• Something to Think About: Pick the right battle

a notebook paper with a drawing of a human head and brain with writing to think happy thoughts

Dr. Amit Sood says, "Try not emptying the mind; instead, fill it with kinder, happier, fewer thoughts."

Dear friend,

My eyes are designed to see; I can’t stop them from seeing. My ears are designed to hear; I can’t stop them from hearing. The same is true for my other senses and every other part of my body. My lungs breathe about twenty thousand breaths a day, and my heart beats about one hundred thousand beats a day. I can’t (and shouldn’t) tell my lungs to stop inflating and deflating or my heart to stop beating. Similarly, I can’t tell my mind to stop thinking.

For the rest of my life, during each of my awake moments, I will experience two worlds—the outer world of objects and the inner world of thoughts. Just as I can’t freeze the outer world, I can’t silence my inner world. That isn’t a battle I should be fighting.

Instead, I should redirect my flow of thoughts. I should think thoughts that are lush with meaning, that breathe gratitude and compassion and bring peace to others and myself. I should take charge of my thinking, which means thinking more intentional thoughts. But I haven’t exercised that choice yet. My mind is thus busy in its default state, thinking instinctive thoughts—about people, daily chores, trivial details, selfish interests. I find this state dissatisfying.

I should choose my thoughts and not let thinking happen to me. This will give a nice haircut to my thoughts, so that the unnecessary or the toxic ones will find no reason to stay, while the ones present will become more positive, more productive, and deeper. It will make my mind more beautiful.

A more thoughtful mind has fewer thoughts. Such a mind will help you be a person free of unhealthy wants and fears.

Telling the mind not to think is like telling the heart not to beat. Pick the right battle in your life—don’t silence your mind; instead, cultivate a mind that thinks kinder, happier, and fewer thoughts.

May you think thoughts you are proud to own.

Take care.
Dr. Sood 2

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.

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