Mindset Tricks for Busy Minds
Would you like to try a powerful mindset trick that can transform the way you relate to your thoughts? This exercise works best if you are in a safe and comfortable place without too much noise or distraction.
Whenever you’re ready… Sit yourself up straight with your feet firm on the ground. Let go of any tension around your face, jaw, and neck. Relax your shoulders, your arms, and loosen the rest of your muscles throughout your body. Take a nice big deep breath down to the belly, and then exhale slowly out through the mouth. Now, I’m going to get you to stop reading for just a moment but before that, here is what to do next. After you’ve read this, gently close your eyes and draw your attention to your eyelids. You’ll see colours, shapes, and shadows moving all around. Keep your attention there for a moment. Then, move your attention to your thoughts - to your mind, and ask yourself mentally this one question. “I wonder what my next thought will be?” and watch what happens next. Some thoughts may appear, and that’s okay. Let them come and go, but throughout this exercise, try to draw your attention back to the question and remain curious as to what happens next. Become the watcher of your thoughts, not the thinker. Observe this process for a few moments, similar to how you might watch fluffy white clouds rolling past you on a sunny but windy day, and then come back to me.
What did you notice? Did your thoughts race past you in quick succession, spiralling into chaos….or was your mind awkwardly quiet? Did your internal voice eventually pipe up and say “Uh….where is it? Hello? Where’s my next thought? Hello brain are you there? Earth to brain, give me my next thought please!” or, perhaps was there a brief moment of peace? Maybe you simply focused on the visual of the clouds that I had mentioned earlier. Either way, something interesting happened, didn’t it?
I really like this exercise because it can help you realise 3 important things. The first is that you are not your thoughts. If you and your mind were one in the same, then you should be able to predict your next thought with certainty. But that’s not typically the case. Most often, this exercise creates a mental stillness not usually experienced - especially by those of us with busy minds. Our thoughts tend to blaze forward, leaving us in a fog of confusion and overwhelm. However, by taking a step back and observing your thoughts (or lack thereof), you can start to understand that you, as a conscious being, are independent from your mind. Your transient thoughts, feelings, and emotions are sent through you, but they aren’t who you are. You don’t have to identify with them, act on them, or even believe them.
If this is true, then we can also accept that our mind, which is informed by the beliefs and experiences held in our subconscious, is not a very sensible creature. It lives in the brain, protected by our thick skulls, and is pretty isolated from the outside world. It’s only able to make predictions and assumptions based on memory and input from our senses. It also has a fairly strong negativity bias - the part of our core programming meant to keep us alive and help us avoid danger. That doesn’t mean that everything we think is wrong or invalid, but our thoughts can often be skewed by the beliefs and biases that we hold.
So the third thing is that, if we are not our thoughts/minds, and we are aware that they often run on limited information or outdated programming, we can choose not to pay heed to each and every thought that passes through us. We can treat our minds kind of like an email inbox - accepting that not every message that gets sent to us will be helpful or even relevant. Busy minds may be constantly inundated with notifications, impulse buy adverts, or even malicious phishing attempts. (Things like “Ok remember to buy deodorant at the shops tomorrow” or “C’mon, you know you want that 3 extra scoops of choc-mint ice cream” or some variation of “I don’t think anyone actually cares about me”). When the more unhelpful thoughts come through, we can passively take the message on board and potentially get scammed, OR we can choose to disconnect ourselves from it, examine it, and mark it as spam. It requires some effort, but if you can imagine setting up filters for your thoughts, you can learn to separate the useful from the intrusive, and achieve a much more positive and peaceful mind. I’d love to show you how.