Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m really glad they can’t read my mind!” Sometimes things just pop into our head that we would be embarrassed (if not completely mortified) to admit.
From a racy dream to excessively negative thoughts about a person or a situation and everything in between, our thoughts can be filled with all sorts of craziness! But the good news is that you are not your thoughts.
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The things that pass through our minds are not a reflection of our personality or being – they’re just thoughts. It’s what you do with those thoughts that make up who you become.
It’s totally possible to improve your mindset by learning how to discard the thoughts you don’t want and keep the ones you do!
What Are Thoughts?
Thoughts come from all different kinds of places. They are a combination of your hopes, dreams, desires, opinions, beliefs, and even your environment.
Science has no real answer to what a thought actually is. What we do know is that thoughts most likely originate in our subconscious mind and that our thoughts can be manipulated – by ourselves or by outside influences. That’s pretty interesting right!?
Scripture tells us this about our thoughts…
“[God’s] thoughts are nothing like your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8).
“[God’s] thoughts are higher than your thoughts.] (Isaiah 55:9).
“No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit…” (1 Corinthians 2:11).
“The Lord knows people’s thoughts; he knows they are worthless” (Psalm 94:11).
It seems to me that our thoughts, much like most everything else about us, are affected by the sin in this world and in our hearts. We know that since the fall of Adam and Eve, sin has wreaked havoc on our world and our lives. Our thoughts are no different. But we don’t have to let our thoughts define us.
Can We Control Our Thoughts?
Of course you can! The question is do you need to? What are your thoughts consumed with?
Do you spend a lot of time worrying? Perhaps you have negative thoughts that breed negativity in your life. Or your thoughts lead you to act in ways you wish you didn’t.
No one is perfect of course. But our thoughts play a big part in how we live out our life, so it’s essential to manage our thoughts in a way that brings out the good and honors God.
It’s not necessarily that your thoughts in and of themselves are bad. It’s that the things we think about come from a deeper place within us.
Matthew 15:19 says, “for from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.”
The truth is, what you think about is what you do. And that’s where the problem comes in. If your thoughts are filled with evil things, you’re far more likely to do evil things.
But when your thoughts are filled with wholesome things, your life will be more wholesome.
Learning To Manage Your Thoughts
Listen, you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts don’t have to define who you are. They are simply a representation of everything within you and your external influences as well.
The good news is that you can choose which thoughts to hold on to and which to let go of. Having a thought (good or bad) doesn’t influence your character. Dwelling on the wrong thoughts, though, can.
So what do you do instead? How do you get rid of any lingering negative or “bad” thoughts?
It’s no secret that what you put in is what you get out. If you’re constantly filling your mind with inappropriate, violent, evil, negative influences, you’re going to find yourself thinking on those things more.
And if you fill your mind with wholesome, positive, uplifting, and encouraging influences, That’s what you will think about.
It really is that simple.
The first, and most important, step is to be mindful of your influences. Pay attention to the shows you watch, the books you read, the people you spend time around, even – especially – your time on social media. All of these things have the potential to either tear you down or build you up.
Meditation is incredibly helpful for learning how to manage your thoughts. When you meditate, you are removing distractions and simply focusing on your breathing. It’s been shown to reduce stress, aid in improving depression, and just generally lifts your mood.
Meditation also helps you to separate yourself from your thoughts. Often people believe they can’t meditate because they can’t turn off their minds. But I would argue that the goal of meditation is not to turn off your mind, but rather to tune in to your mind.
As you focus on your breathing, notice the thoughts that pass through your mind. Notice them as they come and then simply let them go by. As though you’re sitting on a bench watching people as they pass by you.
You don’t have to interact with your thoughts. If a thought comes that you don’t like – let it go.
The more you practice this, the more you’ll be able to let go of any unwanted thoughts or thought patterns in your day to day life. You’ll be able to recognize when a thought comes and either choose to dwell on it or to let it pass.
Another way to increase the amount of positive thoughts you have and decrease unwanted thoughts is to practice daily gratitude.
Make it a habit to spend just five minutes a day physically writing down everything you’re grateful for in your life.
It can be the things you have – your house, you car, a warm bed. Or maybe it’s people in your life – your partner, your kids, parents, friends. Perhaps you’re grateful for an experience or a feeling or even just the opportunity to be alive!
Whatever you’re grateful for, write it down. Every day. The more you do it, the easier it will become. And the more you find to be grateful for, the less you’ll find your thoughts wondering to negative things.
You are not your thoughts. There are many factors that contribute to your thoughts – your environment, your relationships, your upbringing, the songs you heard on the radio…
Many of them you can control, some you can’t. But the things that pass through your mind do not provide evidence of the kind of person you are.
Learning how to separate your thoughts from your being through meditation, mindfulness, and gratitude can help you improve your mindset and change the way you think rather than letting the way you think change you.