When was the last time you controlled one thought or one image coming into your head?
Whilst we cannot control the thoughts that pop into our minds, we can control what we focus on and how we respond to those thoughts and choose which ones we validate.
We are not our thoughts, they are not worth beating ourselves up over unless we act on them or allow them to consume our lives. We need to learn how to discern the wise, mature and accurate thoughts from those which are unhelpful and destructive. Amongst other aspects our beliefs influence our thoughts and actions. These can be re-framed from Limiting to Empowering thoughts.
Self-regulation relies on an individual asking themselves questions such as:
- What was the cognitive distortion/bias?
- What thought did I just validate?
- What thought got through which should not have done?
Understanding Our Brain
The entire brain is mapped geographically and if you think of that first brain, this is that part of the brain that, allows you to learn new things and to have new experiences. So then all of this philosophy this intellectual data, this theory, this knowledge, is stored in that neocortex called your thinking brain.
Now the next step is to take that knowledge, that philosophy and begin to apply it, to initiate that knowledge in some way, you can get your behaviours to match your intentions, you can get your actions equal to your thoughts.
Our thoughts are created by our mind, which is constantly helping us to interpret the world around us, describing what’s happening, and trying to make sense of it all by helping us to interpret events, sights, sounds, smells, feelings. It’s just what the human mind does.
Without even realising it, we are interpreting and giving our own meanings to everything happening around us. We might decide that something is pleasant or nasty, good or bad, dangerous or safe.
We must use our free will to validate and focus on the thoughts which we know will deliver the emotional consequence and reaction we want to occur. So, how do we start to take control of our thought lives?
One of our first steps are – Do not to believe everything we think. Thoughts come and go throughout the day. We experience approximately 12,000 – 60, 000 thoughts a day, is that not amazing but also alarming? Of these thoughts 80 % are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts.
The bulk of our thoughts are from yesterday which would mean we are potentially living in the past and not the present. We get upset at the same things, as we are in the same place and see the same people who trigger us all because we are living in the past. You are the only person who can change this and create new thoughts, new experiences, new memories. We all need to change that to live fulfilled, productive and fruitful lives.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Think – Challenge Your Thoughts
Using THINK as an acronym to ask yourself if your thought is:
TRUE – Is this thought Fact or an opinion, someone elses perspective? What is ABSOLUTELY true about this situation? What emotion is it bringing up in me?
Helpful – Is this thought helpful to me? In what way will this thought help me to be a better person, Make a difference in my life and impact how I think, feel and behave?
Inspiring or Important – Does this thought inspire me to overcome my fears worries, and anxiety? Is this thought really important and if so what do I need to do to benefit from it, What actions do I need to change?
Necessary – Is this thought really necessary so much so that I need to believe it or act on it? When do I need to take any action, Immediately? Later?or just let it go? What is actually necessary for me to do right now?
Kind – Is this thought kind towards me and others? Does it stir up gratitude and empathy for life and others? What would be a kind thought that is appropriate for that situation , person or event?
Answering No to any of the initial statements of THINK you can safely dismiss the thought and act in a more reasonable and positive manner.
( Courtesy Carol Vivyan)
Because of our previous experiences, our upbringing, our culture, religious beliefs and family values, we may well make very different interpretations and evaluations of situations than someone else. These interpretations and meanings we give events and situations, result in physical and emotional feelings.
Something happens or we notice something, which triggers a thought. Particular types of thoughts tend to lead to particular emotions. Our thoughts are ours – they can be quite specific to us, perhaps because of our present or past experience, knowledge, values and culture, or just for no good reason at all.
Some thoughts are so out of keeping with all those things, and that can make them seem all the more distressing – because we add some meaning or emotion about why we had them – example (I must be a bad person!).
Let us firstly define what is a limiting belief and how it impacts our thinking.
Throughout our lives, we collect facts as evidence that legitimises our beliefs which then become more deeply ingrained in our systems. Repetitive patterns of thinking and holding onto the same expectations eventually transform opinions into beliefs.
In the early stages, beliefs tend to be flexible, but, over time, they become rigid and inflexible. Finally, there reaches a point whereby beliefs become so strong that, despite repeated evidence to the contrary, we are no longer willing to consider a fresh perspective.
Self-limiting beliefs can and do often pose as formidable obstacles to success and progress on the life path. Limiting beliefs originate from experiences and events, and we subconsciously internalise fear and insecurity surrounding them. These beliefs drive our behaviour and choices in a very subtle but very powerful manner.
Beliefs can be divided into three major categories: psychological beliefs, global beliefs and convictions. Among these, convictions represent the strongest and most deeply entrenched beliefs that often hold us back from living the life that we want.
“Limiting beliefs are thoughts, opinions that one believes to be the absolute truth. They tend to have a negative impact on one’s life by stopping them from moving forward and growing on a personal and professional level”
Limiting beliefs are often hidden and lie below the surface; therefore, they are difficult to identify. Left unresolved, such beliefs about ourselves inhibit progress and turn us into fearful individuals who are afraid to live life to its fullest potential.
Though people are never sure whether or not their limiting beliefs are true, yet they can easily be disproved when case studies are considered. Most people don’t want to face the reality that the way view themselves and life isn’t serving them, and changes will have to be made if they want to move forward.
Don’t be too attached to your beliefs – they are just our perception of reality, not reality itself. The truth is that we can’t ever be certain that any of our beliefs are true. The best we can do is strive to weed out any false beliefs and adopt new beliefs that empower us.
‘If you want to make minor changes in your life, work on your behaviour. If you want significant, quantum breakthroughs, work on your paradigms.’ Stephen R. Covey
Thoughts play a key role in determining how we feel and what we do. If we interpret a situation negatively, it can profoundly influence the way we react. We have all experienced situations where we have misinterpreted or misunderstood something, reacted in an unhelpful manner and then found that we had applied distorted, unhelpful or faulty thinking to the situation.
“Making mistakes in how we read and interpret situations is part of normal human behaviour. We are not programmed to get everything completely right all of the time. The world is a complex place.”
Situations are often difficult to predict and not everything is in our control. The problem arises when we automatically think in unhelpful patterns that lead to negative feelings and behaviours, where our thoughts generate unrealistic or catastrophic outcomes, where we get trapped in a vicious cycle of negative appraisals and where we are unable to maintain a balanced and realistic perspective.
These negative thinking patterns can become reflexive and ingrained, leading to unwanted negative emotions such as anxiety or depression. In turn, this can maintain counter-productive and self-defeating patterns of behaviour, as we attempt to control or avoid our unwanted thoughts and feelings.
Some examples of unhelpful thought patterns
- Words and/or images – Images we see are converted into electrical energy in our brains and are stored ready to be used on recall – Negative or Positive they are stored,
- Electro-chemical changes or impulses impact our thoughts and how we process them,
- Stream of thoughts that we can notice if we try to pay attention to them (automatic),
- We give negative meanings about what happens around us or within us,
- Specific thoughts about specific events or situations,
- Brief, frequent, habitual – often not heard,
- Believable and taken as obviously true, especially when emotions are strong,
- Thoughts are NOT statements of fact!
- Your mind is not always your friend
For a more definitive list and detail please click here
What does Cognitive Bias mean to me right now? Well that is a good question as it means you are thinking and processing your thoughts before reacting. The brain entertains all thoughts and when filing them either deletes, distorts or generalises them in some way. Cognitive Bias Video
Most of the thoughts that automatically pop into our minds are distorted in some way that they may be unrealistically negative or selective to a fault, ultimately leaving out important information. These cognitive distortions typically result in a negative change in mood, and lowered self-esteem.
These distorted Bias / thoughts occur so frequently that it is easy not to notice them at all, but what we do notice is a sudden feeling of sadness, anxiety, or anger. The challenge is learning how to identify these common cognitive distortions, how to challenge them and ultimately replace them with more helpful, realistic thoughts.
Our minds are very good at avoiding the useless pains that are caused by uneasy thoughts. However, deletions happen for different reasons – when it is necessary to concentrate our energy on a particular task, we delete every extra perception to help us focus on what we consider most crucial. Even during non-critical moments of our lives, we delete about 80% of the data that reaches our brain.
For a list of 30 of the top Cognitive biases we face click here.
Taking Control Of Our Thoughts
As we start this process of taking control of our thoughts let us consider our breathing. What?? I thought we are talking about thoughts here! Indeed we are when we take a time out to check how we are breathing as we process a thought we will be amazed to find it is too quick, we are holding our breathe or finding it difficult to breathe as adrenaline and emotions flood our brains with chemicals.
Making a difference or training ourselves to be aware of our breathing is not a difficult or onerous thing to do. Doing so will increase our attention, allow us to think from a calm space, increase our focus as we breathe out slowly, Breathe in……., Breathe Out……. Breathe in……., Breathe Out……., just doing this as you read this will make a difference. We have more on breathing and mindfulness here.
Are you ready to change how you manage your thoughts?
Change can be a complicated process and committing to positive changes can be laborious and stress-inducing, but we need to remember that the pain of change, is still less than the pain of remaining the same.
Every time you learn something new you make new connections in your brain; learning is forging new synaptic connections in your brain. Some of the latest research in neuroscience says that 1 hour of focus concentration on one concept or idea literally doubles the connections in your brain. It literally produces physical evidence as a result of your interaction in the environment. When you can get your mind and your body working together, you are going to have a new experience.
Change is an inevitable part of life and the potential benefits can be huge. If we plan carefully and build a solid foundation for change, implementing change can be far more comfortable, with increased chances of success.
References and thanks to
Anchology College, Carol Vivyan , MHFA England, Dr Bill Price – Neuroscientist, Joe Dispenza – rewire your brain, New Skills Academy.
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