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Stop That Thought, I'm Gonna Get Off!

12/09/2014 13:35 BST | Updated 11/11/2014 10:59 GMT

On a recent visit to a shopping mall, I spotted a young man in deep conversation with a property advert poster. His body language and gestures showed frustration, desperation even! - trying to make the poster understand what he said. Agitated, he picked up his bumbag, wrapped it around his waist and walked off, possibly hoping for the poster to plead please don't go. No such luck, he turned back, sat down and began another conversation with the poster. Whatever was going on in his mind, it was clear to onlookers that something was wrong.

Persistent negative thoughts easily put us under mental stress in the absence of any stressors. Once started, thoughts continue and proliferate. One thing leads to another - a train of thoughts that runs beyond a sense of time and space. Our mind is busy. When there is nothing to think about, anything in sight can become our object of focus, even a dirty little dot on the floor! More thoughts follow. Often, we jazz up our thoughts till things seem a lot worse than they are - from thinking my bum is too big.... to turning a loved one into a beast, following an upsetting row.

Worse, we believe in our thoughts - that they are right, best and better than others'. We defend our thoughts feverishly and sometimes aggressively when challenged. With our thoughts, we proceed to write our script for others to follow: Mama knows best, you kids had better listen!; my wife should stop buying more handbags!; my hubby should pay more attention! Others are supposed to read our thoughts, know their assigned scripts, and play their parts accordingly. Or else neither we nor they will be happy! Sadly, others are oblivious to mind-reading and clueless in following our scripts!

Burning thoughts need an outlet to cool down. Time to tweet, dial a friend, post on social media and let out our woes! Or indeed, broadcast our delights! Tragedy can befall those who can no longer live with their prolonged stressful thoughts. For, in wanting to get those thoughts out of their mind, they end up thinking about them all the time - without realising.

Instead of turning thoughts into your worst enemy, look at them. Watch them from beginning to end without adding further thoughts. Notice their patterns. Realise that you are thinking and the line of thoughts will come to a halt or change track. When you are familiar with your thought pattern, the mind loses interest in what's bothering you. It looks for something else to ponder on. The problem is: we are not aware of our thoughts. Or, we enjoy thinking them, especially the angry, miserable ones! But it is that satisfaction in the moment that depletes us afterwards!

To get off your train of thought in time, try mindfulness meditation. You will find that what originally triggered the negative thoughts and feelings could have been something simple and irrelevant. Nonsense even! Hearing your hubby calling a French window a door triggers the lingual perfectionist in you and urges you to correct him resulting in you both getting annoyed with each other. An argument has started because of ONE word! Being mindful, you realise that your irritability comes from disliking what you heard which, in reality, is just a sound entering your ears! Why get uptight about it? After all, the same French window can be called many different things in other cultures, so who cares?

Thoughts come and go just as the weather keeps on changing - hot to cold, sunshiny to dark, cumulonimbus to blue skies. Whatever the weather, it will soon pass. So do your thoughts and emotions! That's the way they are. No need to get rid of them. Simply watch them like watching the changing of the weather. The rain may come back again and again but if you are mindful of your recurring thoughts, it's like having a shelter to keep you from getting wet every time.

Finally, thoughts are not YOU! No need to get attached to them. Even your best thoughts can sometimes backfire and turn into your worst nightmares! Be mindful! See thoughts for what they actually are. After all, you don't want to be shouting at posters in the shopping mall anytime soon!