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How to control your thoughts

One realisation I’ve come to after reading countless self-development books and listening to podcasts – possibly the most important realisation – is that our thoughts control our lives.

“It’s just a thought, how bad can it be?”

Do not be fooled. Your thoughts aren’t just fleeting things that come and go – they can and are making a real impact on how your life is panning out.

Your thoughts control your feelings. Your feelings create your state of mind. Your state of mind determines how productive you are throughout the day – how you respond to things and the decisions you make. Your responses, your work, your decisions create your day. Over time your days create your life.

Do you see how your life can be a direct result of your thoughts?

If you do not become aware of your thoughts and take hold of them, you’ll be at their mercy.

Personally, I’ve always struggled with emotions and I know that they impact how I feel throughout the day and how much work I get done i.e. whether I have a good or a bad day.

I couldn’t understand why sometimes I wake up feeling down and yet some days I wake up feeling upbeat.

But I now understand that you don’t wake up sad. It’s a process. It’s a result of all the thoughts you’ve been having the previous day or the previous week.

I have realised that if I want certain results, if I want every day to be productive, I need to gain control of my thoughts or atleast be aware of them and take measures.

If you want to change your life too, your thoughts should be the place to start.

So how should we control our thoughts?

Controlling our thoughts is one of the hardest things to do, infact it might be impossible. If only there was an on and off switch, it would be so much easier.

What we can do is be aware of them and learn how to manage them so that we can reduce their negative impact on our lives.


  1. Meditate and understand what thoughts are bothering you

For me, the one thing that always helps with managing my thoughts is meditation.

Make time everyday, atleast for 10-20 minutes to meditate and take stock of your life.

Don’t wait to feel a certain emotion before you decide that you need to meditate ( I know it’s easier said than done).

Imagine if you meditated everyday, you’d be on top of any negative emotions or feelings you have. You’d find a solution or understand and accept the situation before it gets worse.

You’d know if something is impacting you negatively.

When you meditate, do not force your negative thoughts and feelings to go away.

Start by breathing and clearing your mind. Then let those thoughts in.

What negative thoughts do you have? What are you feeling so bad about? What is bothering you?

Understand the situation.

Feel the emotion.

Let it pass.

Once you’ve accepted the thought, then you’ll create space for the mind to think of solutions and how to move forward.


2. Think positive

I read that having just one negative thought can counter four positive thoughts that you have.

Yet, we inherently have more negative thoughts than we have positive thoughts.

Can you see how we naturally end up feeling low even when we don’t want to?

We are humans and we evolved in a way to recognise trouble when we come across it – and to flee or fight. This served us when we were cave people and needed to survive.

However, this impacts us negatively in today’s world. Anything that the mind perceives as a threat – whether it is public speaking, or going to a date or even trying a new hobby – your mind will flood with negative thoughts like I’m afraid, why am I doing this, do I need to do this, I’m not good enough etc

Hence, we need to make it a habit to think positive. This will take work.

You may practise positive thinking for a day and forget about it and go back to thinking negatively.

Stick a large note on your wall which says “THINK POSITIVE” which you can see daily for a constant reminder.

Once you practise positive thinking for an extended period of time, it will become easier and your life will change.

It will also reduce the impact of negative thoughts that you have.


3. Find the silver lining in your negative thoughts

I am a firm believer of everything happens for a reason.

When I look back at all the things that went wrong in my life, yes at the time it sucked, but now I realise it happened for a reason.

Things don’t always work out the way you want them to and there’s always a reason for it.

Trying to find a positive spin on something negative will put you in a more resourceful state and help you move on in life.

Heck, it might actually put you on course to do or discover something better.

You might be stuck in an unhealthy relationship and not be willing to let go. But maybe it doesn’t work out and you end up realising that you didn’t deserve to be treated that way in the first place.


4. Be your own best friend

Have you noticed that we are so hard on ourselves?

We put ourselves down, say horrible things to ourselves, think we are not good enough etc.

If your best friend came up to you and told you he/she went through a rough situation, what would you say to them? Would you tell them that they are worthless, not good enough, need to work better next time? Or would you tell them that shit happens, it wasn’t their fault, they deserve better?

You’d tell your best friend the latter, right? So why is it then that when we go through something bad, we put ourselves down instead of lifting ourselves up?

Get into the habit of being your own best friend.

When something impacts you negatively, talk to yourself as someone else, someone who cares about you and wants the best for you. Talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend.

Believe me, you’ll be more loving to yourself and even more logical.

Love yourself more, be kind to yourself. There are enough people out there being unkind to us, you don’t need to add another one.

What really helps me is looking into the mirror and affirming something that will make me feel better. It may sound strange but I feel it has a great impact because it feels as though someone else who cares about me is talking to me.


5. Find a way to distract yourself

Often times, we get so caught up in our negative thoughts and blow them out of proportion.

Doing something fun that will help get your mind off things such as listening to music, going out for a walk, meeting up with friends, or an activity you enjoy, may put the negative thoughts on hold.

It may give the mind some time to reset and rethink things through bringing you to the conclusion that it wasn’t as bad as you made it out to be. Perhaps you may even come up with a solution in the meantime.


6. Take care of yourself

If you are constantly working, stressing, losing sleep, not taking care of your mind and body, you’ll put yourself in a situation whereby you have many negative thoughts.

Taking care of yourself, going to the gym, exercising, eating well, getting sleep, meeting up with friends and family, doing the things you enjoy, will ensure your mind and body are in a good state.

This will either reduce the impact of negative thoughts or you might not get them at all. You will be in a better position to deal with events before they get troublesome.


7. Take a moment before reacting

Most times, we make our own situations worse. People do things that can really piss us off. And you keep thinking, what is wrong with them and how can they say or do such things?

We get emotional and REACT instead of responding.

Supposing you took 2 or 3 minutes to calm down when someone does something annoying, and THEN responded to that text or email? Don’t you think your response might be more professional or logical?

Yes, people are unfair. But if you want your life to be less stressful and you don’t want to waste emotional or mental energy on negative thoughts, don’t make situations worse than they are. Just stop and reduce the damage.

If there’s no way to fix the damage, just eliminate the situation e.g. if someone says something mean, just don’t respond to them.


8. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts

We all need to learn to live in the present moment. I think you must know this, I know it, but it’s easier said than done.

However, living in the present moment will enable us to be happier. We will appreciate the beauty around us, we will stop worrying about the past and present, we will make better decisions based on the now and we will be in a calm, resourceful state.

Living in the present moment also enables us to be aware of our thoughts.

This way, they don’t control us. We control them.

How do we control our thoughts?

We reason with them.

Talk to your thought as though it’s a person. Try to understand what it is trying to tell you. Listen. Then reason with it. You could say, “yes, I understand what you are trying to say, and you might be right. However, in order to fix this, we now need to do …”.

Do you see what I just did there? Your thought wants to be listened to. The more you try to ignore it and say go away, the more it will bother you. (Just like people).

So give it the stage that it wants and listen to what it has to say and then figure out how to move forward.

Basically, communicate with your thought.


9. Journal your thoughts or talk to a friend

I read somewhere that spending atleast 20 minutes writing about your thoughts or anything that’s troubling you can make you feel better.

Write, write, write it down. Take as long as you need. Then tear it up and throw it away so you don’t go back to reading about all the things that are making you feel horrible.

Similarly, you could talk to a friend whom you trust. Sharing something that’s troubling you can help you feel better but your friend could also share a helpful piece of advice. (Please don’t tear your friend up and throw them away afterwards 😛 )


10. Deal with your thoughts

Your thoughts are a feedback mechanism.

If you get negative thoughts, it means that something is not right in your life.

This could be something that you can control or something that you can’t control.

If it’s something you can control, understand the situation, think about how to deal with it, once you fix it, you’ll no longer need to worry about negative thoughts.

If it’s something you can’t control, you need to practise acceptance. We do the best we can, but if it’s out of your control, then you tried your best, and it wasn’t meant to be.


Hope the above methods help you deal with your negative thoughts and manage them better.

It’s difficult to manage your thoughts but with practice, it does get better. It’s ok if you aren’t completely able to control your thoughts – I still struggle. The best we can do is lower the impact our negative thoughts have on us.

I wish you a lovely day ahead 🙂


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