abundant today as cookbooks. I would recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, written by Thich Nhat Hanh.

2. Observe your thoughts. Don’t judge them, observe them. How many times has a thought popped into your mind – let’s say some kind of judgmental thought about a colleague at work and, instantly, you jump into judgment mode, finding fault with yourself for even thinking something negative about someone else.

I would suggest an alternative solution to unwanted thoughts. Instead of quickly dismissing them and then judging yourself harshly for having such thoughts, start from the premise that thoughts are neither right nor wrong. They just are. It’s what you do with your thoughts that introduce the “rightness” or “wrongness” of them. In other words, in the purported words of Martin Luther, “You cannot keep a bird from flying over your head; what you can do is prevent it from building a nest in your hair.”

How? By observing your thoughts. In the east, this is called acting as the “witnessing presence.” Like witnessing an accident and then reporting on it to the authorities. Be the observer of your own thoughts, even the ones that frighten you.

3. Cultivate the space between thoughts. In other words, as you train yourself to be the observer of your mind. you thoughts, you are actually cultivating what easterners call “the primary consciousness” that underlies all thinking. It is that “space between the notes,” said Claude Debussy “that makes the music.” If there were no spaces between the notes on a sheet of music, the sounds you would hear would not only be unintelligible but meaningless, even annoying.

This space is the place of internal peace. It is what some call “pure consciousness.”

The idea of emptying your mind of thought is terrifying to many people.

Why? Because they mistakenly think they ARE their thoughts. This is the core error in our shared human experience. You are NOT your thoughts. You’re not even the observer of your thoughts, although that is much closer to who you really are.

Why is this all so important? Because this is the only way to get control of your thoughts. And, if you wish to be happy, and who among us does not wish for this, you must learn to manage the mind. Otherwise, it will menace you like the constant dripping of a leaky faucet.

The problem in our western world is not that we do not know how to think. As enumerated so eloquently by the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth, “the problem most people have is not thinking; it is not knowing how to stop thinking.”

Make this your spiritual practice for to do so is to pursue.

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thought leader and spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers around the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m IN LOVE with my own.” Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Ever.

Maybe you don’t have any trouble with your thoughts, but I do. Thoughts pop into my mind without my permission faster than a mosquito bites my skin on a sweltering summer afternoon. And, equally without my permission.

Descartes, father of modern philosophy, pointed to both the distinguishing characteristic of human beings and to the biggest curse of human beings when he made his famous statement, “I think. Therefore, I am.”

The fact that you and I can think, reflect on the past, imagine the future, even to be conscious of our own consciousness is what distinguishes humans from all other animals. The fact that you and I can think, reflect and so often regret the past, imagine and so often fear the future, even to be unconscious of our own capacity to be conscious is the biggest curse humans live with and so try to escape from almost continually.

In other words, “Thoughts,” as Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, “can be our best friends and our worst enemies.” I would highly recommend his book entitled Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. I heard him speak for the first time just last week and love the way he blends the best in psychology and the science of happiness with Buddhist teachings regarding the mind and its many afflictions.

Until what is on the inside — that is, your mind — is corrected, the external world, that is, how you perceive and experience the world around you will be a mere reflection of it. In other words, if the world around you is to you an unfriendly, hateful, scary, and judgment-filled place, why is this so? Have you ever sought to know why? Is this the way the world really is? Or, is this the way you really are? Often we project onto the world, as well as onto other people, the afflictive, negative thoughts and emotions that we cannot admit. Or refuse to acknowledge.

More and more, I am convinced you and I create the world in which we live. Pop psychologists glibly suggest, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” While this is true, the problem for most people is how to change their negative thinking and the afflictive emotions that are its inevitable consequence.

Want to change your inner world? Better control your mind, as well as your thoughts?

Here’s the only way possible:

1. Meditate daily. If you’re one of those persons who quickly excuses yourself as having tried meditation and discovering it does not work for you, that’s the first thought you need to change. Why? Because it isn’t so. So much of our thinking is just that — wrong. Deceitful. And, the most deceived person is one-and-the-same deceiver. You can learn to meditate and you must, if you wish to learn to control your thoughts and your thinking.

Books on meditation are as abundant today as cookbooks. I would recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, written by Thich Nhat Hanh.

2. Observe your thoughts. Don’t judge them, observe them. How many times has a thought popped into your mind, for example — let’s say some kind of judgmental thought about a colleague at work or even your partner at home and, instantly, you jump into judgment mode toward them, but then finding fault with yourself for even thinking something negative about someone else.

I would suggest an alternative solution to unwanted thoughts. Instead of quickly dismissing them and then judging yourself harshly for having such thoughts, start from the premise that thoughts are neither right nor wrong. They just are. It’s what you do with your thoughts that introduce the “rightness” or “wrongness” of them. In other words, in the purported words of Martin Luther, “You cannot keep a bird from flying over your head; what you can do is prevent it from building a nest in your hair.”

How? By observing your thoughts. In the east, this is called acting as the “witnessing presence.” Like witnessing an accident and then reporting on it to the authorities. Be the observer of your own thoughts, even the ones that frighten you.

3. Cultivate the space between thoughts. In other words, as you train yourself to be the observer of your mind. you thoughts, you are actually cultivating what easterners call “the primary consciousness” that underlies all thinking. It is that “space between the notes,” said Claude Debussy “that makes the music.” If there were no spaces between the notes on a sheet of music, the sounds you would hear would not only be unintelligible but meaningless, even annoying.

This space is the place of internal peace. It is what some call “pure consciousness.”

The idea of emptying your mind of thought is terrifying to many westerners, accustomed, as we are, to the mistaken notions that we are our thoughts and that every waking moment should be filled with thought. After all, “an idle mind,” or so my mother used to say, “is the devil’s workshop.”

This is the core error, however, in our shared human experience here in the west. The east is all about “emptying” while the west is into “acquiring,” and “accumulating.” Add to this the other error, the error of thinking you are your thoughts, and we’ve got a “workshop” going on inside that is truly devilish. You are not your thoughts. You’re not even the observer of your thoughts, although that is much closer to perhaps who you really are.

Why is this all so important? Because this is the only way to get control of your thoughts. And, if you wish to be happy, and who among us does not wish for this, you must learn to manage the mind. Otherwise, it will menace you like the constant dripping of a leaky faucet.

The problem in our western world is not that we do not know how to think. As enumerated so eloquently by the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth, “the problem most people have is not thinking; it is not knowing how to stop thinking.”

Blessed emptying of your mind, my friend. To learn to do so is to learn to better control your mind and thoughts and so find your life to much richer in meaning. Happier, too.

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thought leader and spiritual teacher. His books and blogs at the Huffington Post and elsewhere inspire spiritual seekers around the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith practitioner as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m IN LOVE with my own.” www.SteveMcSwain.com Follow this link to find his award-winning book, The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God, now offered in an Audible.com version too.

For more by Steve McSwain, click here.