Incessant thinking gets in the way of enjoying life. It did for me, anyway. But it wasn’t until I became aware of just how busy my mind was that I noticed. Endlessly comparing. Always judging. Replaying the past. Negativity. Worrying about the future. Planning. Negativity. Checking. Beating self-up. Criticizing. Double-checking. Second-guessing. Negativity. Thought after thought pouring in all day and sometimes, all night. Especially at 3am…continue reading to learn how to overcome incessant thinking, like I did—it’s possible!
Your mind is not on auto-pilot
There were moments here and there of silence or peace but they were so fleeting. My thoughts were negative, anxious and depressed. I believed my thoughts were me and I couldn’t separate from them.
When I first began my spiritual journey, little did I know that my mind would play a bigger role than I ever imagined.
Little did I know that focusing my mind would bring me relief from anxiety, panic attacks, depression and suicidal thinking. My addictions fell away and I felt unshakable peace and happiness for the first time in my life.
Watch out for lions!
On my quest for a healthy and happy life, I learned that my brain was in perfect sync with evolution. The mind wants to protect us from harm in the future by replaying the past and negative experiences. That way, we can avoid suffering again.
This evolutionary feature is phenomenal for protecting us from lions but the threat of actual lions is rare today. However, we do have modern day lions. What our boss said to us, what we read on social media, or getting cut off in traffic. These things build and build, stockpiling in the mind…creating noise, suffering and pain.
However, there is a way to clear out those thoughts, find relief and overcome incessant thinking.
There is a way to find relief using your thoughts, no matter the situation or circumstances.
Most of us are familiar with the ever-changing nature of life. This includes the brain and nervous system. The brain and nervous system are always learning from what the body tells them. We have the power to turn the incessant stream of thoughts off. We have the power to think about the positive. We have the power to release stress, trauma and any other thought we wish to be free of. We can choose our thoughts, rewire our brains and our nervous system’s response. When we do that, we unlearn stress and negativity and go back to a natural state of joy and ease.
Here’s how to overcome incessant thinking
We are not our thoughts.
I remember when I first discovered the notion that I was not my thoughts. Utter shock washed over me. “What do you mean?” I thought. That was the first question that sparked more questions and contemplation. Further questioning allowed me to detach from thoughts and not identify with them anymore. It was a freedom I felt that no words can express. Watching, witnessing and letting thoughts pass became an obsession.
Take a moment now and embrace the idea. What does that feel like? What is the body’s reaction to it? Does it bring any relief? Feel free to take some time to contemplate this idea or meditate on it.
Practice guided meditations.
Meditating allows us to sit with the stream of thoughts and practice being a witness. Once we witness thoughts, we can detach, de-identify and shift our focus. That’s how we control the mind. Guided meditations can be helpful when first starting. In a guided meditation, the focus is on the teacher’s voice or music, which can be more grounding. Without the guidance, some may find meditation too challenging. I know I did when I first started out and was instructed to focus on the breath for 20 minutes. I thought I would go crazy—I was so uncomfortable both in my body and mind! Guided meditations softened the blow of being a beginner for me.
It’s important to note that when we begin meditation, the mind will seem the loudest it has ever been…and…that’s normal. Stick with it and the ability to notice thoughts and release them gets stronger. Think of it as a muscle. We need to keep practicing so we get better at it. This is a new skill. We need to soften around expectations and allow ourselves to be beginners. The more we practice, the more natural it becomes. And even after 7 years of practicing, I still wonder if I’m doing it right!
Observe life by practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a practice that allows presence. Being present for what is and experiencing it as it is—without wanting to change it—is freedom. Presence allows the senses to interpret the situation. We feel and live life, rather than just experiencing thoughts about it. There is much joy and peace in the present moment. Mindfulness can help tune us into that joy and peace, no matter the circumstances or situation. Having a mindfulness practice quiets the mind so we experience times of no thought. There is only being and breath. Personally, I like practicing mindfulness in nature. It connects me to being. It connects me to my soul in ways that nothing else can. It allows me the ability to really see what is around me.
Help focus the mind with a word or phrase. Mantras are versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. I practice mantras during my seated meditation or throughout my day or when I am struggling with negative thinking. Adding in a touch of self-compassion makes me feel better. One of my favorites is, “I am doing my best. Things are always working out for me.” I like to practice mantras when I’m doing household chores or driving (when I’m not singing along to music, of course). I can come back to a mantra whenever I want to practice focus. At times when I can’t think of a word or phrase, I will just silently repeat “inhale” as I inhale and “exhale” as I exhale. Keeping it simple helps when life seems most complicated.
Set aside some time to just breathe. Deep breaths calm the nervous system and take us out of “fight or flight” mode. There doesn’t have to be anything special about this either. Take 60 seconds or 5 minutes and just breathe. There’s always the option of reciting a mantra. This can be done anywhere; standing, sitting, at any time—and it’s free!
Take a break from the news and social media.
Sometimes, we may feel overloaded by negativity or fear. A break may be just what we need. We can mix up our normal routine and watch something else or nothing at all. We can resist the urge to check out what the latest posts are on facebook and go outside. Look at the sky. Look at the ground. Feel the feet on the ground. Maybe do a few jumping jacks or 1/2 sun salutations. Rather than focusing on what is happening outside of us, let’s focus on what’s happening inside of us.
We can be creative with that time and try it for one day to start. Notice how the body feels. Notice if stress decreases or sleep improves. Notice energy levels. Not watching the daily news improved my mental health drastically. As an empath, I struggle with absorbing others’ suffering as if it is my own. That is exactly what happened with the news and other intense TV shows. It was too overwhelming, so I turned it off. Now, I’m aware of what I give my attention to and limit my interaction with social media and the news. I always notice how things affect me and choose to feel better instead.
We’re learning some new—and awesome—ways to overcome an old habit. Be easy about it. Patience and acceptance of our starting point makes the transition smoother. New habits last longer when we move at the appropriate rate for each of us. Gradual shifts equal lasting change. Keep in mind that incessant thinking is a habit that has likely perpetuated itself for decades. It won’t be eliminated all at once. First it needs to slow down. Then stop. Then turn around and go off in the opposite direction, building a new habit, creating more momentum the new way.
Start using the mind for creation and joy.
We can use the mind however we like, so incessant thinking no longer has its power over us. Freedom awaits. All we must do is practice.