How to Reduce The Power of Thoughts With Mindfulness

There’s one simple way to reduce the power of thoughts, and that is to simply notice them. The more you watch, the more thoughts seem laughable and irrelevant (most of the time anyway) instead of powerful and important. Here are some things you may notice as you start to notice those thoughts:

1) All thoughts are about the past or the future:

It’s impossible to think in real time, because thinking is a process of analysis. You can’t analyse something until after it has happened, so of course the thinking mind is always out of sync with life.

2) Most thoughts are either memories or desires:

Watch your thoughts for an hour or two and notice how many are either old movies rolling again or plans, desires and hopes for the future. As the thinking mind can only exist in memory or desire, it makes sense that the thoughts it produces would follow the same rules.

3) Most thoughts are irrelevant:

At the beginning of their mindfulness journey, most people believe that thinking is helpful, useful and supportive. As they begin to watch thinking as it unfolds, many are surprised to discover that thinking is 99.9% completely useless – irrelevant to the present situation, unhelpful and stressful.

So here’s an experiment for you: watch your thoughts for the next hour and answer me this:

When was most thinking focused – past, future or present?

How many thoughts had some relevance to what is happening now?

4 Responses to How to Reduce The Power of Thoughts With Mindfulness

  1. Janet says May 4, 2013

    I am interested in thoughts associated with eating and weight loss have you any suggestions?

    • Oli says May 5, 2013

      Great question Janet!
      If we look at the pattern of desire (future) and regret (past) it’s easy to see the cycle of struggle and suffering people experience when it comes to weight loss and eating. The mind wants – both to eat and to lose weight – then the mind berates us for eating, leading to regret and guilt (and probably more eating). Whatever the content of the thoughts though, just notice, watch and observe them. As thoughts lose their power, it is easier to make the choices you feel happy with in every area of life.

      Cheers,
      Oli

  2. Kerry says May 6, 2013

    I understand that thoughts of the past do not necessarily hold relevance to what is happening now, but what do you do when they are swirling in your mind and driving you to be sitting at the computer (at 4am) using the internet to try to drive them away. Actually, which can be a good thing – in my case that has driven me to come across this page and for the first time try to interact with others.

  3. Jennifer Mckenzie says May 6, 2013

    What I noticed:
    Pt 1. All of the above applies.
    Pt. 2. Very little, though gave me an answer for
    P 3. Using my split system (heating / cooling) as a metaphor;
    The outside unit is my mind rumbling away, (churning over thoughts).
    The inside unit pushes out the thoughts, responses,
    However, I have control of the remote, I can adjust the responses(temp), or turn off (the thinking mind). By noticing it now.
    My choice, simple
    Jen

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