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How mindfulness can help you to have more control over your thoughts

By Joseph Pond

Have you heard the one about the priest, the rabbi and the minister who walk into a bar? The bartender looks up and says, “What is this? Some kind of joke?”

It’s a groaner I know, more of a meta-joke than a joke itself, but it illustrates the way that mindfulness works. Do you want to have more control over the thoughts that regularly loop in your head? Do you want to improve your self-esteem?  Mindfulness is an indispensable step in that direction.

The simple fact that you have the ability to close your eyes and think about your “mind” indicates that humans are capable of distinguishing between a “mind” and an “observer self.” Our natural capacity to think about thinking is called “metacognition” just as jokes about jokes are called meta-jokes. And research indicates that developing this kind of self-control leads to greater happiness and success in school, work and home.

How does this occur? Say that there are two people with depression. One we’ll call a reactive depressive and the other a metacognitive depressive. The reactive one wakes up, has a depressed thought (“Oh, great, it’s raining”) and reacts to it, perhaps with the new thought, “My hair looks ugly in the rain.” It goes downhill from there. The other one wakes up with the same thought, but is capable of considering, “Hmmm, that notion came as a visual image which triggers tension in my solar plexus.”

Able to dispassionately observe thoughts like this, the meta-cognitive person realises that thinking is just one of many human instincts. You can’t stop it, but you don’t have to let it bully you. And you certainly don’t have to react to it.

So start to work on your mind, not just in your mind.  Your assignment this week is to pause frequently during the day and simply notice what you’re thinking about. There are phone apps that beep to remind you to be mindful. How often are you being critical towards yourself?  It’s no joking matter: simply noticing the ruts that your mind runs in is the first step to getting free.

  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at or at Hypnosis/?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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