How to deal with incessant and unhelpful thoughts
I have talked about Mo Gawdat a number of times before as I find his take on how our brains can work helpfully and unhelpfully fascinating so I couldn’t resist including his thinking in the November newsletter at a time when we are facing further restrictions.
I think therefore I am
The brain is the only organ of the body that we associate as being equal to who we are and what we are. He reminds us that this is not the case – it is simply a tool that we can choose to listen to or not depending on the messages.
It’s possible that most people believe that the brain has only one type of thought. Mo outlines three kinds of thinking that goes on in the human brain…
Round and round
Incessant thinking – this is where our brains repeatedly call out that something is wrong. One of the primary functions of our brain is to identify potential threats in order to get us to take action to avoid danger. However when the threat isn’t physical, incessant repetition of a worry or fear about an external factor, or even worse, about ourselves and who we are, causes large amounts of stress and anxiety as the brain replays the negative self talk over and over again.
Insightful thinking – this is where our brains search for solutions to a problem. It allows to imagine possibilities and apply existing concepts in new ways to allow us creativity in overcoming barriers.
Experiential thinking – this is where our brains observe the world actually as it is and use our experiences and knowledge to come to logical and rational conclusions as to what might happen next and what steps we might take to move forward.
It is incessant thinking that can lead to stress, anxiety and unhappiness and need to be controlled and managed. Insightful and experiential thinking are much more useful to us and should be nurtured and developed.
Observe your mind
As with most things, the first step is to start becoming aware of which category your thoughts are generally falling into, especially in response to certain triggers. Then you can start to reflect on whether they are helping you or not and you can take steps from there to manage your brain and it’s thinking behaviour more proactively and more positively.
Feel the answer
It is also worth reflecting on whether you are overly dependent on thinking to deal with problems and challenges. Thought and the brain as a tool often have a disproportionate amount of importance placed on them and it’s important to remember that we have other emotions and tools available to us as human beings that may serve us more effectively if we can take a more balanced approach.