To “Subscribe” means to express or feel agreement with something, so to “Unsubscribe” from something means to not express or feel in agreement with something.
We are very clear when we are on social media what to “ Follow” or “Subscribe” to. When the content is not helpful, we are quick to Unsubscribe or Unfollow. The reason why we often get caught up in unhelpful thoughts is that we subscribe to them. So why then are we not able to Unsubscribe to our unhelpful and painful thoughts?
What do we mean by unhelpful thoughts?
If you watch the mind, perhaps through meditation or self-observation, you’ll quickly notice that our minds are always generating thoughts. Some are helpful, some are neutral, some are unhelpful and a lot of them are just random ramblings, but all of them are just mental events.
Thoughts that lead to self-criticism, rumination and worry often lead to causing us deep pain and anxiety. For many of us, that inner voice can become our own worst enemy, crushing our self-esteem or driving us to feel constantly stressed, negative or anxious.
Although we cannot always choose what kinds of thoughts our minds generate, we can choose how we respond to them.
Try some of these Practices:
Unhook from Unhelpful Thoughts:
So here’s a simple practice to help you unhook from unhelpful thoughts. Whatever your mind says to you, no matter how mean or awful or negative it is, just respond with an attitude of warmth, playfulness and even humour, and reply mentally to yourself, “Thanks mind. Thanks for sharing.”
So if your mind turns on its ‘inner critic mode’ and says something like “You’re such an idiot,” you mentally reply, “Thanks mind. Thanks for sharing.” If your mind starts up with worrying thoughts like “What will happen if my partner leaves me? It would be devastating,” you simply reply, “Thanks mind.”
If your mind says, “If you think this stupid ‘thanking the mind’ thing changes the fact that your life sucks, you’re kidding yourself,” you simply say to it, “Thanks mind.”
Reclaim Your Attention:
Once you have thanked the mind you want to deliberately change the focus of your attention to what you really want to be focused on at that moment. That may be a conversation you’re having, the work you’re doing or the sights and smells around you.
For example, you could choose to take a moment to focus on your breath as a way of dropping out of your mind and anchoring yourself back into the present moment again.
Remember to do it with warmth, friendliness and humour. See if you can have a sense of smiling at the antics of the mind. No matter what your mind says to you, no matter how serious it claims to be, see if you bring a feeling of friendliness and humour to the mind and just mentally say, “Thanks mind.” Then you can bring your focus back to the fullness and aliveness of what’s happening in the present moment.
Each time you do this practice you build your capacity to unhook from unhelpful thoughts, free yourself from stress and suffering, and bring more lightness, ease and joy into your days.
May it serve you well.