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Stop Thinking So Much

Benefits of declaring a mental ceasefire


Sculpture of old couple sitting side-by-side on  a bench. Simple lines. Stylised faces. An are of peace surrounds the sculputre.
A sculpture entitled 'Together' by Simon Youngleson, was donated to the Town of Claremont, Western Australia. These two old people, seated at the edge of Lake Claremont, look peaceful, as if they've declared a mental ceasefire and are content to just be there, sitting quietly together. Photo by author.

How many thoughts do you have per minute?

 

An online search will reveal conflicting figures but it’s safe to say that on average we think between six and forty-eight thoughts per minute.

 

This means that you either have a thought every ten seconds or a thought every 1.25 seconds.

 

That’s too many.

 

If our brains, like motors, emitted sounds as they worked, we would all be experiencing AASD (Acute Auditory Stress Disorder). This term would be added to the next edition of the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, and we’d all be prescribed medication to be taken three times a day to reduce the noise.

 

But here’s a better idea. Instead of treating the effect of too much brain noise, let’s treat the cause: too many thoughts per minute.

 

In wars, when both sides are sick of the conflict and wish to find a better solution, a ceasefire is put in place.

 

If you want to get an idea of the terrible, insistent, ear-shattering sounds soldiers experienced in WW2, go here 

 

A ceasefire is a good idea, whether it’s for a physical war, or for the ongoing war in our head.

 

A ceasefire provides a pause in the exchange of literal or figurative missiles.


Whether it’s a physical war with missiles hurtling through the air, or a war going on in our heads as thoughts ricochet between brain cells and shoot out of our mouths in the form of damaging words, the benefits that arise from a ceasefire are astounding.

 

Benefits of a Mental Ceasefire

 

A mental ceasefire brings three things, in this order:

 

  • Silence.

 

  • Space.

 

  • Alertness.

 

This altered state is potentially life-changing.

 

It may only last a few seconds, but those few seconds are bliss. It’s like a literal war has momentarily stopped.


First, we notice the silence.


When the smoke clears, we notice the space we’re in – what is happening within us and what is happening around us, unhampered by noise and confusion.


As this happens, we become alert. Our mind is temporarily free of thought, our senses are purely attentive, and our emotions subside.

 

At that moment, we are fully aware. We are truly alive.

 

Then what happens? I’ll tell you because I experience what happens next every day. A little thought (a missile) tiptoes up to the door of my mind and knocks, interrupting the sudden silence that had fallen two seconds before. And I let it in. Before long, its extended family and friends have crowded through behind it, and the mental war is on again.

 

Of course, not all thoughts are warring ones, but perhaps the majority are.

 

Here is a list of common thoughts, itemised as adjectives, to help you recognise them.

 

  • Self-critical

  • Judgmental

  • Pointless

  • Repetitive

  • Disruptive

  • Angry

  • Frustrated

  • Self-righteous

  • Argumentative

  • Useless


However, some thoughts are useful. These fall into the following categories:

 

  • Peaceful

  • Practical

  • Positive

 

Stop Thinking So Much


An interesting exercise is to jot these types of thoughts down, and as you have thoughts throughout the day, check them against these two lists and notice what types of thoughts you usually have. You may be horrified at the results!


If you want to give yourself some silence, space, and alertness, ignore thoughts that are missiles, and only allow thoughts that make your life – and the lives of those around you – safer and better.

 

No one wants to be in a war.


Stop thinking so much.

 

With love, Marlane

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