We all have mental chatter. It’s often a running commentary on our lives, going on inside our heads. Sometimes it’s a dialogue where a couple of voices argue the rights and wrongs of a situation. Often it would be nice if we could switch off those voices that take us out of the present moment. So what can we do?
There is a simple but effective way of acknowledging the thoughts without allowing them to carry us away into the future or into the past. The first step is to recognise that although thoughts may weigh us down, they don’t actually have a mass. They aren’t real things. One of the common problems people report when trying to meditate is that they can’t clear their minds and switch off their thoughts. However, what if the thoughts occur for a reason? What if they ‘mean well’? What if all we really have to do is acknowledge them.
In psychology despite appearances we aren’t very good at multi-tasking. Our attention is very selective. We can’t process all the information that comes our way, so our attention shifts to the things that have the greatest importance for us or to the things that shout loudest? So what if all of this mental chatter is just a way for our brains to get our attention.
It’s often said that when we face death, our lives flash before us. One theory is that our brains indiscriminately download everything we know, in the hope that the solution is there somewhere. A similar thing happens when we are stressed. Our brains chatter away like small children trying to get attention, often repeating the same things, over and over again.
The technique for dealing with mental chatter in everyday life is simple. It’s the same as dealing with mental chatter when we are trying to meditate. All we have to do is name the thought. Just acknowledge the thought and say ‘Thought about. . . . ‘. Then bring your attention back to the present moment. It is a choice to engage with the thought. Often naming it is enough.
Often when trying to solve a problem, the mind will often keep firing off the same thoughts. If naming the thought doesn’t quieten the mental chatter, simple ask ‘Is there anything new here?’ If there is, make a note of it, if there is not say ‘nothing new, got it covered’ then let it go.
This simple practice, quieten the mind, reduce stress and give you a useful list of possible solutions.
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About the author
Dr Gary Wood is a social psychologist and life coach. He is author of Unlock Your Confidence which is based on his confidence-building workshops. Gary is based in Birmingham and Edinburgh where he runs his own training and coaching practice and research consultancy. He also offers coaching worldwide through Skype. Contact Gary by email to see how his solution focused (life) coaching approach would benefit you or your organization. See: Testimonials from former clients.