There are so many snippets of time throughout our day when we are alone with our thoughts, but what is the quality of our thinking? Since having this question posed during a team meeting, I have reflected and thought about how I can be more conscious and purposeful with my mind.
I’m an early bird so getting ready in the morning is quite a precious time of day for me – I am fresh, calm and centred. However, when I reflected on the quality of my thinking, I realised that my brain wasn’t actually particularly focused at this time. I was often on autopilot which allowed my mind to wander and think about other things. My thoughts zipped from one to another – what should I wear? What meetings are in my calendar this morning? What do I need to get done today? How am I going to spend my evening? This morning slot, which I treat as sacred time, was being interfered with by myself; all these thoughts lacked quality and got me anticipating too many things at once, rather than feeling peaceful and in control. That time of day gives me the space to pause and be mentally still, but I can easily miss out on these benefits if I’m not consciously mindful.
Alongside the quality and purposefulness of my thoughts comes the quantity. My mind is often quite buzzy and this can get on my nerves at times. My thoughts may be too loud or rushed, or I may want my feelings to have my attention rather than my thoughts. I’ve been reading and understanding a lot more about habits recently and it’s reassuring to know that we all have the power to train our brains if we put in the mental effort. Large numbers of zippy, low-quality thoughts leave me feeling stressed or out of control and I notice increased stiffness or tightness in my body as a result, so it is important to me to work on reducing them.
There will be days when I have a lot on my plate or I’m in a creative headspace and will have more thoughts to work through than normal. A lot of these will probably be incomplete ideas or snippets of a bigger picture. This naturally makes them feel of a lower quality than a complete, clear idea; however, what really lessens their value is dropping them and immediately moving onto the next thought. If I give them my undivided attention, then the value of my thinking naturally increases.
It can be possible to start over-analysing or wanting to put everything into words. Sometimes I just want to be still. To do this, I focus my attention on my senses – where I am, what I am seeing, hearing and feeling all around me. I think I have been trying to fill silences as of late rather than committing myself to them. Making a cup of tea is another time that I recognise as being a perfect moment of peace. Situationally, it sets me up to think in a calm and controlled way: it offers silence as I stand in the kitchen aisle waiting for the kettle to boil and then for the tea to brew. It’s just a few minutes but it is my choice to make the most of these minutes or interfere with them by having rushed, low-quality thoughts. With practice, I can reflect on one chosen thing while I make my tea or I can use this opportunity to be as mindful as possible.
There are lots of bigger things where I could think about other things while I do them but that would leave me not getting the most out of either activity. We normally define multitasking as doing two tasks simultaneously (like trying to do your homework whilst watching TV) but multitasking can also look like thinking about something else whilst doing something. Thinking-and-doing is as much multitasking as doing-and-doing is. When I cook, I could think about everything I’ve done that day, or I could play some music and become absorbed in cooking, not focusing on anything else. This is a much more satisfying approach and I am beginning to feel better about how I am spending my time since committing my conscious mind to everything I do.
I’d love to know how the question ‘what is the quality of your thoughts?’ lands with you. Let me know in the comments!
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