You know that voice inside your head? The one that reminds you of something negative at the most inopportune moment? We’ve all got it. Those voices are our minds at work. Over the course of our existence, our minds have developed to keep us safe by solving problems. However, while they strive to keep us safe, they don’t always do so honestly. That’s right: our minds sometimes tell us things that aren’t true or helpful in order to solve problems.

If you’ve ever been reminded of the last shot you missed while standing at the free-throw line, or the last pass you bombed the moment you were throwing the ball, you’ll surely be aware of the effects it can have on your performance. While it might not make sense that these thoughts would “help” us, our minds are trying to remind us of these old actions in hopes that we might not repeat them. (This goes back to those old survival instincts where repeating the same action twice might result in death.) While we can’t stop our minds from their constant input, we can train ourselves to place that input on the back burner when we really need to. Here are 3 tips from psychotherapist Bobbi Emel:

  1. Thank your mind. When that little voice starts telling you that your shirt is so last year, just acknowledge it. Tell your mind that you appreciate that it is looking out for your best interests, but that you’re fine. Soon, you will be able to separate yourself from your thoughts, and see that those thoughts aren’t you.
  2. Become aware that some of the thoughts your mind produces may not be true.  Your hair does look fine. You will make that next shot. Your next time will be better. You’re mind is simply worried that once you reach good enough that you won’t strive to do better. Again, all you need to do us understand that your mind is trying to solve problems. After you do that, just tell yourself that it’s not true and move on.
  3. Label thoughts as stories. Our minds create patterns of thoughts that are like stories. Recognizing that not all of those stories are true is key. Once you do that, you can take a step back from your own thought process and allow yourself to be more objective. Not all stories are true.

At first glance, it may seem a bit difficult to turn down the volume on your own thoughts. The important thing to remember is that like any sport or skill, it takes time to learn, practice and apply. With enough work, you will be able to apply these with ease and focus on what’s really important: the moment you’re in right then and there.

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