Thought governs our life. What we think, we feel, and we do. Thoughts are inevitable, and so is the thinking. Our emotional strength depends upon the quality of our thoughts.
Thinking negatively 24/7 invites stress, anxiety, and mental distress. As a result, our minds become weak and vulnerable to any external stimuli. Even a little external change creates a cyclone of turmoil internally.
“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think.” ~ Swami Vivekananda
Psychologists have discovered that humans have more than 6000 thoughts in a day. So, we can’t stop thinking, no matter what. Besides, it’s impossible to review our every thought.
The other day, I met a commuter in a subway, and he was sharing how he cannot stop thinking about Covid’s trauma and move on with life. Talking with him, I also learned that people often confuse mindfulness with meditation and use those terms interchangeably.
Due to this misconception, people think that meditation is the only solution to review and change their thoughts' quality. But it’s not.
Mindfulness is a more practical approach to meditation. Being aware of the present moment and act accordingly is also meditation. After all, meditation helps you change your thought quality and feel better.
To make my meditative experience more interesting, I began to experiment with mindfulness. I began to adopt some mindful habits in my daily activities to see if I can improve my emotional health by getting rid of sitting meditation.
Initially, those mindful habits felt unnatural and pressurized. But it worked. I was able to remain optimistic throughout my day.
Just as the body that has not exercised for years finds it difficult to work out, our minds resist mindful habits too. But, with regular attention and awareness, it becomes a part of our life.
Before we dig into those mindful habits, we must understand the science of thoughts, their origins, and their influence on our emotional health.
How Do Thoughts Originate
I never had this curiosity until a spiritual teacher at the Brahmakumaris asked me this question.
Since I couldn’t answer, they explained the whole concept.
The origin of any thought, whether consciously or unconsciously, is “information.”
We think only about those things whose information we have.
Do you think about a new neighbor in your community who is ten blocks away?
No, right! Because we don’t know them yet.
So, the point is we ingest information through five mediums or five senses. And think only about that information as we process it in our brains.
- Eyes: Movies, pictures, screens, or even the environment around us makes us think about them.
- Nose: We start thinking about the type of odor as soon as we smell something.
- Ears: Our thought process starts when we hear anything. E.g., A song can make us think about the artist, music composer, etc., or attending any question makes us think about the possible answers.
- Taste: Tasting or eating anything forces our mind to enter into the thinking mode. Various flavors make us think about the feelings we sense from them.
- Skin: Touch is a powerful source of information entering our minds. When someone kisses us, we think about love. If a hot/cold substance touches us, we think about what/how we feel.
Besides these five senses, there’s one crucial aspect of our thinking process. There’s one vital ingredient that regulates most of our thoughts; that is “memories.” The feelings of the past get registered in the mind as memories.
Whatever we have felt and experienced through the sensory organs is stored in the minds. And from time to time, these memories govern our thinking.
If we don’t choose what to think (i.e., positive thoughts), thoughts automatically emerge from these six bags(five senses and memories). And depending upon the quality of that information, our thoughts are created.
And the quality of our thoughts governs our emotional and mental health. If we think positively, we feel happy and energized, while negative thinking invites stress and anxiety.
How to Choose What to Think
Continuously 24/7, we are losing our mental energy. Overthinking and thinking negative and waste thoughts are depriving us of a healthy emotional state. It makes us feel fatigued all the time.
So, let’s understand how energy leaks from our minds through a very well known story of “Socrates and the Three Sieves”:
One day one of the acquaintances approached Socrates and said, “I have heard a few things about your disciple from everyone.”
Socrates replied, “Before I allow you to speak, I would like to test it through my three sieves. If you pass that test, you may proceed with what you have for me.”
- The first Sieve of Truthfulness:
Have you verified the authenticity of what you’re about to say?
- The second Sieve of Goodness:
Whatever you will tell me — is it something healthy, exemplary, or constructive?
- The third sieve of Usefulness:
Is there anything I can do about it?
The acquaintance failed to pass through the three sieves and left as he learned a lesson for life. Though it was for gossips, we can use it for thoughts.
Before consuming any information, we must use these filter questions.
Question №1: Is the information authentic or genuine enough to be believed?
Question №2: Is the information necessary, right, or beneficial for my mental health?
Question №3: Is the information plausible to be implemented?
If we can answer these questions, the information is harmless.
Today, information is engulfing us more than ever before. With phones in the pocket, data is just a step away. However, most of the information that we consume is useless, trivial, and sometimes toxic.
Have you ever felt that your happiness or cheerful mood gets ruined after watching, reading, or listening to something because you can’t stop thinking about it and feel restless?
It’s because that quality of information is not conducive.
Suppose you eat oily fries and then think that it wasn’t healthy and that you shouldn’t have consumed it. But now what? It’s already a part of your body and it’s likely to induce fats and cholesterol into the body.
The same stands for information. We can not decide after consuming it because soon it becomes part of our system, and we can erase it easily.
Hence, we must always check the quality of information before consuming it.
Types of Thoughts That Arise in the Mind
When we pass the information through the sieves mentioned above, we have approached one step further towards following a thoughts hygiene.
However, it’s imperative to understand the variety of thoughts so that we can keep a check on them to change them:
If we try to remain in constant awareness as the yogis or saints do throughout the day, we will comprehend that only three types of thoughts emerge within the mind.
- Positive thoughts — These are fewer in quantity, but they make us feel energized and enthusiastic. “I can do it; I am healthy, motivational thoughts, etc.,” are positive thoughts.
- Negative thoughts — These are in abundance and are energy suckers. They are also harmful to health as they make us feel low, stressed, and anxious—thoughts about “self-doubt, insults, depression, etc.” fall in this category.
- Waste thoughts — These thoughts are the trickiest to identify and understand. They mask themselves as positive thoughts and arise mostly through memories or fantasies about the future. These thoughts force us to experience the same feelings that were associated with the past. They waste our time as it forces us to extract something from the past (that is not real and not feasible). These thoughts cause a constant leakage of energy without us being aware of it; we lose track of time thinking about the past or fantasizing.
Positive and negative thoughts are easy to identify, and hence we work towards them. But waste thoughts are our real enemy that remains invisible.
Elevate Your Emotional Strength by Improving the Thought Quality
There are different ways to do it. Here are some ways that have helped me immensely in improving my thought quality and mental health.
#1. Start your day with positive information.
Have you noticed that waking up to a melodious song makes you hum the same song throughout the day?
That's the impact of morning energy.
An online study proves that the day's first thought governs our thoughts' quality throughout the day. The first information is crucial as it lays the foundation for the day.
I always leave a three-hour gap between my waking up and going to work. I use that time in doing meditation and reading spiritual content from the Brahmakumaris. This routine has made me more healthy, emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, and psychologically.
Instead of checking WhatsApp messages, emails, news, etc., we must start our day with something spiritual or inspirational. If you like watching videos, go for motivational videos. If you enjoy reading books, read positive books. The same goes for listening too. You can even say a gratitude prayer.
This routine ensures the beginning of your day on a very high note.
Whenever you choose any information for the start of the day, make sure you have enough constructive and exciting things to do during the day. If you do so, you won’t be surfing the internet for hours during the day.
#2. End your day with positive information.
If we fall asleep while watching movies or videos, we will wake us with the same thoughts. If we’ve watched crime, violence, hatred content, we won’t feel energized in the morning.
Sleep routine plays a vital role in how you wake up.
I have experienced that watching a movie or using social media before sleeping only gives lazy and lethargic mornings.
A spiritual study suggests that our last thought decides our consciousness (higher or lower)because it reaches the subconscious level. And any thought lying in the subconscious mind has the potential to manifest into a reality.
So, end your day by doing something that calms the mind. Meditate. Read. Write. Refrain from using phones. Listen to sleep music.
#3. Pen down your day.
Writing down your daily thoughts on paper during bedtime is like clearing the mind from all worries and tensions. It helps us reflect upon our daily struggles and fears, improving our well-being.
I love how Jen Williamson describes the importance of journal writing:
“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.”
I started writing my daily uncontrolled negative thoughts since I was fourteen. I used to write all my fears, worries, guilts, weaknesses, and even crushes. It was like confessing to myself. And I felt a lot more liberated after venting out my emotions on a piece of paper.
I used to throw that paper in a trash can, burn it, or drop it in a temple. I never kept it with me. This activity had a psychological effect on my mind that I am getting rid of all the negativity.
I felt very light and self-controlled after that.
Besides, research at NCBI National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that scribbling our uncontrolled thoughts induces sound sleep at night. It creates a sense of achievement and responsibility, boosting self-esteem.
#4. Mindful eating and drinking.
Dr. Masaru Emoto proved through his experiment that water stores emotions and feelings. On one glass of water, he wrote virtues, and on the other, he wrote vices.
Surprisingly, he discovered through his research that the glass with virtues had a beautiful crystals-like structure while the latter had dull, dark, shapeless images.
About 70% of our body consists of water. So, creating positive affirmations before drinking and eating leaves a powerful impact on our well-being.
So, when we create positive thoughts while drinking or eating, we are charging the water with that positive energy. Then, this water rejuvenates every cell of our body.
I didn’t believe in this idea until I experimented with it. Affirming my food with positive thoughts before consuming made me feel more optimistic than before.
So, don’t underestimate the power of affirmations through water and foods.
#5. Take Pauses during the day.
Learn to rest. Learn to pause in between work hours. Ask yourself — what did I think in the last hour? Am I feeling good because of that thinking?
You will realize that most of the time, what you are thinking waste thoughts. So, stop and change. If nothing comes to your mind, tell yourself, ‘I am a peaceful human being.’
I use an Insight timer app in which there’s a playlist named “just a minute” that offers a wide range of one-minute meditation commentaries.
It has helped me significantly to calm down every hour and check the quality of my thoughts.
#6. Be mindful of your social circle.
There’s a famous ancient quote:
“As is the company so is the character.”
Every day, we meet tons of people. Everyone has different mindsets and thoughts. As we know that thoughts have vibrational energy, they transmit in the atmosphere and enter our minds.
So, people can influence us without doing anything to us. It’s like if our immunity’s weak, we become more vulnerable to diseases.
Try to catch the vibe from people. If you don't get good vibes, stay away. However, you have the power to overlook everyone’s ill behavior and remain optimistic; you can impact others too with your positivity.
Mindfulness is often misunderstood as meditation. But checking and changing the quality of our thoughts in real-time is the key to healthy emotional strength.
I love how Marcus Aurelius has quoted:
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”
If you wish to change the quality of life, you’ll need to change your thoughts' quality.
You are the hero of your life. Your life is in your control, and so is your emotional health. Steer your thoughts in the right direction by adopting these above-mentioned mindful habits.
Do you have any other ways of maintaining the thoughts hygiene? I would love to hear them.
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