Training our thoughts

Our mind is like a puppy, only not so cute.  It is erratic and uncontrolled; anything and everything catches its attention and when it finds something interesting it is really hard to take its attention away from it.

But, like puppies our minds can be trained and taught to behave and be calm allowing you to be in control.  Unfortunately, again like puppies it takes commitment and perseverance to get it right.  But it can be done.

When our minds are untrained we hop from thought to thought feeling whatever emotions go with that thought.  We could simply be thinking about what to cook for dinner, that can lead to remembering that we need to get more milk, which then goes on to thinking about going to the shops. From there we can think about how it is dark and wet outside and soon we are spiralling into panic about walking or driving in the dark and rain.  As the panic rises more thoughts come in about how are we even going to cope with cooking dinner and finally we are paralysed with fear in a full blown panic attack.

 Anyone who has experienced a panic attack will recognise this process and will know the devastation it can cause.  Each time this happens we lose faith in our ability to cope with the simplest of tasks until we are at risk of a panic attack for no reason.

Taking control back from your mind

So how do we stop this?

 By taking control of our mind we learn to choose our thoughts rather than being ruled by them.  Through self awareness we can become an inner watcher of our thoughts.  When we are aware of how they can run away if they are not controlled we can start to put tools in place to help keep them in check.

 In the thought process above the shift started when we went from remembering we needed to get milk to thinking about going to the shops.  We played out the trip in our minds and conjured all sorts of things that could go wrong.  We jumped ahead in time but in reality we don’t know what will happen.   By training ourselves to see when we are jumping ahead in time we can go on to stop this kind of anxiety.  Another thing we can be prone to do is to over think things; creating scenarios in our mind that we have no idea whether they are true or not.  Again, awareness of our thoughts and learning to stop ourselves spiralling can help us be more in control and allow us to have a calmer mind.

Simply being aware of these processes can help but as the awareness grows it becomes important to find ways to counter these thoughts.  Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are 2 recognised methods for working on training our minds however there are many other ways.