Lets face it – we all have unwanted thoughts to some degree.
And there's no question that these thoughts can lead to difficult feelings, and less than optimal choices, behavior and actions.
A great place to start with taking back power over unwanted thoughts, is by understanding more about how your mind operates…
1) Most thoughts are completely irrelevant – we have thousands of automatic thoughts every day. Most of them serve no useful purpose and are instead “noise” that is constantly generated in the mind. These thoughts might be based upon memories, conditioning (beliefs, fears, expectations), experiences we've had or are having, as well as our constant reaction to environmental stimulus which triggers more thoughts (what we see, hear and do all triggers more mind noise).
2) Useful thinking, by contrast, is when we apply our minds, with awareness, for an outcome – e.g we gather information, draw upon wisdom, analyse, plan, make decisions, prepare for action, define action, take action. We might proactively use our minds to reflect on past moments for the pure purpose of learning and growing, as well as using our minds to imagine the future for the purpose of clarifying our intention and desired positive trajectory in life, and then preparing for that direction.
3) It is totally NORMAL to have a large proportion of your thoughts be outside these useful parameters, and to be simply automatic mind noise. That is a condition called “being human”!
4) However, we all know that mind noise can often be more than just useless. It can err toward destructive. Mind noise that is negative can be distracting and very draining as it sparks emotional cycles that take a lot of your energy.
5) The noise your mind produces which is negative, will usually fall into one of these three categories – pain about the past, stress about the present or fear about the future.
6) Whenever there is an absence of mindfulness (and due to this lack of awareness there is an absence of choice) it allows the mind to run riot in this way, with a constant stream of thoughts, including destructive ones that you don't want.
7) The longer your mind is left unchecked, the more these unwanted thoughts can gain momentum. Your mind will continue running riot until such time as you “wake up” during a thought and realize you don't like what your mind is doing, and from that awareness you choose to interrupt it…
Awareness is Your Access Point to Peace
As soon as you're consciously aware of your thought patterns, then you're not lost in them, and you become slightly removed… detached as the observer of your own mind.
This gives you the ability to do something proactive about your thought processes in that moment, to interrupt your thoughts and change the pattern your mind is running.
You want to not only detach from the thoughts, but also put them in their rightful place… to call them out as nothing more than noise with no value, that you choose not to buy into.
So, you need a quick, easy and practical way to dis-empower the thoughts so they don't take a hold and drain you.
The Importance of IRRELEVANCE
It is important to see that most of the thoughts you think are quite irrelevant. Whether it's general mind noise, or quite destructive negative thoughts popping about a particular issue.
How Are My Thoughts Irrelevant?
When we say “irrelevant”, we mean “no useful purpose“.
- Given a large number of automatic thoughts are quite simply noisy nothingness, they have no purpose.
- Many other thoughts are rehashing pain about the past, and they also have no useful purpose.
- Then you have thoughts of stress about the present, and stress never serves a good purpose.
- And finally, thoughts of fear about the future – well they certainly don't have a useful purpose in your life!
What Do I Do with Irrelevant Thoughts?
As soon as you're aware of an unwanted thought, ask yourself…
What useful and positive purpose does this thought serve?
If the answer is none, then you quite simply state with conviction, “This is a totally irrelevant thought”.
Even though the thought might be:
- about a real event in the past, that was truly upsetting, or
- is about a real situation in your life right now, or
- is about something in your future you care about
… UNLESS THE THOUGHT SERVES A USEFUL AND POSITIVE PURPOSE (including, but not limited to, reflection on the past for learning or healing, assessment of the present for decision making and action, or preparation for a positive future etc) then it is IRRELEVANT.
What a Relief! I Don't Have to Believe Everything Running Through My Mind
This is a huge relief for many people, as they no longer have to buy into the constant conveyor belt of thoughts any more. If you don't like your thought patterns, tell your mind so!
“This is an irrelevant thought and I am not entertaining it.”
This is particularly useful for anxious and fearful thoughts, doubts, worry, tension, stress. You're either thinking for positive, healthy and purposeful intent (anything that supports you or creates change in a good direction), or there is pointless thinking (drains your energy) and negative thinking (drains your energy plus creates upset!)
Whenever you notice unwanted thoughts, just repeat to yourself “irrelevant”.
Over and over again. Say it, “Irrelevant, irrelevant, irrelevant”, and then…
Redirect Your Mind to a Better Thought
As soon as you've dis-empowered the thought by saying it's irrelevant, your job is then to redirect your mind to focus on something more helpful. A better thought option might be a more workable perspective about the same topic, or it might be a completely different topic altogether that you choose to focus on.
In summary, you interrupt unwanted thoughts using your awareness and free will, and redirect your mind to something better. It's not rocket science right! But – here's the catch…
To get benefit from simple ideas like this requires you to practice regularly. And to do that, you need to be mindful and have a desire to think and feel in better ways.
It takes practice to build your “muscles” to get good at this! And of course the condition of being human means your mind will always throw up mind noise, and unwanted/negative thoughts from time to time, so you're always going to have plenty of opportunities to practice. ????
This isn't a chore. It's not a one-time project to “fix” your thinking. Simple techniques like this become your WAY OF LIVING. It's about consciously choosing to master your mind in each moment of each day because you want peace for yourself, you want happiness, you want freedom. Each time you interrupt an unwanted thought and choose a better thought option, you instantly in that moment access more peace, happiness and freedom. You get immediate reward. And as soon as another unwanted thought appears, you rinse and repeat!
Tools to Support You Mastering Your Mind
My suggestion is that you use tips like this in conjunction with other supporting tools such as…
- Journaling (emptying the mind)
- Meditation (quietening the mind),
- Affirmations (feeding the mind a plenitude of better thought options it can work with),
- EFT/Tapping for releasing emotions that might be linked to certain recurring unwanted thoughts that you can't seem to shake (where the emotion fuels the thought and the thought fuels the emotion, caught in a cycle, stuck like glue!).
If you have any questions, feedback or experiences you would like to share, please scroll down to leave a comment below.
Warmest wishes, Bernadette
Related Tools & Resources
- Free Audio – 400 Powerfully Positive Affirmations
- I AM Present – Affirmation Mug
- I AM Mindful – Affirmation Mug
- Managing the Monkey Mind: Tips for Not Buying into Negative Thoughts
- The Mindful Notebook
Bernadette Logue (known to everyone as “B”) is the Leader of The Daily Positive, a Transformation Life Coach and the author of 3 personal growth books – guiding you on how to master your mind, to live consciously and soul-aligned. To receive regular coaching resources and support, join B in EvolveHQ, The Daily Positive’s private personal growth membership and community. To find out more about B click here.