When you learn how to control your thoughts, you open your life to unlimited possibilities. The inner voice can be a source of growth and positivity — but it’s often a negative critic that loves to remind us of our failures, limitations, and anxieties. There are many forms of limited thinking, but all of them can take you away from what you want and need. They keep you stuck in old patterns and stop you from making changes that would bring you closer to your definition of success. These techniques will help step outside of the cycle of negative thinking and open your mind to limitless possibilities.
What Are Your Thoughts?
When you really think about it, thoughts are amazing, miraculous even. Our brains have the ability to conjure up memories, songs, images, sounds, and speech. But how can these abstract images and ideas simply appear in our minds?
Thoughts are truly mysterious and incredible! They help you come up with solutions to difficult problems. They inspire great works of art and music. They help you connect with a lost loved one through memory. We can relive an event, in our minds, without actually seeing those people and places. But thoughts can also create a prison of fear, anxiety, and worry. When left unchecked, the mind can take you to dark places. You live in a cycle of self-doubt that prevents you from facing new challenges. This type of thought holds you back from experiencing the world and taking those small risks needed to succeed. That’s why it becomes so important to learn how to control your thoughts.
Can You Control Your Thoughts?
For the untrained mind, life can feel overwhelming. Any emotional outburst can set you into a fit of rage. One critical comment can send you down a rabbit hole of self-doubt. You become reactive and impulsive to every thought and emotion. Your thoughts control you. What if you could take the reins? When you let your thoughts and emotions take control, the chariot gets pulled in all sorts of directions. When you let your thoughts and emotions take control, the chariot gets pulled in all sorts of directions. You are not the anger, sadness, or anxiety. You are, instead, the observer experiencing those thoughts and emotions.
As the observer of your thoughts, you take back the reins and control the direction of your chariot. This simple awareness, called mindfulness, gives you a moment to take a step back before you decide how to respond.
8 Ways to Control Your Thoughts
These strategies will help you break free from the relentless cycle of self-doubt and change your mental record. Try these healthy ways to control your thoughts:
1. Change Your Mind—Literally!
Did you know you can actually change the structure of your brain? Modern technology enables scientists to understand why meditation and similar mind training methods work. It’s a quality of the brain known as neuroplasticity that allows you to rewire limited thought patterns into more healthy cycles of thought. The brain has potentially billions of these neural pathways. It’s a great mechanism for “good habits”, like learning a new instrument or skill. Everything becomes easier as you take those pathways again. (Can you imagine if it took as much effort to walk as it does for a toddler?)
But this mechanism can get in the way when it comes to destructive habits, like negative self-talk. Your brain tends to repeat this type of inner dialogue almost automatically. That’s when you need to reverse the train and lay the tracks in a new direction. Studies have found that our brains are adaptable. You can rewire your brain by recognizing thought patterns and practicing new ways of thinking. You can literally reshape the neural pathways in your brain and lay the tracks for new, constructive ways of thinking.
2. Identify Your Limiting Beliefs
Does your inner voice fill you with confidence? Or does it say things like:
- “I’m not good with relationships.”
- “I’m never going to get what I want.”
- “Everyone is against me.”
- “I never have enough money.”
- “I could never start my own business.”
These kinds of limiting beliefs take you away from what you want and need. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize just how much that negative self-talk is running their lives, causing stress, anxiety, and perfectionism. The inner critic can hold you back from being your authentic self and living a joyful life. Breaking those patterns starts with recognizing that they exist in the first place. Spend the next week or two tracking some of your common limiting beliefs. Do some of these thoughts tend to stand out more than others?
Narrow down your list to one that you’d like to focus on. Ask yourself: What new belief do you want to replace the old, limiting way of thinking? Your job is to notice the limiting belief when it creeps into your language, actions, and thoughts. Now, replace that with your new affirmation. Repeat this process over time to guide your thoughts in a more positive, constructive direction.
3. Nix the “All or Nothing” View
I often come across people who have the “all or nothing” view of life. They say things like:
- “I’m either successful or worthless”
- “I’m either smart or stupid.”
- “Someone is either right or wrong.”
This type of polarized thinking makes it difficult to move forward. Remember that mistakes give you a chance to learn and grow.
4. Practice Changing The Script
If your inner dialogue sounds like a stream of constant judgment and self-doubt, it’s time to change the script. Often, our inner scripts aren’t even our own. They can come from bullies from childhood, a toxic parent, or a naysayer in your life who just wanted to knock you down so they feel better about themselves. But without you realizing it, these external voices become internalized and hold you back from believing in yourself. To change these habits of self-criticism, and treat your relationship with yourself as you would with any loved one or friend. Instead of beating yourself up for every mistake and imperfection, practice acceptance and compassion for yourself.
When you hear your inner critic, change the script. Speak to yourself as you would to a friend going through a hard time. Giving yourself the care and kindness you need at the moment will help you feel better — and it will help you succeed.
5. Develop a Growth Mindset
People who tend to have a fixed mindset tend to stay stuck in life. After all, if you’ll never get better at something, what’s the point in trying? People with a growth mindset believe they can become good at something with perseverance. They are more willing to tackle challenges and don’t pressure themselves to attain perfection. Instead, they focus on growth and improvement with time. So if you want to succeed, shift to a growth mindset. You can start something new, and with practice, become better and better at it over time.
6. Stop Listening to Naysayers
Who you surround yourself with has a huge impact on your mindset and chances of success. I can’t express enough how important it is to surround yourself with people who encourage your dreams. On the other hand, naysayers constantly cut you down. They say things like:
- “That sounds too difficult.”
- “If it’s such a good idea, someone else is probably doing it.”
- “What happens if you fail?”
Negative people don’t necessarily mean to harm you — sometimes they mean well. They may be trying to protect you from failure or protect themselves from uncertainty and change. Even so, they can kill your confidence and put negative thoughts into your head. Don’t let someone else’s scarcity mindset hold you back. If you recognize these kinds of people in life, walk away. If you have to spend time with them, don’t internalize their negative thoughts.
7. Respond Instead of Reacting
Knowing how to control your thoughts means learning to handle your response. You can do that by shifting from a place of reaction to a place of response.
The next time you notice an intense thought or emotion come up, take a moment. You may need to leave the room or take a few breaths. Pause and reflect before taking action. You will likely discover much better outcomes and avoid unnecessary conflict just by responding instead of reacting.
8. Get Out of Your Own Head
Sometimes all we really need to do is get out of our heads for a bit and get an outside perspective. When you notice your brain running in circles, call a friend for support. Sitting with a neutral third party, like a coach or therapist, can also help to recognize habits of negative self-talk. When you sit with someone, they can provide feedback on your concerns, and prevent you from imagining every worst-case scenario. This type of healthy discussion can inspire constructive thought patterns and give you a confidence boost when you lose your way. It’s time to start believing that you can. Big changes really do start from within. Turning patterns of self-doubt into self-belief will have a domino effect in every part of your life.
Article Credit: https://soulsalt.com/how-to-control-your-thoughts/