Do you sometimes find yourself being plagued by fearful or negative thoughts? Once they start, they take away your mental peace and make it hard for you to concentrate on what you are doing.
Unlike an annoying radio talk show that you can switch off and walk away from, you can’t walk away from your thoughts because they come from your own mind. And so, you carry along this unwelcome chatter wherever you go.
The mind has a tendency to think the worst
The mind is a continuous flow of thoughts. Like a river, it has a tendency to flow downwards. When faced with a situation where the facts are unknown or unclear, it has a tendency to think the worst. It immediately jumps to wrong conclusions and starts to generate fearful or negative thoughts.
Staying cheerful and optimistic doesn’t come easy and takes special effort. Here are four tips for a more positive mind.
Tip #1: Stop the train of negative thoughts as soon as they start
Thoughts don’t come gushing out all at once. They begin as one single thought – a passing fearful thought, a fleeting past memory, an exciting idea for the future or an impulsive reaction to an experience.
As we repeatedly play back the single thought, and add more thoughts to it, they rapidly escalate. Then, they appear very big, hard to give up, or even insurmountable.
Someone once asked Swam Tejomayananda, an enlightened master, how to control his anger. He cheerily replied: “Don’t become angry!” Naturally the questioner wasn’t happy with the overly simple answer. He wanted actual techniques on how to manage anger. Seeing the frown on his face, the Swami kindly explained: ”If you fell off a bicycle while riding it, it wouldn’t just happen without warning. Prior to the fall, the bicycle would become wobbly and you would find yourself quickly losing your balance. In the same way, when you find the anger rising and you begin to lose your cool, slow down and correct yourself. Then, you won’t become angry.”
If we can be alert and mindful of the thoughts in our own minds, we can catch the thoughts when they start. Then, we can choose whether to hold them, grow them or discard them. Read Minding the mind
Tip #2: Stop believing everything you think
One of the problems we have is that we believe everything that we think. We are usually careful to verify facts coming from other sources, but seem to believe most everything we think about. We ourselves consider the thoughts as facts, add more thoughts, and then get carried away by them.
Vedanta explains that we are the Consciousness that is aware of the thoughts. Thoughts rise, exist and die away in the presence of Consciousness.
Here’s a simple way to think about Consciousness: If Consciousness were the ocean, the thoughts would be the waves. Can the ocean ever be overwhelmed by the waves that it alone sustains?
Thoughts are flimsy nothings and only appear real because we ourselves make them so.
Tip #3: Repeat an affirmation or mantra
Positive thoughts and ideals always overcome negative ones. Once we are able to watch our thoughts and stop taking them as real, we can snuff them out or decrease their intensity by repeating an affirmation or a mantra. *
*Here are some examples of affirmations you could use:
- I am always safe and protected.
- Divine guidance now leads me to make the highest and best choices.
- I have faith that this is happening for my own higher good.
- I now choose peace.
- I lovingly accept…(name of person or situation)
Mantras from your faith that you love and can relate to, work extremely well. Here are a few:
- Om mani padme hum (Tibetan Buddhist)
- Hail Mary (Catholic)
- Om namah shivaya (Hindu)
- Modeh Ani (Hebrew)
- Allah-hu-Akhbar (Muslim)
Tip #4: Pray
When all else fails, pray.
Sometimes, it feels impossible to come out of the quagmire of our own thoughts. That’s when some divine intervention is called for.
There is a Sanskrit prayer which says: tanme manah shiva sankalpam astu. It means: “May my mind have auspicious thoughts.” We invoke the divine and pray that it helps us to keep only auspicious thoughts in our minds.
That which is auspicious is positive, noble and good. Auspicious thoughts bring peace to the mind. A peaceful mind is a happy mind.
When you sincerely seek out the help of God in this way, you will be pleasantly surprised at how the mood of your mind changes. The thoughts that were bothering you will lose their intensity and you will feel calmer and peaceful.
Cultivating a peaceful mind
Training the mind to be more positive begins with being more aware of our thoughts. Then, we can put a stop to the very first negative thoughts that arise, and substitute them with positive ones.
Cultivating a peaceful, positive mind brings us enduring happiness and helps to bring out our divine spiritual nature.
* You may enjoy reading, How to use affirmations to achieve your goals
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