In my efforts to embrace simplicity across as much of my life as possible, I’ve found amazing benefits in simplifying what goes on in the mind.
Unchecked and allowed free reign, the thoughts in your head can be destructive, distracting and nonproductive. The impact can range from decreased energy, indecision, irritability, to hopelessness and unhappiness.
Your thoughts are powerful and, with practice, entirely within your control.
In simplifying your thoughts, you’ll be able to dedicate more of your energy and productivity towards important goals and tasks. Each of us has a continuous stream of internal dialogue and thoughts going through our head each day. Are you aware of the content your mind is creating? By going through these 4 tips, you’ll be able to simplify your thoughts to focus on what will be the most productive.
Here are 4 tips to simplify your thoughts:
1) Ask if the thought is empowering
Becoming more aware of the thoughts in your head will help you determine if they are empowering you. If the thought is limiting or negative in some way, the first step is recognizing it. With awareness comes the power to change the thought. There is always another way to look at the situation. By identifying the limiting thoughts and deliberately choosing a more productive view, you are simplifying your thoughts for the better.
You may discover recurrent limiting thought patterns you fall into often. These are your gremlins, dragons, demons; they are your manifestations of self-sabotage. The better you are at identifying your weaknesses, the better you’ll be able to safeguard against them. Some people even give them names (Scary Gary/Carrie, Mole, Hank, whatever suits your fancy) and address them when they show up.
Thoughts have no power on their own – you choose to give them power by internalizing or adding emotion. Learn to let go and reframe thoughts that are not productive for you.
2) Let go of worry
Worry is the imagination gone wrong, and it quickly complicates your thoughts, twisting and morphing into never-ending web-like intricacies. Worry not only occurs in the past or the future, it can also happen in the present moment. The commonality in worry is it’s never productive regardless of whether you’re in the past, future or present.
Nothing in life is worth the price of worry.
If you can take action towards something to alleviate the worry, do it. If it’s out of your control in the present moment, recognize the worry and let it go. Ask yourself why the situation or issue has a hold over you. Embrace a more empowering viewpoint, focus on what you can take action on and let go of the rest.
3) Practice mindfulness
To simplify your thoughts further, practice mindfulness. When you accept things as they currently are without passing any judgment, this enables you to focus fully on the present moment. You’re not thinking what you could have done or what you might do in the future.
This is often referred to as mindfulness. There are a wide variety of definitions, however I resonate with this one by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is helpful when your tendency is to spend time analyzing, wondering, and debating all the possibilities. Feeling badly about something is a result of judgment. Mindfulness helps you become purposefully aware of how you’re feeling, withhold any judgment and simply focus on what is in the present moment.
4) Keep busy when all else fails
Sometimes when there is an immense fear or when the situation hits close to home, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to simplify your thoughts in a productive manner.
In this scenario, the best thing to do is to distract and keep busy.
What I’ve found as one of the best ways to distract the mind is a more extensive and involved form of exercise (such as speed walking, running, bicycling, doing a workout). The exercise also comes with benefits of getting those feel-good endorphins and a sense of accomplishment. Another option is to tackle a project you’ve put off around the house or make progress in another area of your life. Another distraction (although less recommended due to its passivity) is to watch your TV show or movie of choice. Whatever you choose to do, just keep yourself occupied.
With these 4 tips, you’ll be able to simplify your thoughts when you find yourself spiraling and getting stuck within your head. Too much thought is never a good thing. It’s up to you to find the balance for yourself.