“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Have you ever heard someone say,” I’m trying to stay positive but I can’t get rid of these negative thoughts…”? I’m sure we all have, and we’ve even said it ourselves, but this just isn’t true. Just like we can allow negative thoughts to consume us from the inside out, we can switch our thoughts, just as easily.
The habit of focusing on negative thoughts took time and practice over an extended period of time. Our actions are a direct reflection of our thoughts. Our thoughts turn into habits, and our habits over time have turned into consistent action. This is why it is of the utmost importance to check our thoughts as they enter our mind. Just like we can be proactive about a thing that we value the most, we too can become proactive about what takes up space in our head, and we should.
Every thought that enters our mind does not deserve our attention, just like toxic people who enter our lives don’t deserve our attention either. For the most part, we are pretty quick to dismiss anyone that would bring negativity or drama into our lives, so why is it that it is any different from any thought that would cause us to be pessimistic about what we really want?
Here is a simple list of the most overlooked and underused methods to changing your thoughts and focusing on what you do want. Some of these methods may be instantaneous, but if it doesn’t happen right away, there’s no need to despair. Practicing these methods on the daily basis will eventually become habitual and before you know it, they will become second nature without even thinking about it. Lets start, shall we?
1. Think about the best that could happen.
“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.” – Tony Robbins
We all have a habit of worrying about a scenario that we don’t want to happen. First we come up with an idea that makes us elated and we just cant wait to get started, until the negative committee comes along. Our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy and in most cases when we come up with a brilliant idea, our negative thoughts come up with several others reasons for why it wont work. When that happens, switch your thoughts.
Don’t focus on not thinking about the self-defeating thought, otherwise you will still be focusing on that same self defeating thought! Redirect your mind, think about the impact that carrying out this idea will have on others. Think about how many people it will help and the joy your family will get from seeing you materialize your idea. Think about what you DO want, focus on the big picture and visualize yourself taking the necessary actions to make it happen.
2. Think about something that makes you happy.
As far as your brain, every thought releases brain chemicals. Being focused on negative thoughts effectively saps the brain of its positive forcefulness, slows it down, and can go as far as dimming your brain’s ability to function, even creating depression. On the flip side, thinking positive, happy, hopeful, optimistic, joyful thoughts decreases cortisol and produces serotonin, which creates a sense of well-being. This helps your brain function at peak capacity. – Dr. Marianna Pochelli, N.D.
Our thoughts are very physical in nature and they are not make-believe. When we refocus and think happy thoughts, it changes our chemical make up. With this in mind, this should be enough to motivate you to be actively violent about fighting to think about things that serve your highest good. The more you think about thoughts that make you happy, the more happy thoughts and ideas will come to you.
We all have positive memories stored in the back of our mind that have created feel good feelings at one point in the past. Recall those moments. Dig back to the moment you had your first kiss, when you caught the game winning touch down or in my case, when I sat front row during a Oakland A’s game back in 2015 when they played the Chicago Cubs and the song ‘Mo money Mo Problems’ resonated throughout the whole stadium when Coveli ‘CoCo’ Crisp launched a home run hit. The key to thinking about things that make you happy is to recall happy emotions. Happy emotions are way more powerful than negative emotions and can over turn a negative thought instantly.
3. Smile for no reason
It seems that the simple act of a physical smile, authentic or not, tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually happy. Smiling also triggers us to think back to joyful memories, further improving mood. – Huffington Post Blogger, Andrew Merle
Have you ever smiled without needing a reason? How do you think the person next to you will think of you, if out of the blue, your face just lights up? At one time or another, either we were on our cell phone looking at something or the thought of a distant memory made us smile. What I’m suggesting to you is that you smile your way to happy thoughts.
The activity of smiling reduces stress and actually helps with the heart. Smiling has a snowball effect and the amazing thing about it is that the mind doesn’t know why, it can only assume that you are happy, thus the onslaught of even more happy feelings and thoughts. You don’t need a reason to be happy and you don’t need a reason to smile…just do it anyway. If you’re at home, at work or in a public place, find a mirror or even a public bathroom and smile at yourself in the mirror until you’re over flowing with positivity. There’s no written rule that says you have to be happy in order to smile, but its amazing how smiling, even when you don’t have a reason to, can make you happy.
4. Dance to your favorite song until your heart’s content
“Dance is the one time my constantly running mind goes quiet… It’s fun and a form of escape for me. I know a lot of people who have turned to dance for help and healing.”- Inverse.com, Sarah Sloat
Everyone is a dancer. Everyone has their own style of dance, and dancing is one of the most effective ways to get rid of stress and to clear your mind. Listening to a song that makes you feel good and makes your body move will definitely do the trick. Even if you think you aren’t the best dancer, you can dance and you should. Just like any other type of physical activity, dancing releases endorphins that make you feel good and happy instantaneously.
Don’t worry about what anyone thinks, if you need to, get by yourself and put your head phones on. Remember, you are fighting for control of your mind and you need to be relentless in refocusing your thoughts on what you really want the most. Dancing can clear your mind so you can start over with a clean slate, or it can make you so happy that it takes no effort at all to conjure up even more happy thoughts.
5. Concentrate on the positive image
If you concentrate upon the thoughts given, if you give them your entire attention, you will find a world of meaning in each sentence and will attract to yourself other thoughts in harmony with them, and you will soon grasp the full significance of the vital knowledge upon which you are concentrating. – Master Key Coaching, Charles Haanel
The key to making any vision a reality, is concentration. Most people are excited about an idea at first, but as time goes on, they lose steam. The negative thought bug begins to surface and everything that motivated them before is of no use, all they can think about now are the reasons for why their plan wont work. Holding this image in your head and concentrating on it is not something you do temporarily when you feel like it…you are to hold this image in your head until you arrive at your destination, regardless to how you feel or your current conditions.
You wouldn’t fold up your map and put it away, or turn off your gps half way through the trip if you’ve never been to the destination now would you? If the surroundings aren’t familiar to you, you wouldn’t gamble and guess on the next turn to take, right? So why would you put away the mental image in your head of what the big picture looks like? Concentrating on this image is how we formulate a plan and actually visualize the steps we will take in order to get there. When we lose sight of this image, depression sets in but if we can hold on to it, we will be motivated to continue on our journey.
6. Focus on your breathing
In order for you to access clear thinking and relieve anxiety and tension—like a plant needs water—your brain needs oxygen. Remembering to breathe will help you take the edge off of your emotions so you can respond to any given stressful situation with calm resolve.- Kristine Carlson
In the midst of dealing with our negative thoughts, the main issue is that everything around us is moving at a pace far too fast for us to handle. To stop for a moment to focus on your breathing is an extremely useful method to clear your mind. Even in the middle of a work day when things can get a bit hectic, you can stop where ever you are for a few seconds or minutes, and just breath. You can either close your eyes or keep them open but take a deep breath, hold the your breath for a few seconds, and let it go.
Repeat this simple exercise over and over again, imagine that you are inhaling positivity and exhaling the negative because that is exactly what you are doing. As you do this, your aim should be to achieve absolute peace and clarity in your thoughts. Don’t try to fight the negative thoughts because doing that is counter productive. You’ll be focusing on the negative thought, while trying to get rid of it, when your focus should be to clear your mind completely. For more of an in-depth explanation of the importance of focusing on your breathing, take a look at a few of my favorite sources on this topic, which can be found at The Change Blog and Edutopia.
7. Listen to an audio book
Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion, will one day become a reality. -Earl Nightingale, Vortex Success
We tend to under-estimate the power of the subconscious mind, our victory and our defeat lies in this most overlooked part of the brain. What we allow into our ears over an extended period of time, becomes and extension of who we are. When listening to an audio book, it requires almost no effort on our part, and we are even more receptive when we are in a relaxing state, where it takes no effort on our part to retain the information.
The conscious mind can only hold so many bits of information at once, where as the subconscious mind is an unlimited store house. Every experience that you have had, every idea that has ever entered your mind, whether negative or positive, is stored there. I would suggest listening to audio books with positive self affirmations or self-help books that encourage personal development. When negative thoughts do arise (and they will) you will have ammunition to take them down and switch your thoughts to something that you actually want to happen for you.
I can not stress it enough, DONT TRY TO FIGHT NEGATIVE THOUGHTS! When a negative thought enters your mind, STOP! You can tell the difference between a positive thought and a negative one by how it makes you feel. Does it cause you to worry or does it get you excited? Does it cause you to think of a back up plan or does it cause you to think about steps to make the idea a reality? Learn to be sensitive to your emotions, but don’t be controlled by them…your emotions will let you know if you need to switch your thoughts to something that makes you happy, just like if you placed your hand on a hot iron, the nerve endings in your hand will tell you to move it immediately.