Hello and welcome back to The Joy Within’s podcast, for the final episode in our series on the 5 ways negative thoughts are secretly controlling your life and what you can do about them.
Over the last few episodes we’ve looked at stress, doubt, internal criticism, and external criticism, and today we’re talking about overactive thoughts.
Honestly I think this one is a huge problem for a lot of people, but something we very rarely acknowledge or address. And the quick test for this is to ask: what comes to your mind when you think about a person with overactive thoughts? Chances are, you’re thinking about someone with ADD or someone having a manic episode, or maybe even just someone who’s had a few too many cups of coffee.
But I want to suggest that this category has a much broader base than that. So, the real question is: have you ever felt unfocused, scattered, or disorganized? And I think if you ask that question, the answer for almost everyone is yes. Who hasn’t felt scattered or unfocused at some point?
So, when I’m talking about having an overactive mind, that’s what I mean. It’s something that – for most us – comes and goes. It might depend on what you’re doing, or how much you have to get done that day, but it can also just be a bit of a random annoyance. For example, you might be focused intently on something, and hen you look up to think about the next step for a moment, and before you know it you realize you’ve just been staring out the window for 2 minutes, and you have to jolt yourself back into focusing on your work. Do you know what I’m talking about? Like I said, I thnk we’ve all been there at some point. So, that leads to 2 questions: why is this negative? ad what can you do about it?
The reason I consider overactive thoughts negative – even if, on the surface, they don’t seem harsh or bad — is because these thoughts always interrupt your peace. Always. Even if the thought itself is neutral, or even if it’s positive – maybe you just got distracted by what to have for lunch or what to do this weekend – no matter what the thoughts are, they are keeping you from experiencing your natural joy and inner peace. They crowd your mental space and – because of that – almost always lower your energy. And, the fact that they’re not “negative” in the traditional sense, is what makes them hard to catch. They don’t seem like they matter that much, so we let them run wild. And as they do, their impact compounds.
To put this problem in perspective I want to ive you an example of the level of impact an unfocused mind can have. Now, this is just an example to get you thinking a bit – it’s not a hard and fast rule and it’s also not the only impact. But, studies show that the average worked wastes 2-3 hours per day from distractions and lack of cous. 2-3 hours per day! Our of an 8 hour work day. That’s inasane. That’s about 1/3 of the time. So, if you want to put a value on that, take whatever your salary is and divide it by 3. If you make $100,000/year, that’s $33,000 wasted. Every year. So, if you draw that out ove rthe course of your career, it means the cost of an unfocused mind is easily more than $1,000,000 in income. And that’s just the minimum. It’s not even factoring in lost opportunities if you could have gotten a better salary if you’d been more focused, or even just if you were to invest that money and earn interest on it. So, we’re talking about millions and millions of dollars lost if you don’t fix this problem. And that’s just the financial cost. So, yeah, it’s a huge problem, and most people completely ignore it.
But I don’t want you to be one of those people, and there are 2 basic things you can do to stop an overactive mind. The first is meditation. This has been proven over and over again. If you to 1 thing, just start a meditation habit today. It can be any length, any style, just sit with your eyes closed and breathe for a few minutes.
The second is something I call stepping back. It’s a short, 30-second breath technique that will help you focus and find center really quickly – in just a few breaths. I have free trainings on this elsewhere so I won’t get into the details here. Just go to thejoywithin.org and watch the stepping back video if you haven’t already. The point is it interrupts your overactive thoughts and helps to bring the peace, stillness, and joy we usually associate with meditation, it brings that feeling forward with you throughout the day.
These solutions aren’t complicated. They’re not hard. You just have to do them. If you think you can’t meditate, just try our quiet the mind meditation series. You don’t have to do anything. Just sit and listen to the recordings, or if you need something short and simple you can use in the middle of your day, check out the stepping back playbook. Both are great first steps, and both are included when you join Happiness University. So, whichever route you choose, the most important step is that you do something.
You have to decide to take back control of your mind, because if you don’t, these 5 types of negative thoughts will start to influence you, they’ll control you, and once they start, the just get worse and worse over time. The sooner you get started, the easier it is to take back control, even if you think the thoughts “aren’t that bad” right now. Like I said before, these thoughts are a multi-million dollar problem, for each and every single one of us…and it’s up to you to change that for yourself.
So, I hope these last few episodes have been helpful. I hope they’ve help you think about negative thoughts in a new way and see a little more urgency in them, so you can start prioritizing the simple actions that will eliminate that negativity, once and for all. It’s the only way to really become the calm, confident, and person you deserve to be, and to experience a new level of joy, literally every single day.