Puppy-Training Your Mind
When your mind has a mind of its own.
Something awful had happened. Something unthinkable and devastating. Someone we all loved had died, very suddenly, and under circumstances that seemed to be against all odds.
And I could not stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop replaying what I imagined the events to be, in my head. Over and over. It was upsetting and frightening, but for some reason, I could not get my mind to stop the reruns.
I tried watching comedy, thinking about something else, but, like a dog that knows there’s a treat in that cupboard, no matter how much you try to distract him… my mind kept wandering back. And before I knew it, it was in full flight again.
Puppy-Training Your Mind
Since then, I’ve discovered the best way to retrain your mind and keep it on track.
Whether you’re trying to think more positively, or trying to focus on something specific, or, like I was, trying not to keep thinking about something upsetting — here are two steps to gaining control.
Find and change the original subconscious references that are causing the distraction in the first place. We naturally and automatically focus on the negative because it’s part of our survival system.
Therefore, changing the references for what’s “dangerous” as far as the subconscious is concerned will help to change the automatic stress response that causes the mind to be drawn to that topic or subject. Recognizing this won’t stop it, on its own, but it will help in taking the next step.
Think of your mind as a new puppy. A puppy that needs to be house-trained. You know the puppy is going to pee in the house. That’s what it is “preprogrammed” to do.
And in order to train the puppy, you will need to have a plan, and then patiently and consistently carry out that plan until the puppy’s brain has made the connection between peeing and being outside.
That means, every time the puppy pees on the floor, you calmly and patiently pick it up and put it outside. Then you clean up the mess. And the sooner you catch the puppy about to pee on the floor, the less of a mess you’ll have to clean up. It’s about being vigilant, patient, calm, and consistent.
And your vigilance, patience, consistency and calm approach will be rewarded when the puppy automatically starts peeing outside instead of on your carpet.
The same system works for the mind.
As soon as you start noticing your mind wandering off to the unwanted, calmly, patiently, and consistently simply redirect it to where you want it to be.
The sooner you catch it, the easier and quicker it will be to redirect it — just as the sooner you catch the puppy, the less of a mess you’ll need to clean up.
Every time you do that, you’re firing a different neural connection in the neocortex of your brain. And as you calmly and consistently continue to repeat the redirection, that new neural connection will start to become stronger than the old one — and you will find that it eventually becomes automatic.
Just as you expect the puppy to pee on the floor until you’ve trained it by consistently redirecting it outside, expecting your mind to wander off until you’ve trained it by consistently redirecting it to what you want it to focus on will lower the frustration and stress and achieve faster results.
The calmer and more consistent you are, the quicker you’ll achieve your goal — with both the puppy and your mind.
What Does It Mean?
The meaning you give to the wandering will make all the difference to the results you experience.
If you were to see the puppy peeing on the floor as an insult, stubbornness, or a sign it can’t be trained — you’d have a much harder time, and your frustration and stress would add to the puppy’s stress… resulting in a longer, more difficult process.
In the same way, in order to get the fastest, easiest results, choose to refrain from giving meaning to your mind wandering. It’s not frustrating, it’s not a step backward, it’s not a sign that something’s not working, it’s just part of the process of rewiring the neural connections in your brain.
It’s just like a puppy. It takes time, but once those new connections have been made, it will easily adjust to the new behavior — automatically and without prompting!