We have thousands of thoughts a day.
It’s been suggested we have between 12,000 to 80,000 thoughts, which could be as many as 2,500 an hour.
According to some articles up to 85% of the thoughts we have are negative, and 90% are repetitive. What you thought about yesterday, you’ll probably think about today and tomorrow.
Although we may think that thoughts matter, the reality is that most of our thoughts are untrue. They feel real, and we believe them, but they’re not facts.
This means you might have a thought, and you instinctively act on it. Even if you don’t physically do something with it, you might spend hours thinking, and thinking (and thinking) about how to deal with it. It can be exhausting.
The brain is like a muscle, and whatever you give your time and attention to, you’ll get good at – the muscle strengthens. So if you focus on learning the piano, you’ll become an accomplished pianist. In the same way, if you spend your time focused on worries, you’ll get good at worrying. (Watch the video “Mind the Bump” by Smiling Mind below to see an animation about this).
The mind is designed to think: that’s its job. If you don’t give your mind something to do, it will find something. For some people, not being able to tame their thinking can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
We know now about neuroplasticity – the ability to change the way the brain behaves throughout your lifetime. This essentially means that you can teach it to work differently. Research supports that one way to effectively train and manage the mind is through mindfulness.
Mindfulness is bringing your awareness fully to the experience of living in the present moment. You’ve probably been mindful more times than you realise. If you’ve ever caught yourself listening to the rain on your windowsill, or captivated by a sunset, this is mindful awareness. This is also known as informal meditation or “off cushion” practice.
One of the biggest myths about meditation is that it’s about clearing the mind. In fact, it is your thinking that makes the activity possible, by recognising thoughts as they come into your awareness, and describing in your mind what you’re doing: thinking. So it literally is the thought that counts.
When we think of formal meditation many people think of someone sitting cross legged on the floor. But you don’t need to do this to use mindfulness in your meditation. Here’s an activity you can try at home or at work:
Sit in an upright chair with your back straight and your head facing forwards. You can keep your eyes open if you want to, or close them if it feels safe to do so. Spend a moment noticing the sounds that come in to your awareness. There are no ‘right’ sounds or ‘wrong’ sounds, just sounds. Acknowledge them, experience them and label them in your mind for what they are: “sound”.
As you do this, you’ll notice that your mind starts to wander. Acknowledge this with kindness, remembering that’s just what minds do. As you become aware that your mind has drifted, acknowledge this and simply describe in your mind what you’re doing which is: “thinking”. Then return your attention once again to the experience of sitting in a chair, listening for sounds.
You could also try this one minute mindfulness activity.
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©️ Copyright Delphi Ellis 2019