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3 tips for effective thought hygiene

Pay attention to your thoughts – you are always listening to yourself! In this article, I write about why it’s so important to pay attention to your thoughts and practice conscious thought hygiene.

How much do we actually think?

Quantum physicists and other scientists have proven that each person has about 60,000 thoughts every day. 98% of these thoughts are repetitions of things we have heard, experienced and learned. 2% are new thoughts. The more consciously we deal with our thoughts, the more consciously we can decide what to think and get out of thought loops. If we listen carefully to our thoughts, we can find out why we have these thoughts, where they come from and decide on new thoughts based on this.

Where our thoughts come from

Our thoughts are made up of what we have heard since birth, what other people say, what is repeated, what we are shown by the media, what we have learned to think in school, and many times what our environment thinks.

We are not always aware of many of these thoughts, but they automatically rush through our brains.

“I’m too fat.”

“What an idiot.”

“That’s dangerous.”

You’ve probably caught yourself at least once devaluing yourself – I’m too fat; oh how stupid I am; I can’t do this.

Maybe you’ve automatically judged someone after a one-time encounter – of course she’s talking such nonsense, she’s blonde; men only lie anyway, etc.

Usually these thoughts come suddenly out of nowhere and we don’t take the time to question them, but move on to the next thought. Therefore, they remain in our thought repertoire and return every now and then. Questioning our thoughts from time to time and practicing thought hygiene is therefore an important

Thought hygiene

I therefore think it is important to practice thought hygiene on a regular basis. Because many of these thoughts we have are not our own, they have been taken over from someone else. Others are outdated and no longer valid. Still others do us more harm than good. You can consciously change something!

To do that, I’m going to introduce you to 3 exercises you can do on a regular basis.

  1. Is it true?

Let’s say you keep thinking that no one loves you. If you have this thought often, then you will evaluate situations in terms of this thought. If you call a friend to meet with him, you will hear his “I can’t today” as “I don’t want to meet with you,” perhaps thinking that he is canceling because he doesn’t like you. If a common thought is that you are ugly, then you will certainly find many places on your body that you don’t like, ignoring all the places that are beautiful in your eyes, because they don’t fit this thought.

You can now check for yourself: Is this thought true?

Please take a step away from yourself and look at the situation from the outside. Is it true that nobody loves you? If you take a step away from yourself, you may realize that there are people who do love you – your mother, your best friend from your student days, your girlfriend, etc. The thought is not true. So the thought is not true. It’s there anyway. You can now either get to the bottom of what triggered this thought, or remind yourself that it’s not true and redirect your attention away from the thought.

If you think that you are ugly, then take a step away from this thought and look at yourself neutrally. What do you see when you look in the mirror? Look at yourself in all details and you will see that there is much about you that is beautiful. To put it bluntly: It is not possible that everything about you is ugly. How are your fingers, how is your skin, how is your hair, how are your eyelashes, etc.? You are a great whole.

2. I have the thought that…

Another way to distinguish your thoughts from reality is to use the phrase “I have the thought that…”. When the thought “No one loves me” comes, reframe it as “I have the thought that no one loves me.” If you look at yourself in the mirror and the thought “I am ugly” comes, change it to “I have the thought that I am ugly.” This change makes a big difference because it illustrates in a simple way that it is “just” a thought and not necessarily reality.

Russ Harris describes this exercise in his book, “The happiness trap: stop struggling and start living.”

Dig deeper and uncover

This thought hygiene exercise may take a little longer. So take some time, a pen and paper. Maybe you have a current issue or a general topic you want to get to the bottom of.

I’ll stick with the examples I used before.

“Nobody loves me”

Write down everyone’s thoughts on this topic.

I have few friends. I am no longer in contact with my former best friend. I was always an outsider at school. I like to spend time with people, but have no one to spend it with. I always have to do everything by myself.

“I am ugly”

My thighs are too fat, my belly is bigger than my breasts, my feet look all weird, my ears stick out to the side, my face is okay but not really pretty either.

Really write down everything you keep thinking about the chosen topic. When everything is written down, read through the list and feel into it:

Does this thought (still) feel coherent to me?

Maybe it was true once, but your feelings/ideals have changed in the meantime. For example, it doesn’t matter to you now how someone’s feet look, you have become aware that inner values count a lot and you love the way you are.

Is this my thought?

Do you personally think this way, or have you just heard this thought often enough that you have adopted it? Does this thought make you feel like you belong to a group? Do you really think this way?

In your school days, you had the experience of being excluded and thus developed the thought, “Nobody loves me.” However, your circumstances are now different and you can re-evaluate the current situation. The past has passed and you have come a long way since then. You are cutting yourself off from all inner development if you are stuck with a thought from 15 years ago.

What are my conscious thoughts?

All the thoughts that you have uncovered as outdated, no longer current, not yours, you can say goodbye to and take time to listen inside yourself and find out what you are actually thinking. This is how “I’m ugly” can become “I’m comfortable in my body” or “a new hairstyle makes a big difference.” When the thought that no one loves you is named as past, then the way is clear to see reality and you may find that you have never approached people for fear of rejection, but have withdrawn.

Thoughts are thoughts. They may have arisen for specific reasons, but they don’t have to rule your life. You yourself can practice thought hygiene and do some real spring cleaning.

Maybe your environment is convinced that life is hard and that we live only to work. But you can decide to think differently. Thought hygiene separates the thoughts and attitudes of others from yours. And with positive thoughts come positive emotions.

If you are convinced that life is turned towards you, that life is beautiful and you enjoy going to work, you will be able to feel the beautiful things in life and the fun in work.

If you would like support in recognizing and sorting out thought patterns that hinder you, feel free to make an appointment with me!