The mind is made up of many parts and each of them can influence your behavior. But maybe you want to change how much a part of the mind influences. For example, the part of your mind that cares about getting enough calories and nutrients might drive you to eat high-fat foods, but another part of you recognizes that overeating will ruin your health and physical image in the long run. If you want to control your mind, the key is to exercise self-control over the behaviors you want to change. There are various tricks you can use to change your mind and ultimately your behavior.
Method 1 of 2: Think Different
Step 1. Avoid dwelling on negative thoughts
Sometimes you think about something negative, even when you don't want to. There are multiple tricks that can help you control your mind to stop insisting on these thoughts:
- Think of the worst case scenario. Although it seems counterproductive and will only lead to more obsessive thoughts, when you think about the worst case and then think about whether you could handle it, you will notice that you can imagine yourself controlling the situation and thus reduce your worry.
- Schedule time for your worries. By spending time thinking about your problem, you can be sure that it will get the attention it (maybe) needs. This way you can stop overthinking about your problem when you don't want to.
- Go out to walk. Going for a walk can distract your mind from worries, either due to the exercise itself or because you will assimilate new information (sights, sounds, smells, etc.), which will help the mind wander to other less distressing things.
Step 2. Believe in yourself and that you can change
If you don't believe that you can change, you are not going to try as hard as when you believe that success is possible. So be sure to use positive thinking to deal with the problem. Keep in mind that you can change the way you think and improve.
Studies show that people who adopt this "growth" mindset are more likely to make desired improvements than those who view their attributes and abilities as fixed and unchangeable
Step 3. Be optimistic about your abilities
You may think that the key is to be precise about your ability to control yourself. However, studies show that being overly optimistic about your ability to control your behavior can give you even more self-control.
- To be optimistic, try to tell yourself that you will be successful and that you will control your mind over and over again, even if you don't believe it at the time.
- Also, try to remind yourself of the times when you managed to control your mind as you wanted. Reflect only on those successes and not on the times when you couldn't control yourself.
Step 4. Change your appreciation of what you have trouble controlling
Try to change how you view what you are struggling to control. For example, if a part of your mind has a strong craving for wine, but you try to give up drinking, try to imagine the wine as poison. Imagine that it travels throughout your body, infecting cells and organs. Studies show that having people mentally transform (that is, change their appreciation) desirable things into less desirable things facilitates their efforts to control themselves in order to avoid the desirable thing.
To achieve this, try to clearly imagine and play with the idea that the object you want to avoid has changed its properties
Step 5. Stop over generalizing
Over-generalizing involves taking a single negative experience to project onto other experiences or to make predictions about what your future will be like. For example, someone who overgeneralizes might say, "I had a difficult childhood, therefore my life will always be difficult." To stop over generalizing, you could do the following:
- Dare to change your own future with hard work and perseverance. For example, if you had a difficult childhood and you believe that your life will always be difficult, you could identify ways in which you want your life to improve and work to improve them.
- Continuing with the example, maybe you want more meaningful relationships and a better job. You could find ways to get those things done and then set goals to accomplish them.
Step 6. Avoid personalization
This is a distortion of thought in which you take responsibility for things that you cannot control. For example, if your daughter fell at school, you could say "It's my fault she fell" when in reality the situation was totally out of control.
- To avoid personalization, try to think carefully and logically about the events that you tend to personalize. It may be helpful to ask yourself a few questions.
- For example, you might ask yourself, "What could I have done to prevent my daughter from falling, since I was not at school with her?"
Step 7. Stop jumping to conclusions
This is a thought distortion that involves thinking certain things without any evidence to support those thoughts. For example, someone jumping to conclusions might think that a person doesn't like you without having evidence to back up the claim.
If you want to stop jumping to conclusions, pause and think more before making judgments. It may help to ask yourself questions about the thought. For example, you can ask yourself if you really know that what you think is true. You can also ask yourself to identify specific evidence that suggests the veracity of that thought. Using the example above, someone who believes that a person does not like her might be asked to identify particular conversations with that person that provide evidence of such a claim
Step 8. Avoid catastrophizing (or catastrophic vision)
This is a distortion of thought in which the person exaggerates things. For example, someone with catastrophic vision, after failing an exam, might say "My life is ruined, I will never get a good job."
To get rid of that catastrophic view of events, strive to think more positively. You can ask yourself questions that use logic and reason. For example, someone who failed an exam and believes that their life is ruined because they will never get a good job, might ask themselves, "Do I know someone who has failed an exam, but still found a good job and is look happy? "; "If I had to hire someone, would I base my decision entirely on that person's grade in a single class?"
Method 2 of 2: Develop Good Habits
Step 1. Create a plan for your life
If you clearly know what you want in life, you will be less likely to be swayed by temptations that will hurt you in the long run. Write down the important things you want in your life: is it a good profession, having your own family one day, becoming financially rich, etc.?
- It is not necessary to establish very detailed steps to achieve these goals as part of this exercise. Better, remember to keep in mind your global goals to stay on track in your life.
- To set personal goals, it is important not to set too high goals or else you will fail and kill your motivation.
- Instead, set yourself some big goals (for example, learn to code), but break those goals down into smaller, more achievable ones (for example, read 1 chapter of a programming book per week). This way, you can see tangible progress as you work toward big goals.
Step 2. Smile, even if you don't feel like doing it
Negative feelings can reduce your ability to control yourself and therefore make it harder for you to control your mind. A simple way to counteract negative feelings is to smile.
Although the idea that feeling happy makes you smile is more intuitive, the facial feedback hypothesis suggests that smiling can make you feel happy
Step 3. Spend time or money on other people
Research shows that spending on other people can increase happiness and well-being. These in turn can improve your self-image and reduce negative feelings that make self-control difficult.
Exactly how you spend your time or money on others is not that important. The important thing is that this is valuable to you and those you help
Step 4. Put up obstacles
One way to control your mind is to make it harder for you to get what you want. This extra effort will make that part of your mind less likely to win and influence your behavior. For example, if you want to control the part of your mind that wants to watch television when a part of you wants to reduce the time you spend watching television, you could place the remote control in a difficult-to-reach place.
- Another example is that if you keep pressing the button to turn off the alarm in the morning, you could place it away from the bed, so that you are forced to get out of bed to turn it off.
- An additional example is if you have trouble abstaining from sex and want to change this behavior, avoid putting yourself in situations that lead to sexual intercourse: you could stay away from bars, nightclubs and erase the phones of the people you have with sex on occasion.
Step 5. Reward your successful efforts to control yourself
When you successfully control your mind, reward yourself to motivate yourself to keep doing it in the future. For example, let's say you didn't feel like exercising, but forced yourself to do it anyway, reward yourself with a chocolate or an episode of your favorite series.
Be careful not to overdo the reward or you will end up out of control and start over from scratch. For example, if your goal is to lose weight and you controlled your mind and exercised when you did not feel like it, do not eat multiple chocolates or you will lose the progress you have made
Step 6. Punish your failed efforts to control yourself
In the same way that rewarding success helps you control yourself in the future, punishing yourself for failing to control yourself will also help you maintain control of yourself in the future. In fact, studies show that the threat of punishment can cause people to exercise greater self-control.
To ensure the effectiveness of the punishment, put it in the hands of a family member, a friend or your partner and tell them to impose a punishment if you cannot exercise the self-control you want. For example, they can hide your dessert and not give it to you if at the end of the day you don't meet your self-control goals
Step 7. Reduce stress
The mind and the body are closely related. The mind can stress the body and the physiological stress of the body can lead to mental stress. When people are stressed, they use self-control to deal with stressors, and then their capacity for self-control weakens. Consequently, it is important to reduce stress to conserve the energy of self-control. There are a number of ways to reduce stress, all of which are proven effective to some degree. Here are some suggestions:
- Try relaxation techniques like deep abdominal breathing, which involves inhaling deeply and holding your breath for a few seconds, then slowly exhaling for several seconds. You can also focus your mind on a single calming word (such as "calm" or "peace").
- Get some exercise as it will allow you to take deep breaths and relax tight muscles.
- Talk to your friends and family, as social support can act as a buffer against stress.