“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
From the moment we wake till the time we fall asleep, our minds are constantly churning through thoughts. Most of these are everyday thoughts to get through the day such as what to have for breakfast or what clothes to wear. Some are more life-changing such as who to ask out, or what career options to pursue. But many of our thoughts go completely unnoticed, just buzzing in the background. Maybe we’re annoyed by a snarky comment from our partner earlier in the day. Maybe we’re worried about something we overheard on the news.
The thoughts we entertain are a key part of the process of creating the life we want. Our thoughts create our emotions around the events and people in our lives. They are the impetus to action, and better actions lead to better results. And the reverse is true. When we make judgments and focus on negative thoughts, we create negative emotions, which lead to negative actions.
To gain some control over our thinking, we need to be aware of our thinking. Meditation is about being aware of the thoughts floating through your mind. Some people think that meditation is about clearing your mind, and while that is one form of meditation, the main purpose of meditation is slowing down enough to be aware of your thoughts. When we can see our thoughts, we can look at them objectively and dispassionately. We can ask ourselves, “How is focusing on this thought helping me a be a better person?”
Don’t have time to sit and think? You can do a simple meditation any time of the day. The next time waiting in line at Starbucks, rather than grabbing your phone, take a moment and just notice your thoughts. You might be surprised at what you notice.
If you’re more of a visual person, taking a moment to write your thoughts in a notebook is another way to be more aware of your thinking.
When you do begin to notice your thinking, be careful not to judge yourself when you do think negatively. Just notice that it’s a thought you are having and that you have the option of what you want to do with it. You can just decide if that thought is one that serves you or doesn’t. But remember, it’s only a thought.
How would using your ability to observe and notice what thoughts you are thinking, change your life? What kind of thought patterns could you change that aren’t serving you? When we slow down and take that time, we can see if our thoughts benefit us, or if they are a hindrance. With more conscious awareness, we can make active choices, rather than simply letting our minds run amok.