In my last blog, HOW THOUGHTS INTERFERE WITH THE QUALITY OF YOUR LIFE, I described the way in which your thoughts can become an addiction. The simplest definition of an addiction is something you can’t stop. The definition used in psychology is a pathological relationship with a person, behavior or substance that has mood altering effects and life threatening consequences. Your thoughts may not have life threatening consequences, however they can stop you from living a life worth living.
I have clients who can’t get out of their thoughts. They interfere with all their neuro-generative functions, like appetite, sleep and even bowel functions. They can also interfere with your relationships and work productivity. Simply stated, your thoughts can take over your life if you allow them to do so. They can be as controlling as a substance, person or behavior, not unlike a sado/masochistic relationship, drugs and alcohol, shopping, exercise, sex and more. They can literally leave you paralyzed living in a state of tension and fear.
So the question is how can you stop your thoughts from controlling your days and nights? It’s not as difficult as you might imagine. It takes a commitment, time and money if you choose to hire a therapist.
How to Control Your Thoughts
Even if you have tried endlessly to stop your ruminations, even if you have practiced meditation and hypnosis without success, you can control your thoughts. Here’s how:
- Sit down in a comfortable chair with your feet resting comfortably on the floor. Close your eyes and take in a deep breath to the count of 4 and hold it to the count of 7. Do this 5 times, then breathe normally, staying mindful of your breath. Notice the air as you breathe in and out. Is your breath cooler coming in or cooler going out? Be aware if it is warmer when you inhale, or warmer when you exhale.
- Imagine yourself as a dock with a boat tied to your post. You are the dock and the boat represents all your negative thoughts. Close your eyes and see this visualization in your mind. You can see with your eyes closed as if they were open. Picture a dock and a boat tied to a post. Say to yourself, “I am the dock.” See the boat and say to yourself, “The boat will hold all my negative thoughts.” Put your thoughts into the boat, one by one. If you only worry about one thing, just place that in the boat. If you have many worries, put each thought, one by one into the boat. See the boat filled with your thoughts. There is plenty of room in the boat to hold many ruminating thoughts. As you place each thought into the boat, embrace the thought before you deposit it into the boat. See each one clearly as you are placing them into the boat. Allow yourself to fully experience each thought. Give yourself a few minutes to embrace each thought. Take your time.
- After you have deposited each thought into the boat, untie the rope and allow the boat to gently slip away from the dock. Watch it move slowly away into a stream that will carry it down to a waterfall. Give it time to float away. Imagine that the boat is moving very gradually, heading towards the falls or rapids. Keep watching it as it moves further and further away. Say good-bye to all your thoughts and wish them well. Tell them you no longer need them. Make a decision to go forth into your life without the burden of carrying your thoughts.
Begin a new habit
Remember that it takes 30 days to install a new habit and it must be practiced several times during the day. Anytime you get a negative thought, replace it IMMEDIATELY with a positive thought. For example: If you get a thought that the hurricane may blow off your roof, replace it by saying “my roof will be strong enough to withstand any storm”. If you keep thinking about a past relationship that still holds your attention and feelings of despair, say to yourself, “I am strong. I am fine and have faith that I will find a new love when the time is right.” It is important to note that thoughts are energy. The brain craves positive thoughts. Positive thoughts are the anti-virus to negative thoughts. ALWAYS STATE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE POSITIVE. This will allow you to create new neuro-pathways in your brain. The new pathways will install a new way of thinking and calm down your central nervous system. It takes, time, patience, discipline and practice like anything else you have to learn or re-learn. The good news is that you can create a new reality and be liberated from the thoughts that bind you.
Meditate Each Day
In addition to these few ideas I am bringing to you, it is a very good practice to meditate each day on visualizing your dreams, hopes and wishes. Find a place on the floor of your bedroom or any room where you can be alone and relaxed. This is vital to your meditation. Turn off all electronics and any devices that can interrupt your meditation.
Find a position that is comfortable. A yoga position is perfect, but not required. The most important part of meditation is solitude and serenity. Close your eyes and begin breathing through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Take in deep breaths to the count of 4 and hold them to the count of 7. Give yourself permission to relax with each breath and stay mindful of each breath as you inhale and exhale. Fill your lungs to capacity with each inhalation and breathe out each breath on exhalation until there is no breath left. This must be deliberate and done very slowly. After several breaths, about 8-10, allow yourself to just sit quietly and begin to meditate on what you desire. See each wish as you ask for it.
Imagine what it would look like; what it would sound like and feel like when you would own it. Imagine how it would impact your life and express a few words in your mind of gratitude and appreciation for what you will have. Stay mindful of all you have rather than what you don’t have. Ask for what you need and visualize having it. Forgiveness and gratitude will create happiness. Imagine how joy would impact your life. See it in your mind. Meditate on your visualization for at least 3-5 minutes, holding onto it like a picture frame. Embrace it fully with an open mind and heart. Stay still and silent for at least another few minutes. Do this every morning before you begin your day. Make it a priority! It will change the colors of your mind.
THE BOTTOM LINE: YOU MUST LOVE YOURSELF!
We can all go back in childhood and account our misfortunes, poor parenting, neglect, abuse and abandonment. However, if you don’t learn to love and accept yourself, (the optimum goal), in spite of your dysfunctional past, you will be stirring flotsam and jetsam around the toilet bowl and never flushing it out! Yes it indeed it’s important to know and recognize your past, but eventually you must come to terms with it and move on with a determination to love and respect the person you are. Leon Bouy once said, “What I am is me; for that I came!
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success, to be released October 11, 2020. Visit her website for more resources on managing stress and anxiety or to schedule therapy via phone and online.