Do you know how many thoughts our minds think each hour of the day?
Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s an average of 2500 – 3,300 thoughts per hour.
Other experts estimate a smaller number, of 50,000 thoughts per day, which means about 2100 thoughts per hour.
Regardless of the actual number, this tells us that our minds are forever active.
However, of those thousands of thoughts, how many are actually new, helpful, true, inspiring or creative?
Some 95 per cent of thought happens below the radar. This means that the majority of our thoughts are unconscious. They are programmed into our brain and the majority of the time we rely on these thoughts for our daily activities and actions.
Most unconscious thinking happens deep within the brain, while conscious thoughts tend to occur at the surface.
For example, unconscious thoughts include habits and patterns, automatic body function, emotions, beliefs and values, cognitive biases. While conscious thoughts include planning, willpower, critical thinking, judgement/decisions.
It also means that many of our daily behaviours are habitual (think about daily routines) and an added percentage are automated behaviours created by association (ie, emotions or reactions - good or bad).
Do you ever slow down and notice what kind of thoughts you are thinking?
If we pay attention to our thoughts, we’d be amazed to discover that most of them are non-productive, unimportant and sometimes unhealthy thoughts that pass through the mind with great speed. These are words or comments we repeat in our minds, or analyzing something we’ve heard, or questions that pop up, or allot of senseless wandering thoughts that we might not even be aware of.
This stream of thoughts goes on when we wake up, eat, walk, work, drive, talk, or exercise, etc. It goes on when you are alone and when we are in company. It goes on until we fall asleep. It is like a constant mental noise that goes on and on. And for those that are anxious, worried or depressed, these endless flow of thoughts are even more tiring and exhausting.
By understanding how our thoughts work, we can rewire and retrain the programmed bad habits, unhealthy thoughts or behaviours and any unconscious biases.
Where to start
In order to do this, we must calm down the restlessness and nonstop chatter of the mind. This is done through mindfulness. The adage “Don’t always believe everything you think” is what we’re talking about here.
By slowing down and becoming aware of the thousands of thoughts racing through our brain and then going deeper to look at what kind of thoughts we’re having and asking yourself, where did that come from? And are they true?
Becoming aware and acknowledging our thoughts is about breaking out of the old and creating new, exciting, inspiring, helpful thoughts and habits.
The best methods for doing this, are concentration and meditation. Yes, this involves some effort on our part, but all good things in life require a certain degree of effort for gain. Working our brain is no different than working the body physically.
When the stream of thoughts slows down, we will be able to focus our minds on what we are doing, without distractions; the mind can work better at studying, solving problems, making plans, working, etc.
The mind becomes a much more efficient and useful tool.
• Think how much energy and time would be saved, if we reduce the number of thoughts,
• Think how much better focus we’d possess if our minds were calmer,
• And think of the inner peace, calmness and happiness we could enjoy, if there was a way to stop all these non-essential thoughts rushing through our brains.
The brain workout
Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:
• Identify areas to change. First identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about or where it’s not fulfilling you, whether it's work, your daily commute or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
• Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, ask yourself “is this true” and if not, find a way to put a positive spin on them.
• Be open to humour. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humour in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life or yourself, you feel less stressed.
• Try something new or something old in a new way. If you find yourself in a daily rut, mix up your routine for a few days or discover a new way of doing something (ie: if you tend to do the same workout regime, try a new workout class or weight lifting program). This will not only add interest but also improve your self-confidence!
Going down from 80,000 thoughts to 30,000, 20,000, or less, will save you a lot of strain, worry, time, and wasted energy. You will also begin to enjoy the sweet taste of inner peace, both in mind and body.