According to the National Science Foundation, our brains produce as many as 50,000 thoughts per day. Not surprisingly, as many as 95 percent of these thoughts are on a repetitive loop. This means that any negative thoughts we have can mentally bog us down and prevent us from reaching our full potential. But, did you know that we can learn to effectively redirect our negative thoughts to produce a more harmonious frame of mind? Although this seems like common sense, we often get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that we forget how to think—and, more importantly, how to think positively.
The Buddha, one of humanity's greatest spiritual teachers, once said,
“The mind is everything. What you think, you become.”
It’s in our power to direct our thoughts if we learn to incorporate certain practices into our daily lives. Here are some helpful techniques that can help us become more conscious of our thoughts so we can live a more vibrant and happy life. (Learn more in The Roots of Suffering.)
Meditation and Yoga
One of the biggest opportunities we have in our yoga practice is the power to choose our thoughts. Yoga encourages us to practice self-love, acceptance, and growth. The meditative aspects of yoga urge us to take a closer look at what brings us true contentment and pleasure. It does this by teaching us to connect with ourselves on a deeper level. Yoga naturally guides us to think more deeply about things that really matter to us. (Read more in Forget Happy, Be Content Instead.)
When yoga is paired with meditation, it becomes even more effective. By combining both of these practices we can learn to cope with built up stress and negative emotions. Setting aside just 10 minutes a day can have a profound impact on rewiring our brain and thus our thinking. (Learn how in Meditation 101.)
Setting Daily Intentions
Much like meditation, setting daily intentions or affirmations can help us choose the direction of our thoughts. Dedicate some time each morning to try out a few of these positive affirmations to begin your day with.
- I am positive, happy and thankful.
- I am full of life and joy.
- I intend to practice unconditional love.
- I intend to make someone smile today.
Repeating these intentions out loud or internally can help maintain a positive frame of mind throughout the day. We can also use these affirmations if we notice our mind drifting to a more negative or stressful state. If you notice negative self-talk, try replacing it with one of self-acceptance. These affirmations can help steer us back on track with minimal effort.
Journaling can also be an effective way of choosing our thoughts. Writing out a daily affirmation and looking at it periodically throughout the day can help us stay focused. (Learn more in Should I Be Keeping a Yoga Journal?)
Turn Off Negative Thoughts
Accessing positive thinking can be a simple matter of learning to redirect our thoughts and “turning off” negative ones. Becoming aware of our thought process is the first step. After that, we learn to become more skilled in choosing what types of thoughts we allow ouselves to focus on. Like learning a new asana, it takes some practice. The more we practice cultivating positive and uplifting thoughts, the more they gain strength in our mind. This realization is the beginning of a more peaceful, mindful, and grounded self. Releasing any sources of negativity and surrounding ourselves with positive people and activities that make us feel good about ourselves is also essential to maintaining positive thinking. (Read more in Listening to Your Inner Voice.)
At the end of the day, we don’t have to let negative thoughts or experiences define who wer are. We have the power to choose our thoughts and make up our own mind. It’s up to us to to learn to let go of negative thought patterns and to replace them with empowering ones.