Don’t Let Your Automatic Thoughts Control You

Nov 14, 2022

Research tells us that around 80-90% of what you think today will be more or less the same thoughts that you had yesterday. The vast majority of our thoughts happen automatically. The implications of this are very important, because our automatic thoughts may not always reflect such a kind disposition towards ourselves. These kinds of negative thoughts, repeated over and over again in our minds, can inform how we feel about ourselves and what we believe we are capable of doing.

For example, if we've had a bad experience with something in the past, we may automatically think that all similar experiences will be bad. Or, if we believe that we're not good enough, we may automatically think that we'll never be successful.

The automatic thoughts that we have are the result of a collection of experiences, various hardwired processes and behaviors that we do as we go about unthinkingly during the day, and the patterns that make up our routines.

These thoughts can be very helpful or very harmful, depending on what they are. If they're helpful, they can motivate us to take action and make positive changes in our lives. If they're harmful, they can hold us back and keep us from reaching our full potential.

The good news is that we can choose what thoughts we focus on. We don't have to be a victim of our own thoughts. We can start to notice the thoughts that don't serve us, and we can choose to focus on the thoughts that do.

We also keep our stored goals, dreams, and aspirations that we think about. Then, we’ve also got the “free space” where we develop the steps towards our dreams and goals. A problem arises when the automatic part of our mind doesn’t let the free space part work on making our dreams come true. It says, “no way, I could never do that.” And your brain thinks of this as a reality, because you’ve thought about it a million times before.

This is where mindfulness can help us. As you are going through your day and new thoughts are coming into your head, be aware of them. Let them fly in and out of your head. Don’t grab onto and obsess over one thought. Don’t treat one thought as the only reality. Give your other thoughts a chance to become something. Don’t let your automatic thinking take all the power.

When we become more aware of our thoughts, we can start to change them. We can choose to focus on the positive, on the present, and on our goals. We can choose to let go of the past and move forward with our lives.