Do you experience bouts of obsessive thinking? Everyone has from time to time. On occasion, these obsessive thoughts can be overwhelming causing anxiety. Anxiety is both the trigger and the key to many of these episodes.
We like to think we are rational creatures when in reality almost all of our decisions and behaviors are driven by emotions. Anxiety can be a strong emotion completely clouding our thoughts and leading to irrational behavior. Here are six methods or “hacks” to get you out of the obsessive thinking loop.
· Practice Acceptance – Acceptance of the moment is the foundation of living a life without illusion. We only have the moment. It is all we ever have. Now that moment can be difficult. If you're experiencing unpleasant recurring thoughts the moment ain’t so great, but you have to accept that it is occurring to move to the next step. Without acceptance you will only experience tempory relief.
· Practice Mindfulness – When you practice awareness of what is happening around you and with in you on a moment by moment basis you soon realize that nothing lasts. The thought you just had can vanish like a puff of smoke making way for the next thought, and the next, and so on. When you have disturbing recurring thoughts you must know that eventually they will stop. You will not have this recurring thought for the remainder of your life however long or short that may be. “All thing must pass,” as Goerge Harrison once sang. All things are impermanent. Even if for example the worst happens and you never stop having these thoughts for the remainder of your life. As terrible as that may be that too will stop when you stop. When you cease to exist. So rest assured, everything will cease to be in its current form, including those compulsive thoughts.
· Practice Logic and Reason - Use logic and rational thinking to relieve the pressure of non-rational thought. We are creatures driven primarily by our emotions. To illustrate the point look at the language that is used to describe someone completely driven by logic. Think of Spock from Star Trek. He would be described as ‘cold.’ Cold is a word describing an emotion more than a behavior. Use logic, examine the thoughts. Do they make sense when held to the light of reason? I would suspect most do not.
· Practice reflection of the root cause. What may be causing the anxiety may not be what the thoughts are saying to you. For example, you experience an end of a relationship and you constantly think of this person beyond the normal grieving processes. What may seem like the cause, losing this particular person from your life, may not be the actual cause? It could be related to abandonment issues that may have been with you from childhood for which you have not properly dealt with. When you realize this it will relieve the anxiety and you can see that those thoughts no longer serve you. It is not about them it is about you.
· Practice redirecting your thought. This is an extremely useful tool for more than just conquering anxious repeated thoughts. This is the main tool for deep levels of focus and concentration. Mindfulness plays an important role in this process. We must be aware of our thoughts. We have about 50,000 -60,000 a day. When you experience compulsive thinking it may seem like 50, but it is not. See this and purposefully redirect your thoughts on another topic. Give your mind another job to focus on. This takes a significant amount of practice. Don’t quit until you master this.
· Practice taking action. Action conquers fear and anxiety. Think of a time in your life when you were anxious about performing a particular task. What happens when you actually began to perform the task. The anxiety and fear disappeared. When you experience recurring thoughts do something. Do anything. I read a quote I ‘m not sure from who, but they said, “Get out of your head and get into your life.” What more can I say.
I hope you noticed that all six of the methods described begin with the word practice. Remember life is really a game when you think of it. Most of the things we get so worked up about are just stuff humans have made up at some point. Treat it like a game. How do you get good at games? Practice, Practice, Practice.
Until Next Week,