Over-thinking: You are Not Your Thoughts

Experts estimate that we have anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day. And sometimes it feels like all 80,000 of those thoughts come at the same time and at the worst time…in the middle of the night or right before a big meeting. How do you quiet your thoughts? First you have to understand that you are not your thoughts.

Literally thousands of thoughts pop in to your mind on any given day. Some you are immediately able to dismiss. Some you hold on to and give more attention, energy and expansion. The important thing to recognize in this pattern is that you are in control of your thoughts. You are making the decisions about which thoughts to disregard and which thoughts to engage. It happens in the tiniest fraction of time, but you are deciding where you put your attention. This is a critical concept to understand in order to become more mindful and increase your ability to steer your own ship.

A helpful tool to increase your awareness is to become the watcher of your thoughts. You can become the “observer of your thoughts” rather than “identify as your thoughts.” If you notice and differentiate that you are having a sad, angry or pessimistic thought, then you can recognize your thought holds the emotional energy, not you. If you allow for this observational distance from your thoughts, you will recognize that you can change where you put your mind’s energy. You can choose to stay with the sad, angry or pessimistic thought, or you can create a thought that evokes peace, optimism or relief.

To become the witness of your thoughts is like sitting on a train and watching the scenery go past you. You allow the thoughts, like the scenery to scroll by you, until you witness something you want to engage. You do not have to attach yourself to every thought you have.

This awareness also allows us to release ourselves from the judgement for our supposed “bad” thoughts. Meaning, we no longer have to feel guilty or hate ourselves for having a thought that we have deemed less than desirable. If we don’t attach to the negative, harsh or hateful thoughts, then those thoughts won’t impact the way we are feeling about ourselves.

The attached video is for children explaining the concept of separating from our thoughts, but I think it is also great for adults to watch. Often we aren’t taught these concepts when we are young and we carry the burden of over-identification with our thoughts most of our lives. When you can free yourself from this pattern of identification, you will be able to have more control over your thoughts and over your life.