7 Ways to Control Your Mind So It Doesn’t Control You
Okay. So you’ve given yourself a minute to just be. Amen to that! Now it’s time to start bringing some intention to what’s going on upstairs.
Let’s kick today’s challenge off with some old-school inspiration from Buddha.
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.”
Truer words have never been spoken. And yet, the vast majority of us are tangled up in our racing thoughts and triggered emotions — literally held captive by the inner dialogue of our minds. Add to that the investment into the well-being and success of hundreds of students you’re invested in as an educator — intellectually and emotionally — and you’ve got yourself a big ole bowl of anxiety stew.
7 ways to master your mind
- Recognize your sub-conscious thoughts. Your thoughts are separate from you. Think about it. Notice the voice of your thoughts. Notice how they ramble on. Now notice you noticing your thoughts. The fact that you’re observing them means that they are separate from you. Let that sink in and marinate for a few, because this understanding is the key to this whole shebang.
- Thank your mind for its thoughts. Gratitude, baby. It’s as important here as it is everywhere in life. Simply thank your mind for reminding you of those things it incessantly tries to hammer home. Acknowledge what your mind is saying and appreciate the thought. And then, like the last straggler at your holiday party, gently guide the thought out the door. Minds (like significant others, children, and everyone else on Planet Earth) tend to be able to relax once they feel heard.
- Let your thoughts flow. Imagine your thoughts as bubbles, floating through your consciousness. Some are bigger than others. Some are super iridescent and shiny. But they all easily pass, creating space for new thoughts that bubble up in response to everything from the weather to your mood to hormones and hunger. Accept them as they pass, and then let them gently pop.
- Coexist with your mind. (No bumper stickers necessary.) Here’s the deal guys: Your mind is not going anywhere. I mean, how many times have you thought you were losing your mind? Still there, though, no? But, in all seriousness, even with all the meditative practice in the world, you’re still unlikely to be unable to completely quiet your mind. It would still be there producing all its helpful and not-so-helpful thoughts. So accept it. Hear it for what it’s worth. And just learn to peacefully exist with its chatter.
- Hear your feelings out. Have you ever teared up in the middle of a heated argument and then gotten furious with yourself for letting the jerk you were going toe-to-toe with see you cry? Raise your hand if you’re guilty. The thing is, emotions are full of sage advice if we’re only willing to stop judging long enough to hear them out. Feelings can tell us we need to rest. Or that we need to move on to greener pastures. By listening to their (sometimes a little too dramatic) message, we can seek out the things that bring us joy, getting ahead of a downward mental spiral, i.e., controlling your thoughts.
Embrace the power of 90. Did you know that the body responds to triggers before the mind? Here’s why this is cool and important to practicing mind control: When an anxious feeling rises in your body — a wave of nausea, scalding hot cheeks, a chest that feels like it’s wrapped in tight rubber bands — it takes 90 seconds for that surge of chemicals to completely flush through your body.
You also have 90 seconds from when that feeling starts to when your brain latches on to the response and starts firing off thoughts about that feeling. Learn to use this to your advantage! It means that you have this window of time to recognize the feeling for what it is, tell your brain to chillax, and stop the trigger. It also means that if you’re still feeling whatever physiological response after that 90-second mark, you’re retriggering the feeling with your own thoughts. And honestly? That’s just a silly thing to do.
- Smile. Did you know it is impossible to have bad thoughts and feelings when you’re smiling? And it’s okay to fake it till you make it on this one. Force a smile when you don’t want to. Fake a smile when it hurts. It doesn’t even have to be genuine, because here’s the kicker: If you fake a smile for long enough, it somehow morphs into a genuine little slice of sunshine. And the best part? It might just make you laugh too. Double points for that.
Try to incorporate these tips into your daily routine. Like everything that’s truly worth it, it won’t always be easy. But you will find that through awareness, dedication, and practice, you’ll be able to exercise great control over your mind. And, like Buddha said, bring peace to all.