Are there decisions that you made in the past that come back to haunt you? Do you make choices at times that make you wonder what you were thinking?
The brain might provide us with several amazing benefits, but it is not perfect. There are times when people can be predictably irrational. Each person has situations where they have a history of acting in this way, so it is possible to recognize these triggers and adapt to them.
Dan Ariely, who is a behavior economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, describes an action-based approach to dealing with the irrational mind. “[S]ince we are all realizing that we’re not saving enough for retirement, maybe it is time to take action and force ourselves to behave better,” he told Scientific American in 2008.
“One way to do this is by having money automatically transferred from our checking account into a retirement savings account at the beginning of each month – essentially taking the decision outside of our consideration so that we don’t even give ourselves the opportunity to think about spending money that we know we should save.”
Being proactive is an effective method to use when fighting the irrational mind. Another option that you can choose is mindfulness.
How Mindfulness Reshapes Thought Patterns
Actions can help specific triggers that engage the irrational mind. Mindfulness provides help because it can reshape the negative thought patterns that can get you stuck in a problematic routine.
The average person spends most of their life thinking or being lost in thought.
You can have up to 50,000 thoughts in a single day, with 90% of them being repetitive.
When you have the same thought multiple times, then it can begin to feel like it is true. We believe the stories that associate themselves with these ideas, causing reductions in confidence and self-esteem. Mindfulness can help to restore the balance between the positive and the negative.
Mindfulness helps you to disconnect from the string of negative thoughts that will try to rev up the irrational mind. When you can observe your thinking patterns with compassion, then you can see the bigger picture instead of being caught in what feels like an unbreakable prison of anxiety.
Being anxious means that you are more than nervous. It is a different type of anxiety that you feel before a big game or a public speaking engagement. The irrational mind does more than create butterflies in your stomach. It will appraise social interactions, interpret events, and think in catastrophic ways.
Anxiety puts you into a position where the worst-case scenario is always a reality.
Even though these thought patterns may have genetic and behavioral components to them, your effort to embrace mindfulness can help them to start fading away.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation are often discussed together, but they are two different practices.
Meditation asks you to have a soft focus on a specific concept, like your breathing or the flame of a candle. Mindfulness asks you to examine every moment in life so that you can see the finest details begin to appear.
The essence of mindfulness is that you are seeking to find the perfect that exists in every moment that passes by.
Before you begin to doubt yourself when trying to practice mindfulness to quiet the irrational mind, you will want to remember that no one is 100% perfect.
Your mind will wander. The judgmental parts of your brain will try to take over these efforts.
Your job is to return your attention to the present moment every time your mind starts to go in a different direction.
Here are some steps that you can use to start practicing mindfulness today.
1. Find a comfortable position.
Look for a place to sit that feels quiet and calm. If you are not comfortable being in a seated position, you can lie down or stand up as long as the environment supports your efforts.
2. Set a time limit for yourself.
The first days of practicing mindfulness are the most challenging. If you can only work at calming the irrational mind for 5-10 minutes each day, then do it. Over the next three months, try to push that number to 20 minutes each day.
3. Take notice of your body.
You will want to be in a position that is stable and comfortable. If there are parts of your body that feel uncomfortable, then make adjustments until that discomfort goes away. The goal is to stay in this spot for the entire time you practice mindfulness.
4. Focus on your breathing.
Begin your mindfulness session be following the sensation of each breath. How does it feel in your chest when you draw air into your lungs? What happens to your body when you exhale? Try to keep your focus on these moments.
5. If your mind starts to wander, then return to your breathing.
Your brain is going to rebel from this effort at mindfulness. It might be a few minutes, but some people experience this issue after a few seconds. When you notice it happening, then return your attention to your breathing.
6. Don’t judge yourself harshly.
The same thinking patterns that engage the irrational mind can make you feel like a failure if your brain starts wandering. Try to avoid judging yourself when it happens. You don’t need to obsess over the content of each thought. Just be willing to come back to the present.
Mindfulness cannot stop the irrational mind from appearing, but it could limit the consequences of spontaneous decisions or impulse actions that could be damaging. Try to work some time into your routine for this practice every day so that you can start enjoying the perfect moments that want to come your way.