‘No thought stays in your head rent-free – It will always cost you something.’Peter Needham
I’d like to start this blog post with two questions:
How much of your mind are you really using?
What mental barriers do you experience that stop you from reaching your full potential?
The mind is your most powerful tool, and it needs to be treated with care in order for it to reach all that it’s capable of.
Most often, we tend to lose full control of our minds over time as we succumb to our vices and bad habits.
This doesn’t mean we can’t get that control back, though.
I’ve put together five effective strategies below to help you take back full control over your mind and your impulses.
1. MANAGE YOUR THOUGHTS
Our thoughts can easily get away from us and take on lives of their own if we don’t develop methods of controlling them.
Our thoughts are also subject to outside influence. This can lead to thought processes that can develop over many years and become difficult to undo.
Over time, we may find ourselves in a ‘spiral’ of negativity where our thoughts become unproductive and no longer serve to help keep us focused and constructive.
We need to concentrate on undoing these thought processes and freeing our mind from doubt and constraint.
Examining your thoughts as they happen is an excellent method for doing away with the ones that don’t serve you in a positive way.
As we take a closer look at what we think and feel, we can begin to ask ourselves why it is that we feel that way.
Take a moment the next time you find yourself hurtling toward negativity and breathe, then ask yourself the burning question:
2. ADDRESS THE ROOTS OF PROBLEMS
Seeing and acknowledging what is happening at surface level can provide temporary relief from a troubling anxiety; but in order to eliminate a negative thought process, we need to attack it where it grows: the root.
One effective method for determining the root cause of a train of thought is journaling, or simply writing down your thoughts to examine them closer.
Through the process of writing down our thoughts as they happen (or even afterward), we can begin to address the roots of these thoughts and why they occur, and do away with them altogether.
Try asking yourself the following questions as you explore your thought process on paper:
- What have I experienced in my life that my mind has difficulty processing?
- How do I respond to triggers and negative processes?
- When did these changes occur in my life that have led to me thinking this way? (Try to pinpoint the exact time and event as clearly as you can)
- Who/what contributed to these negative thoughts that I have?
- When did this begin?
Seeking what lies beneath can be an eye-opening experience. It can also help us grow and surpass the barriers that our brains can easily lay in front of us.
3. CREATE PRODUCTIVE HABITS TO ALTER THE BRAIN
The mind is constantly in need of conditioning.
If we were to leave our mind to its own devices, it would no doubt run us into insanity; but through the development of productive habits and routines, we can maximize its potential almost endlessly.
One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to form routines that serve us positively.
Developing a morning routine that helps you greet the day with light and positivity will change the way you see your day, regardless of what follows.
When it comes to vices and habits, establish boundaries.
Become conscious of how often you indulge in your ‘guilty pleasures,’ and how guilty they make you feel.
If a habit, thought or impulse doesn’t serve you in a positive way, it’s important to get rid of it, no matter how much your brain may think it enjoys it.
If you’re a smoker, start swapping your cigarettes with something healthy. Engage that healthy thing every time you crave a drag.
Your brain will begin to remap its impulse over time to want that healthy thing instead of the cigarette.
Continue to flood your brain with positive triggers, and it will begin to crave them.
4. DEVELOP PREVENTATIVE METHODS FOR UNPRODUCTIVE THOUGHTS AND IMPULSES
Our thoughts can only get in the way if we let them, so why not start developing ways to fight our negative impulses?
Thought-stopping is a technique in psychology that involves interrupting one’s own thoughts to remove problematic thought patterns. These can range from bad habits to urges and sources of anxiety.
This process is one that often involves getting in our own way a little bit.
As we experience thoughts, be they positive or negative, it becomes more important to sort through them as they appear, and intervene with the ones that will cause more problems for us.
This can be as simple as waiting an extra minute before lighting a cigarette.
It can also be as complex as rationalizing your way through a panic attack (don’t worry – it’s more doable than it seems in the moment.)
Our thoughts don’t have to be something we fall victim to. The more present and aware we are, the more opportunity we create to be in control of them.
5. CREATE AN ACTION PLAN
Once we have zeroed in on the things that are holding us back in our minds, we can create an action plan of how to change our behaviour in order to alter the patterns in our brain into something more productive and positive.
Your action plan can be whatever you want it to be, and it will be completely different for every one of you; but it should be detailed, and include some of the following items:
- A morning routine to get you started each day
- A plan of action for fighting off negative thoughts
- A short-term goal list of things you want to achieve
- (i.e. Scoring higher on your next exam, practicing a skill more often, etc.)
- A long-term goal list of things you want to achieve and new habits you want to form
- (i.e. Quitting smoking, learning a new skill, etc.)
- A progress tracker – Using your phone’s calendar is an excellent way of tracking your progress toward your goal of a new and improved you
Written action plans are a fantastic way of visually presenting the vision you have of yourself to your brain.
The act of tracking and seeing your progress with virtually anything is one that will create a sense of fulfilment for anyone, and is an excellent step toward rewiring your brain.
Reconstructing thought patterns for a new and improved you is a long game, so try not to put pressure on yourself to completely change the way you think and act overnight.
With patience, determination and a good sense of what you want, however, you will see results in less time than you think.
Remember, stay positive and stay focused on the you that you want to be most.
Are you ready to take the next steps in rewiring your brain for a more productive and positive life?