mindfulness Self-help tools spiritual Spiritual Growth

How to Calm an Overactive Mind

August 10, 2016

Find out how to calm the mind and create more peace in your life. 

calm the mind 1

Soul Analyse recently went on a quest to find out what struggles our readers were experiencing; we were keen to know if there were any concerns that we could potentially help with…

We were overwhelmed by the sheer feedback we received, most of which was based around hopelessness of the mind. Some people said they felt exhausted from the mind’s constant activity, others described it as being trapped in a prison of thought.

In any case, the general consensus was that people’s minds were ruling their lives and we felt compelled to do something to help.

Along with our own advice, we’ve gleaned opinion from experts in the field of mindfulness and therapy, and have put together what we hope will serve as a useful post to help readers regain control of their lives.

To point out from the onset, it’s not possible to control our thoughts per se but it is possible to lessen the control that the mind has over us. Whether you are aiming for more productivity in your work life, inner peace, or a sense of calm, there is an approach that works.

What are you Thinking?

You may have heard spiritual teachers talking about getting into a state of stillness where thoughts in the mind come to a complete stop but for most of us, it’s a difficult place to find.

I wouldn’t ever suggest trying to stop thinking altogether because in doing so, you’ll likely experience an influx of intrusive thoughts. (As mentioned above, the mind cannot be controlled.) 

There is, however, a method that seems to work exceedingly well for a lot of people, which is – watching your thoughts. The theory behind it is quite simple: when you watch your thoughts, they no longer contain you.

Watching your thoughts will make you aware that there is a difference between your thoughts and yourself – when we are wrapped up in the mind, it can be difficult to know that in actual fact, we are not the thought.

When we become the perception behind the thought, the mind no longer has a hold over us because we step out of the role of being ‘the thinker’ and become ‘the watcher’.

“Try observing the difference between your thoughts and your awareness. One changes; the other is unchanging. Which feels like the real you? Meditation builds the inner strength necessary to live life rooted in the eternal now where love laughs, like a doting parent at a mischievous child, at even the busiest and most serious of thoughts. We are called to, in stillness and silence, learn to stop listening to our selves (thoughts) and be guided by the Great Self (awareness) within. From there, real peace and joy arise,” said Maggie Richards mind-body expert and author of A Guide to Being a Better Being.

Gently Observe

Simply observe whatever it is you are thinking – you might find at first that the mind becomes almost shy as you start to observe, leaving little or no thoughts to watch. This happens for many people and the trick is to catch the thoughts at play.

Anytime you notice yourself becoming absorbed in unwanted thought, begin to observe the thoughts as they happen. Don’t judge them or try to usher them away, simply watch as they come and allow them to leave with no resistance.

If any undesirable thoughts enter your mind, don’t let them drag you out of the observing role – don’t put much energy into them.

Clinical psychotherapist Jerilee Claydon, suggests going that step further and trying to understand the thoughts:

“There is the desire to push thoughts away but if you pay attention, you’ll learn and hear more of what the voice is communicating.

Firstly check in and listen, how old does the voice sound? Then how old do you feel when that voice takes over? Identify with this voice as a part of you and explore what happened to you around that age, and how you may have felt at the time. 

Very often when I’m working with a client I will be able to guess the age based on mannerisms, language and described fears. This is how dominant and real the thoughts can be, impacting how we behave,” Jerilee said.

Make it Habitual

Observing thoughts is a skill that can be learned by anyone and developed overtime, but it requires dedication. The more dedicated you are, the less your thoughts contain you.

I suggest making it an habitual process to watch your thoughts – try to do it at least once a day – until it becomes second nature, which it will in time.

With enough practice, eventually you will naturally shift from ‘the thinker’ to ‘the watcher’. When we switch from being wrapped up in thought, to becoming the perception behind the thought, we are automatically given a sense of freedom.

Remind Yourself That a Thought is Just a Thought

Much of what we tend to think about is irrational and often exaggerated but for the moments we are thinking, the thoughts seem very real. So real, in fact, that we can sometimes work ourselves into a state of anxiety and panic.

Taking thoughts quite literally can be extremely painful; we really do feel the nature of our thoughts, so if your thoughts are negative or traumatic, you will experience the impact of whatever it is you were thinking.

“Sometimes it seems almost impossible to turn off that constant voice inside your head, that inner critic that never seems to let go, and indeed it’s almost as if you can’t turn it off,” said life coach and motivation speaker, Garth Delikan. “You get depressed about things that have happened previously in your life or your mind fast forwards to the future where you imagine all sorts of scary things happening before they’ve even happened.”

“When you go inside and calm down that inner turmoil, you gain the ability for incredible and sometimes life changing insights,” he continued.

The important thing to remember is that a thought is just a thought. No matter how realistic it may seem, it still isn’t real – it’s a thought.

While there may be some basis of truth behind what you are thinking, thoughts don’t exist in the physical world, no matter how real they seem at the time.

When we don’t take thoughts too seriously, they have less impact over us; thoughts cannot contain you if you don’t give them any power.

You might also like to find out how to use the mind to create the life you want

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