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Our brains produce as many as 50,000 thoughts per day—and 95% of these thoughts are repeated the next day, reflecting our mindset and beliefs.
So this means that every day we have 50,000 new chances to build ourselves up or break ourselves down!
Since many of us exercise daily, try all kinds of diets to improve our health, and are willing to guzzle down dark green juice concoctions, we may be totally forgetting about the most important part of our bodies: our minds. Do you think that a ‘mind cleanse’ is a good idea?
If we could cleanse our minds of all of our random, negative, unproductive and even hurtful thoughts, wouldn’t it free up enough mental space to think new thoughts and entertain new possibilities? Too many of us spend sleepless nights choosing to self-loath, or spend our waking hours questioning decisions we’ve already made. We let our minds randomly intrude on our lives with negativity, pain and over-analysis.
Not only does that kind of thinking waste valuable time, but it can actually disable our chances to act on good opportunities in our lives, and even threaten our physical or mental health. Instead of listening to all that fruitless mind chatter every day; studies suggest that we can actually change the way we think—if we put our minds to it.
We all know that the thoughts our minds produce and the conversations we have with ourselves can have profound effects on our lives. The Baha’i teachings ask us to direct our thoughts toward spiritual subjects:
If a man’s thought is constantly aspiring towards heavenly subjects then does he become saintly; if on the other hand his thought does not soar, but is directed downwards to centre itself upon the things of this world, he grows more and more material until he arrives at a state little better than that of a mere animal. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 17-18.
To direct your thoughts toward those spiritual subjects, here are five exercises that can build the mental muscle we need to turn our unproductive, negative thought spirals upward:
- Learn to distinguish between ‘mind junk’ and what could lead to problem solving and strategies for constructive action:
Some men and women glory in their exalted thoughts, but if these thoughts never reach the plane of action they remain useless: the power of thought is dependent on its manifestation in deeds. – Ibid., p. 18.
- Evaluate your thoughts and emotions as they happen—and if they’re not constructive or helpful, try to replace them:
… concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.
Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness. – Ibid., p. 30.
- Give yourself the same loving advice you’d give to a trusted friend. Thoughts about love heal and guide us:
Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27.
- Balance your emotions with logic and detachment, and realize that this life is meant to be a happy, fulfilling one:
You must live in the utmost happiness. If any trouble or vicissitude comes into your lives, if your heart is depressed on account of health, livelihood or vocation, let not these things affect you. They should not cause unhappiness, for Baha’u’llah has brought you divine happiness. He has prepared heavenly food for you; He has destined eternal bounty for you; He has bestowed everlasting glory upon you. Therefore, these glad tidings should cause you to soar in the atmosphere of joy forever and ever. Render continual thanks unto God so that the confirmations of God may encircle you all. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 188-189.
- Practice gratitude and share it. Are you grateful for your life? If so, say thanks—and if not, use these mental exercises to turn your life into something you can be grateful for. Gratitude has been linked to all kinds of benefits, including happiness and long-term contentment. One study shows that grateful people even sleep better.
Try these five simple mental exercises each day for a month, and then sit down and review: Am I happier? Does my life seem more spiritual, more free, more fulfilled? You’ll find, hopefully, that a more spiritual life is usually a happier one.