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If You Don’t Know What Your Next Thought Is, You’re Not Alone

If You Don’t Know What Your Next Thought Is, You’re Not Alone

I find it rather easy to get lost in thought. Although I do enjoy this journey through my mind, there are times where I must pull myself out of this excursion. I am reminded of this every time my 3-year old daughter asks me, “Daddy, are you here?” This question hits deep.

I am learning the importance of being present in the moment. One book I turn to for this is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Let’s take a look at what we can all learn from Tolle in his powerful book.

    Life is a series of present moments

    If I asked you where everything happens, what would you say? The answer should be quite simple – everything happens in the present moment.

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    “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have.” – Eckhart Tolle

    Tolle teaches us that the past is nothing more than all present moments that have gone by and the future is a collection of present moments waiting to arrive.

    We fill in gaps with painful thoughts

    For some reason we incessantly fill our mind with painful thoughts about the past and worrisome thoughts about the future. Yet, we can only live in the present.

    Think of a straight line. At one end is the past and the other the future. In the center of the line is the present moment, where you exist. Now picture gaps along the line on each side of the center. The center (the present moment) is the only spot that should contain our thoughts. However, we fill in those gaps on each side of the center with painful and worrisome thoughts that do not matter. These thoughts do not matter because we can only live in the center – the present moment.

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    One question to freeze your situation

    There exists one question that can freeze any system in its current state.

    “What will my next thought be?”

    By repeatedly asking yourself this question, you can actually delay the answer to the question – your next thought. This is a powerful way to interrupt your mind and separate yourself from it.

    This is an effect from physics called the quantum zeno effect. Essentially, the quantum zeno effect demonstrates we can freeze a system in its current state by endlessly observing it. The key to being in the present moment is observing the present moment.

    Give it a try now.

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    Pull your mind from your body

    Imagine for a moment that you could pull your mind from your body to observe your thoughts and actions. Well… you can. Think of playing a video game where a dialogue or decision box pops up above the character requiring you to make a decision about what to say or do next. What else is happening in the game? You are freezing the game in its current state – in the present moment. It freezes the present moment in the game and in real life, think about that.

    Now think of a recent moment in your life where you had a negative thought. Freeze that moment and visualize yourself as the video game character. In a video game, we don’t judge the character we are controlling, we simply observe the decision or action that needs to be made.

    “Your entire life consists of the present moment.” – Eckhart Tolle

    We all have negative thoughts for which we cannot wish away. They will continue to flood our stream of conscious. The point is that we must stop judging the thought. We can’t stop the thought from entering our mind, but we can stop the judgement of the thought.

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    The next time a negative thought makes its way into your conscious, just acknowledge its existence and remember… it does not control you. Take a moment to observe the thought and analyze it.

    Finally, if you desire to be more present, you must be present. I am reminded here of one of my favorite quotes by Jim Elliot.

    “Wherever you are – be all there.”

    So, wherever you are… be all there.

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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    Dr. Jamie Schwandt

    Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2020

    How to Break Free From Negative Thinking for Good

    How to Break Free From Negative Thinking for Good

    Negative thinking can make us feel as though we are never truly good enough to change our lives. Whether we believe that we are not good looking enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, or something in between, we are always right.

    We often tell ourselves the following:

    “I’m not good enough to accomplish this.”

    “They won’t like me. I’m too ugly to be around them.”

    “I won’t ever be able to get out of this situation.”

    How we see ourselves dictates how we lead our lives. This simple truth, while it is currently impacting your reality in a negative way, is actually good news. Why?

    You can change your thinking, and when you can change your thoughts, you can change your reality.

    Put simply, if you start to believe and feel like you are good-looking, intelligent, wealthy, or other things, you begin to see yourself in that light. If you tell yourself that you are capable of achieving greatness, you will eventually get there!

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    That said, many find themselves wondering what to do when they get stuck in negative thinking. Are you tired of letting negative thinking run your life? Do you want to take control of how you feel and put yourself out there?

    If you want to start writing your own narrative, let’s learn more about negative thought cycles and how you can change your own internal voice.

    Where Do Negative Thoughts Come From?

    You aren’t going to wake up one day and find that you are suffering from random negative thoughts. Negative thoughts are often a mix of ideas that we develop on our own, as well as ideas that we may have gotten from others.

    For example, if you are constantly watching media where individuals are depicted as having thin bodies and perfect skin (and you do not have the same characteristics as those who are traditionally considered to be beautiful), you may come to the conclusion that you are not beautiful or deserving of love.

    This is far from the truth, but your own take on how the world works can play into how you feel about yourself.

    Equally harmful, the opinions of others can start to affect our self-perception. If several people tell you something negative about yourself, you may begin to take these opinions to heart, telling yourself the same things over time. This self-belief then becomes the model for how you live.

    More often than not, the reality is that individuals who lack confidence and self-esteem are going to develop negative thought patterns.

    This does not mean that confident people do not face internal crises of their own. After all, everyone is prone to experiencing a negative thought here and there. However, those who are self-aware and confident are able to bounce back from these thoughts and return to their truth.

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    Those who do not think highly of themselves, on the other hand, are going to keep believing the negative thoughts that come into their mind. The issue? These negative thoughts turn into a repetitive cycle that becomes harder to break over time.

    When you tell yourself something for months or years at a time, it can be difficult to transform that internal dialogue into something more positive and realistic. But is it possible? Absolutely!

    The Importance of Quitting Negative Thinking

    Beyond low-self esteem, there may be mental health-related causes behind your negative thought patterns, like depression. One of the major symptoms of depression is, you guessed it, negative thoughts. Depression can make us feel unworthy of love and life, even if we have everything we could wish for[1].

    You may be struggling with anxiety disorders instead, which can paint uncertain visions of the future and leave you anticipating the worst long before the moment has arrived. Some people have anxiety about the present or will return to past moments where they felt as though they failed, which affects their feelings about who they are or who they will be[2].

    Having mental health issues can make your situation more complex, but it is important to know that these types of health issues are highly treatable, especially with the assistance of a mental health professional. You are deserving of self-love, and getting help is the first, most important step of your journey!

    How to Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking

    In order to overcome your negative thought process, you are going to need two things: self-awareness and a willingness to love yourself. Once you are armed with these two tools, take a look below to learn more about how you can break free of the cycle of negative thinking.

    1. Become Aware of the Thoughts That Are Affecting You

    Negative thoughts are hard to catch because they have a tendency to become a part of who we are. These thoughts build our belief system and go unchallenged, even when they pop up daily.

    All change begins with awareness. Whatever it is that you believe about yourself, take the time to pay attention to your own dialogue.

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    What are you saying to yourself on a regular basis? How does it make you feel? Is any of it true?

     

    When these thoughts are brought to your attention, you begin to notice just how often you are saying these things to yourself. Once you’ve cultivated awareness around these thoughts, you can begin to develop the change that you want.

    2. Learn to Accept Them as They Come (and Move on)

    A lot of people believe that you have to completely remove negative thinking patterns from your life in order to be happy. Not only is this not possible, but it’s also not true. You are going to experience negative thoughts regardless. It’s what you decide to do with these thoughts that matters.

    Next time a negative thought comes into your mind, treat it like a passing car. Acknowledge it and let it pass you by. Don’t try to wave the driver over to you or continue thinking about once it has passed. Just let it go.

    Giving power to your thoughts allows them to have control over you. You can’t stop a negative thought from entering your mind, but you always have the power to let it go!

    3. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

    Our own beliefs play on a loop, telling us certain things over and over again. While it’s important to let go, it is also important to get to the root of these issues and figure out where they are coming from.

    Let’s imagine that you are telling yourself you are stupid throughout the day. If you notice this pattern, ask yourself: Does this have any basis in reality? Am I really stupid or am I telling myself this unnecessarily? Is there any evidence to support this[3]?

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    Challenge negative thinking by asking questions.

      Challenging your negative thoughts will help you realize that they are highly-exaggerated and untrue. This gives you the opportunity to transform these negative thoughts into positive ones that resonate with you.

      4. Replace These Thoughts with Kinder, More Realistic Alternatives

      Anything that is broken must be replaced. The broken record playing on a loop within you can easily be changed to a tune that you can actually sing to.

      Whenever a negative thought comes up, take the time to stop yourself and think of something positive to put in its place. If you find yourself saying, “I can’t do this,” try telling yourself that you are more than capable instead.

      Keep in mind, however, that you need to tell yourself things that you truly believe. If you start telling yourself things that don’t resonate with you and encounter a situation that proves your belief wrong, you may do more harm than good!

      Bottom Line

      Changing the way you think is a rigorous but rewarding process that will change your outlook on life. If you find yourself struggling with negative thinking, learn more about where they come from and how you can stop them for good with the guide above!

      More on How to Stop Negative Thinking

      Featured photo credit: Max Ilienerwise via unsplash.com

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