One of the main causes of stress in the modern world is that we can’t switch off our minds. We spend all day doing tasks that we are not fully engaged with because our minds are elsewhere- on our shopping list, plans for tomorrow or worrying about something that happened yesterday, last week, last month or even years ago. Our thoughts are in control of us, we are not in control of our thoughts.
And for some people this can even go to the next level: over-thinking. This happens when we make judgements or assumptions about a situation and imagine a whole back story for which we have no evidence, but we start to believe it. I even know someone who often tells me how I was feeling or thinking about a situation when I was doing nothing of the sort! This happens when we begin to believe that our thoughts are real, when of course they may not be.
For instance, suppose that in an airport lounge there is an older man sitting next to a younger woman. Someone looking on may think ‘she must be his daughter’ another ‘she must be his secretary’ and yet another ‘she must be his girlfriend’. Of course none of the observers actually knows the truth, the couple may not even know each other! The over-thinker will dream up a whole story: ‘that young woman must be interested in him because he is wealthy, because she is young and pretty and wouldn’t be interested in him otherwise’.
One of the most dangerous aspects of making judgements, assumptions and over-thinking is that we even do it about ourselves- we say or think things about ourselves that are simply not true, but we believe them.
Practising mindfulness is all about non-attachment to the random thoughts we have each day, about observing those thoughts and not engaging with them, but rather focussing on the thing that you are doing at the present moment and being fully aware of what is going on around you. If you practise this for short time periods at first you will find it becomes easier to cope with stressful thoughts.
If you would like to find out more about how you can do this, I have a new introductory meditation/mindfulness course starting 30 April which can be delivered online as well as at my office in person. Find out more HERE