We came out of the womb trying not to think about bad things. Since then, it’s been our full-time business — and guess what? Business has been good.
While there is no magic elixir for stopping the mind, the only way to deal with negative thinking is to create space between you and your thoughts. This won’t eradicate negative thinking, but it is the path to wisdom.
As preached by many brilliant mystics and teachers since the beginning of time:
Once you create a little space between you and your mind, between you and your body, this is the end of suffering.
Below are three ways to utilize this approach of “creating space” between you and your thoughts that can help you overcome negative thinking.
Imagine if this one little idea was taught to children worldwide. Imagine what the world might be like.
The problem is not that we have negative thoughts, it’s that we identify with them. We believe we are our thoughts and take them personally. My younger self often would question: “If I have a bad thought, does that automatically make me a bad person?”
However, we must see thoughts for what they are: Bits of energy that we are wired to have. Just like the heart beats involuntarily, the mind thinks involuntarily. This is especially true for thinking negative thoughts. Our brains hold a strong negativity bias based on our evolution trying to survive in the wild, and if you add in our past conditioning and what was modeled to us, is it any wonder why our minds explode with negative thoughts at times?
Everything we think comes from somewhere. It’s something we learned and were exposed to, either consciously or unconsciously. Try seeing negative thoughts as part of your basic human conditioning and a reminder that having them is necessary to decondition yourself and unravel the lifetime of tangled-up ideas and beliefs programmed in your mind.
The benefits of mindfulness practice are extensive and widely talked about — but the one quality to lean on when it comes to negative thoughts is being the non-judgment observer.
True non-judgment observation immediately separates you from your anxiety and worries and moves you into a place of wisdom. As Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti once said:
“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
Here are some ways to cultivate this quality. When you are having negative thoughts:
If you can’t focus on the present moment and get mindful when you are having negative thoughts, then become a detective by putting the rational, intelligent side of your brain on the case. Meaning see your negative thoughts as clues to where you need to grow in life and what ideas and beliefs you need to let go of.
As mentioned earlier, thoughts are just bits of energy, and like all energy, thoughts carry information with them. So why not purely see your thoughts as feedback and data points that you can use for your benefit?
So when you have a negative thought, try:
When we create and hold space to understand and learn, no matter what we are confronted with, we create space for the insights we need to blossom to help us grow. The same applies to your thoughts.
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