Reality Check: Trapped by Thoughts? Here’s a Suggestion

No time to think? Feel that you can’t stop what you’re doing for one minute? People are depending on you. Things must be done; we can think later. If that’s your perception, you know it’s hard to stop, step back and see the big picture.
Others, however, have the opposite perception. They have too much time to think. And think. And think some more.
That would be wonderful, you may be thinking! If only I had too much time to think.
Perhaps. But whether the situation is satisfying or unsatisfying depends on what you are thinking about, doesn’t it?
For some, their thoughts don’t bring clarity, peace, or help them decide what to do. They might be thoughts of mistakes, regrets, hurts, worries, or wishes for things to be different. The range of unhappy thoughts is wide indeed.
If your unhelpful thoughts keep going round and round and you’d like to make a change, then here’s a thought, so to speak. The more we think about something, the more important we perceive it to be. So, let’s work on reducing the power of the unhelpful thought by reducing how much we think about it.
But it’s hard to stop thinking of something! If I say, “Don’t think about blue elephants,” what comes to mind? Now we’re both seeing blue elephants, aren’t we?
Even when you know that your thoughts are contributing to unhappiness and that life would be better if you changed them, it’s hard to stop. What can you do?
The suggestion: Choose a substitute thought. Choose something helpful, cheering, or useful. When you detect that you’ve slipped into unhelpful thoughts, make a deliberate switch. Substitute your chosen thought for the one you want to reduce.
What can you substitute? Some people find that reciting an affirmation, a favourite verse or a quote can break the chain of unhelpful thoughts. If you can’t come up with a substitute thought that works for you, try being grateful. Start simply, with “thank you.”
What if you believe you have little to be thankful for? That’s possible. Yet, you are breathing and able to read this column. All is not lost. We can be grateful, even for the very small things.
Along with that, I’m going to suggest that you take a physical action. This could be as small and simple as a smile. When the troubling thoughts come to mind, make a conscious effort to smile. No need for a big production. Just smile, quietly. This may take some practice.
It’s likely that no one will notice. But if anyone questions your smile, you can say, “Don’t mind me. I’m just experimenting.”
Alternatively, you might try carrying a physical reminder—perhaps a small stone, a comfort bird, a piece of sea glass; anything that works to remind you to change thoughts.
One more note—this is not to suggest that thinking is a bad thing! I’m in favour of thinking. There are plenty of situations where I believe that more thought is in order, not less.
However, not every thought is helpful or healthy. If you have thoughts that only upset you and offer no benefit, you might want to try substituting them out of your mind.
What do you think of thinking?

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