How to Avoid Bad Thinking Habits?
I recommend 2-step process.
I. Became Aware of Your Thinking Patterns.
Bad habits, especially bad mental habits, are mostly the result of ignorance. You are so used to your thinking habits, that you simply don’t recognize them.
Most of people have really crappy self-talk. We say to ourselves so awful things that we would have never stand coming from someone else.
If you would’ve stopped and consider what really comes through your mind, you would have never consciously chose to involve in such a train of thoughts.
But because it’s habitual, you simply follow the flow of words giving crappy answers to habitual crappy questions (“Why it always happen to me?”) that beget in your subconscious mind.
So, first you need to shed some light on what’s running through your head. A few useful activities:
You try not to think at all, which is a very tricky task. But those attempts are great in letting you know what kind of thoughts run through your mind. I consider self-awareness the biggest benefit of meditation.
2. Freestyle journaling.
You capture your mind’s flow on the paper. It’s a very sobering experience. Many times you will be hesitant to put the kind of s*it that runs wild in your head on paper.
Another benefit of this practice is setting up your “enemy” (subconscious) in the battlefield of your choice. Your thoughts on paper often seems stupid and naive… because most often they are. It’s hard to have an intelligent conversation wholly in your head. It’s much easier to perform on paper.
Shut up for an hour or a day. Don’t utter a single word. Don’t even consider interacting with people. Live only in your head for some time.
Self-awareness about your thinking processes is guaranteed ;)
II. Think Something Else.
The best news is that you cannot think two thoughts at the same time. A human brain is just incapable of this.
As long as you will think what you choose to think, bad thinking habits will have no chance to even begin. However, to use this method you need at least rudimentary awareness about your thoughts. Thinking is the hardest work in the world and you’d have been a superhuman, if you could’ve think whatever you choose all the time. It’s much easier to recognize bad patterns and act when they appear.
A few useful techniques:
1. Asking empowering questions.
Questions are powerful tool to affect your thoughts. Your brain is primarily a search engine. When you ask question, you send a query and your brain will happily indulge into looking for answer.
Change all the “why me” questions into “how me” questions. Ask yourself often how you can achieve more, how you can learn more and how can you overcome your obstacles.
2. “Musical” affirmations.
Do you remember when a catchy tune from a TV commercial glued to your mind? Use the same mechanism to beat your bad thinking habits to death.
When you catch yourself on the wrong train of thoughts, interrupt the process singing a catchy tune in your mind. Pick a short, but true phrase and repeat it in your mind ad nausea.
My favorite is “It’s possible, it’s possible, it’s possible, it’s possible, it’s possible, it’s possible…”
3. Focus shift.
Brainstorm 10 interesting subject you can think about and have the list at your fingerprints.
When the wrong thought arrive, pick one subject and focus on it.
Have I mentioned you cannot think two things at a time? You won!