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Be your own champion: 10 tips to control your mind

August 4, 2022 - 15 min read

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What are unwanted thoughts?

How to control your mind

Why is it important to control your mind?

What are the benefits of controlling your mind?

The connection between mind, body, and emotions

Remember: You’re the owner of your mind

You’re settling into bed after a day that never seemed like it would end. Your body is tired, and your pillows are calling you. But as soon as you settle in, your brain goes wild. These thoughts came out of nowhere, and you don’t know what to do about them. Suddenly you’re stressed out and it feels like you’ll never sleep

We often have so many thoughts a day that it’s hard to feel like we’re in complete control. Sometimes, it feels like they overrun your brain. 

That’s when you know that you need to learn how to control your mind. You can learn how to swap those unwanted, negative thoughts for more positive thinking. It won’t happen with the snap of your fingers, but with sustained effort, you’ll be able to focus your thoughts on more productive, positive things.

Let’s dive into why it’s important to control your thoughts and how connected our thoughts are to the rest of our bodies.

What are unwanted thoughts?

We know that positive thinking and optimism can actually improve our health and physical well-being. But unwanted thoughts can fill us with negative emotions and make us feel defeated. They take us away from the present moment by having us dwell on the past or feel anxious about the future. With unwanted thoughts, we may struggle with negative self-talk as we feel less confident, have more self-doubt, and have poor self-esteem. 

Sometimes these negative thoughts can seem automatic. Perhaps something reminded you of a friend you lost or missed out on an opportunity. At that moment, your unwanted thoughts could sabotage what you were doing or prevent you from trying something new.

And it might be worse if you struggle with your mental health. Research has shown that depression creates more negative thoughts that make it harder to control your own mind.

If we don’t put in the effort to take back control of our thoughts, our unwanted thoughts can negatively impact our overall well-being. You’re far from alone if you think you’re the only one struggling with unwanted thoughts. At BetterUp, our coaches offer support and guidance as you work toward building healthy well-being.

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How to control your mind

Learning how to gain control of your mind away from unwanted thoughts isn’t easy. It takes hard work and plenty of focus. Some days, your unwanted thoughts might take a toll on you. But what’s important is that you avoid the thought of, “Can you control your mind?” because you certainly can.

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Here are 14 tips to help you learn how to control your mind:

  1. Practice mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises
  2. Include positive affirmations in your self-talk rather than put-downs
  3. Take a pause during your day to slow your mind down
  4. Avoid things that trigger negative thoughts, like scrolling through social media
  5. Ask self-evaluating questions if you’re confused or unsure how to think
  6. Develop better self-awareness to identify patterns that cause your unwanted thoughts, like rumination or a bad attitude
  7. Work on challenging your inner critic and changing your perspective on situations to be more positive
  8. Make sure you rest your mind properly after exercising or on a stressful day
  9. Journal down your thoughts to let them out and express your feelings
  10. Talk with a therapist, life coach, or a trusted friend and loved one for support
  11. Learn that it’s OK to acknowledge your thoughts, but let go of the ones that don’t serve your purpose
  12. Stop listening to negative, pessimistic people and the advice they give you
  13. Practice positive visualization when you become overwhelmed with unwanted thoughts
  14. Distract yourself — whether that’s calling a friend, watching a show, or going for a walk

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Why is it important to control your mind?

Having control over our minds helps us achieve our short-term and long-term goals. It helps us get through our days professionally and personally with a clear, confident, growth mindset. It’s hard to achieve our goals when our minds are under attack — especially when the attack comes from within ourselves. 

These attacks can distract us, make us doubt ourselves, and derail our progress. But what you pay attention to affects your life. If you can learn to dismiss your negative thoughts, you’ll have an easier time keeping a positive mindset.

Try to keep your attention on avoiding negative thinking. With a more focused mindset that isn’t weighed down by unwanted thoughts, we can reach what we set out to achieve.

Sometimes we have to control our minds against thoughts that seem positive but can actually lead us to something negative or upsetting. Being realistic about our environments and having healthy optimism is important. Being too positive, to the point where it’s toxic, isn’t good for our minds either.

Recognizing and controlling that is just as important as managing our unwanted thoughts.

What are the benefits of controlling your mind?

Being in control of your thoughts brings you many different benefits that touch every aspect of your life. Our human brain works hard, both professionally and personally, so the benefits of controlling your mind stretch far and wide.

Being able to healthily regulate our emotions helps us control our actions. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines self-control as “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” 

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We feel all sorts of emotions every day, and it’s important to express them. But learning how to let go of control is also important. And it’ll help us let go of those distracting or unwanted thoughts. 

Here are eight benefits you can experience from controlling your mind:

  1. You know how to set boundaries in your relationships because you know what you want and need
  2. Your thoughts are more purposeful and meaningful 
  3. You can develop healthier well-being in life
  4. You can overcome any challenges you face in a constructive, effective way
  5. You have more insight when it comes to making decisions 
  6. You have a greater sense of self-awareness 
  7. You sleep better at night because your mind is calm
  8. You’re mindful of your thoughts, both positive and negative

We can experience being mindful and in control in tons of situations. At work, having a good sense of time management doesn’t simply happen because we use our calendars well. It happens because we’re mindful of our energy levels, thoughts, and feelings toward tasks. Letting go of this control also helps us recover from the stress of burnout at work. We can’t do everything, no matter how hard we try. 

Mindfulness can be helpful when we learn how to control our minds if we have anxiety or high-stress levels. Mindful practices help us manage our stress and reduce it. Research has even found that mindfulness meditation and deep breathing helps people overcome anxiety. Focusing on our minds allows us to be more intentional with our actions and behavior.

The connection between mind, body, and emotions

We’ve talked a lot about our thoughts, but we can’t forget that we need to be aware of our body state and feelings to control our minds. Since our mind, body, and emotions are all connected, we have to think about our Whole Person.

A Whole Person approach to living means that it’s all about you. You’re in the driver’s seat detailing what emotions you feel, how your body is doing, and what’s going on in your mind. And each part is just as important as the next. You can’t disregard how your physical body feels when you’re trying to learn how to control your subconscious mind and vice versa. Striving for a balance between our mind, body, and soul will help us achieve a healthy overall well-being. 

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And our personal and professional lives can’t be seen as opposite beings. If we have a healthy personal life but our career is taking a toll on us, our overall well-being suffers. Succeeding in our careers also requires that we’re sleeping at night, eating balanced meals, and fostering social connections.

You can’t change your life if you’re neglecting one area because it seems unimportant. You’re a Whole Person, and you need to take care of your Whole Self.

Remember: You’re the owner of your mind

As the Whole Person approach describes, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re in control. Nobody else will best tell you what thoughts you should or shouldn’t be thinking, so it’s up to you to put in the work. Sometimes it can be daunting to challenge your unwanted thoughts and do the necessary hard work to banish them. But being brave and dealing with the negative thoughts now will make room for healthier, more positive thinking in the future.

You decide what thoughts come into your mind and how you interact with them. In the future, ask yourself: Will you let your mind control you, or will you work toward learning how to control your mind?

Everyone deserves to feel like they own their minds. BetterUp can provides the support you need so that you can get rid of your unwanted thoughts and replace them with thoughts that help your well-being thrive.

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Published August 4, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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