Are you tired of that little voice inside your head that won’t give you a break? Who wouldn’t be? It’s like a crazy little monkey that never sleeps. Unfortunately, our brains are hardwired for negative thinking. That makes sense if you think about it. After all, spotting potential threats was a matter of life and death throughout most of human history.
In modern times, however, daily life is, for most people, devoid of life-threatening dangers. As such, our negative thoughts do little more than rob us of our happiness, and the inability to control them can create havoc in our lives.
In this article, I’ll give you five ways to put that crazy little monkey to bed.
- Repeat a Mantra
The brain is a very powerful machine, but it’s incapable of thinking two things at the same time. You can use this to your advantage by repeating a mantra as soon as you have a negative thought. Continue repeating it until the thought disappears. Sounds pretty simple, right?
It is, in theory, but you’ll likely notice a strong urge to reflect upon or react to your negative thoughts or emotions. It’s important to resist these urges and focus on repeating the mantra. Personally, I like to repeat the mantra “I love myself”. No matter how much power your thoughts may seem to have on you, the reality is that their lifespan is very short. Fight the urge to react to the negatives ones until they go away.
- Switch from Foveal to Peripheral Vision
We have two different types of vision: peripheral and foveal. Peripheral vision allows us to track movements in our surroundings and keeps us in a state of openness and awareness. When you focus on the space around you without concentrating on a specific person or object, you’re using peripheral vision.
On the other hand, foveal vision allows us to keep track of a moving target to discern whether or not it constitutes a potential threat. Whenever you focus on a specific object, you’re using foveal vision.
There was a time when humans relied primarily upon peripheral vision. Now, however, most of us spend a lot of time looking at our phones, computers, TVs, and books, among other things. As a result, we continue to rely more and more on our foveal vision.
When you have a negative thought, switch into peripheral vision. There is a link between the use of peripheral vision and arousal of the parasympathetic nervous system, which increases awareness, reduces stress, and stops internal dialogue.
- Label your Negative Thoughts as Useless
You can use the word “useless” to discard your negative thoughts. I once read about a successful business leader who used this trick to interrupt and eradicate negative thought patterns. Anything you can think of that will interrupt the pattern will do the trick. If there’s an association between your thought and a certain feeling, you can name the emotion when you have the thought. Labeling your thoughts and emotions creates an instant separation between you and them. This separation allows you to observe your thoughts objectively rather than being caught in the fight-or-flight response.
- Carefully Observe your Thoughts
Observe your negative thoughts with curiosity and objectivity, as a scientist would do. Remember that you are not your thoughts; they can’t disturb you without your consent. However, they can be destructive if you aren’t careful and tend to demand your attention when you’re tired or bored. They may even show up uninvited and demand your attention for no particular reason. The good news is that they’ll leave you alone if you refuse to give it to them.
- Record your Thoughts
Writing things down is a great way to clear your mind and gain more objectivity. When you record your thoughts, it’s almost like giving your mind permission to stop having them. It’s another way to create separation from what you’re thinking and take an impartial look at it. Once you write down what you’re thinking and decide what to do with it, your mind will be less likely to come back and haunt you with the same thoughts.
Let me give you a final tip from neuroscience to help you resist the urge to ruminate: The less we think about something, the weaker the neural pathways associated with that thought or topic become. Yes, your thoughts affect your brain on a physiological level. The more you resist the urge to think a certain thought or ponder a particular subject, the harder it will be for your brain to come up with those thoughts or issues.
Fighting the urge to react to your negative thoughts can be hard at times. When that happens, just say, “I’m rewiring my brain every time I stop myself from thinking this thought. That’s what I’m doing right now.” How cool is that?
Try these tips and give that crazy little monkey a much-needed rest.
Thibaut Meurisse is the founder of whatispersonaldevelopment.org. Obsessed with improvement, he dedicates his life to finding the best possible ways to durably transform both his life and the lives of others. He just released a free e-book “The 5 Commandments of Personal Development”. Visit his website to discover the 5 principles you must master in order to live a full life.