3/26/2009

Taking back control of your mind part II

Our minds have the power to cause great distress in our lives if we allow it. I'm often caught off guard by how quickly I can become emotional over a small issue simply because I was led by a series of uncontrolled thoughts. One of the reasons why we so quickly believe what the mind dictates is because it sounds just like us. Because the mind speaks to us in our own voice, we come to believe that the mind is actually us.

I finally realized my mind was not me when I actually analyzed what was happening. For instance, I would find myself becoming overly emotional, or depressed, frustrated, or whatever because of the constant flowing of negative thoughts. Then I realized that I didn't want to experience those feelings. I felt like I had no control over my reactions to situations even though I desperately wanted to master my emotions. That's when I realized that the simple desire of wanting to change the patterns proved as confirmation that the voice did not represent me. The voice was lying to me.

At that point, I decided that I had to be on my guard at all times. The voice was constantly working in the background so I had to constantly remain vigilant. The key to taking back control of your mind is conscious awareness of your thoughts. Knowing that the mind is constantly interpreting your actions and the actions of those around you will serve as a starting point.

Never let your guard down. This new habit of monitoring your thoughts has to become a permanent part of life. I'll share with you one method I learned from a book called Mindfulness written by Ellen J Langer. The book takes a scientific approach to remaining mindful by detailing the results of a series experiments on the results of living a mindless life as opposed to living in a state of mindfulness. One of the most memorable parts of the book, for me, was when she described three control groups. The first group was deemed the least mindful and went on about their daily routines as they normally would. The second group was described as more mindful because they would be aware of what they did and kept record of their actions. The third and most mindful group of people were asked to do something extraordinary. For example, instead of going to the pantry and grabbing a bag of chips. The group was asked to consciously think of three other options before grabbing the chips and making a conscious decision based on the three options. Those groups of individuals, after the experiment, were described as more confident, in-control, and happier then the other two groups of people.

Mindfulness is about not allowing yourself to operate in a perpetual autopilot. Its about making the decision about what you will do, say, eat, experience without defaulting to the choice your mind makes for you. When your mind makes the choice, it does so without thinking about what truly is the most value-added benefit. Your mind makes choices based on old, out-dated, information.

Decide today what will benefit you most. Would you rather continue down this path of mindlessness or would you rather create new experiences and new realities for yourself by operating in the moment. The choice is yours.

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