No, it’s not a luxury flat in Monaco. I’m actually talking about your mind! That grey and white matter that makes you… you! The thoughts that occupy your mind needs to be carefully considered. You need to think about what you’re thinking.
Is the thought in my mind rent worthy?
Think of each thought that sits in your mind as having to pay rent. That thought needs to be paying the equivalent rent of an Upper East Side penthouse in Manhattan to occupy space in your mind. Does the thought deserve to be there? Is it worthy? If it’s garbage, it needs to be thrown out ASAP!
This is a question that’s worth asking regularly throughout the day. You’ll see just how easy it is for your mind to start wondering off. Just as you wouldn’t allow a criminal to go freely in and out of your home throughout the day, so you shouldn’t allow any negative thought to stay in your head for prolonged periods of time without your explicit consent.
You give energy to the thoughts that occupy your mind. The longer the thought sits there, the more energy it consumes. Is it really worth fueling thoughts about whether you were slighted by an acquaintance at a party for instance? Typically, negative thoughts that sit in your mind for a long time will start stressing you out and deplete your energy quickly.
Through regular practice, you can become more conscious and mindful about what you allow to enter your mind. The thoughts that occupy your head space has the power to shape your future, your life, your health. Negative thoughts and worries will manifest itself physically into stress and into more serious diseases over time. Positive thoughts can have the opposite healing effects on the body.
By negative thoughts, I’m referring more to negative dialogue. You can have bad things that happen and still have a positive internal dialogue. For example, I got laid off and this is a great opportunity for me to look for the right company that deserves me. Or, my date didn’t turn up and that’s great because I found out early their behavior and I can use this time now to read.
The opposite can happen too where good things can trigger a negative internal dialogue. For example, He said I looked great today. Does that mean I looked bad before? What didn’t he like about my previous outfit? Is he being sarcastic? And so on.
The Inner Dialogue
Our internal dialogue and beliefs are greatly influenced by our parents, our social circle, our society, our environment. A lot of it is adopted unconsciously.
You can take a proactive and conscious approach in choosing which ones you wish to adopt as well as dissecting the existing ones you have.
You can choose to adopt positive beliefs through repetition. One belief that you can adopt is that your mind space is precious and that you should protect it.
Be a keen observer of your thoughts on a day to day basis and the internal dialogue that’s occurring. There’s a reason why the thoughts are there and you can learn a lot about yourself by doing this. Then detach yourself from the thoughts. It takes a bit of practice to truly detach and just observe the thoughts like you’re an outsider. Meditation helps this process tremendously. Sometimes thoughts are driven by your rational mind. Other times, it comes from your subconscious mind.
You can do this even during conversations. Notice your mind when it starts to wonder. Are you fully present in the conversation? When the person you’re talking to says something you don’t like, notice the internal dialogue when your mind starts judging and reacting. What does this say?
A great time for reflection and introspection is during painful moments or when you get triggered in some way. You’ll have the most to learn about yourself during these moments.
Your mind is the result of millions of years of evolution. You’ll see your old brain (the amygdala) get triggered in specific situations. Maybe something that happened or someone’s action has struck a cord deep within you. This is when you feel particularly overwhelmed by an emotion and your rational faculties appears to be switched off. Note the trigger. This is a great time to observe your thoughts and feelings, and then write them down in a stream of consciousness style so that you can go back to it afterwards (when you’re calm) to process.
Your subconscious has taken over control at this stage and the thoughts it feeds your conscious mind can be very insightful in learning more about yourself and how your subconscious can control your behavior without you even being aware of it. The greater the pain, the greater the lesson there is for you to learn. There’s gold to be found.
Your brain has the power to rewire itself. The more you observe this practice, the more your brain will start to create new neural pathways that adopt your thought patterns.
Daily Mental Filtering
Note the thoughts that come to you.
Some thoughts are easy to filter away for me. For example, if you’ve spent a few hours thinking about where you’re going to eat next, maybe that’s something you can catch earlier.
A few questions I like to ask myself in filtering thoughts:
- Is it knowable?
- How does having this thought help me? And how much does it help me? Is it important?
Let’s try filtering a thought.
If you find yourself dwelling on something that went wrong, it satisfies the first criteria but not the second. So this is not a thought that you should let hang around in your mind. On the other hand, if you’re analyzing what went wrong to learn the lessons, then it’s both knowable and helpful in making better decisions in the future through application of the lesson learned.
The longer the amount of thought time, the more the thought deserves to be qualified through application of this criteria.
If there’s still any confusion, you can use different prompts to see validate the thought and idea. For example, If I truly love myself, is this something that I would allow myself to think?
Make this process a habit and watch the new patterns your brain adopts. It’s magical :)
If you liked this article, you might like the one I wrote on learning to ask better questions.