Everyone has had that condition where you have to think about a particular topic, but your thoughts keep “running away. It’s okay if it happens occasionally, especially if the topic doesn’t interest you. It’s different when it becomes the norm. At such times, instead of focusing on something, the mind begins to wander in the wilds of the subconscious mind, asking questions, worrying, imagining, creating imaginary problems, and finding supposedly effective solutions.
Often the wandering mind becomes the cause of negative thoughts and unnecessary fuss. There are undoubtedly merits to this kind of multitasking, such as calculating the outcomes of solutions in advance, but there is a mental health price to pay.
A wandering mind prevents you from concentrating and solving problems efficiently, gets you caught up in excessive daydreaming, and distances you from crucial goals. Simply put, a wandering mind is a tangle of thoughts that begins to unravel at times when it’s not needed and prevents you from tackling priorities in favor of highly questionable inferences.
What is the danger of a wandering mind, and how to control your thoughts?
The exact cause of a wandering mind is not clear. Scientists believe that neuronal connections interacting with the areas of the brain cortex responsible for behavior and emotions may be involved. Usually, it is in standby mode and is only activated when a person is resting or engaged in tasks at a subconscious level. Changes in this area have been associated with various mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar personality disorder, schizophrenia, etc.
But don’t start looking for insanity in yourself because a wandering mind is not, in principle, that dangerous. Still, it harms productivity because it impairs the ability to focus on important tasks, leads to a lack of understanding of information, and impairs awareness of one’s surroundings.
Once we’ve figured out the dangers of a wandering mind, we can move on to ways to control our thoughts to minimize the negative effects and concentrate better on the tasks at hand.
1. Find something that brings you back to reality
A wandering mind is often associated with daydreaming or procrastination. It can be hard to get back from the dream world to the real world, so you need something that will bring the mind back to that world, just like in the movie “Inception,” where the characters choose an object that connects them to the present.
If you can’t concentrate, look at that object or touch it; as long as it becomes a kind of focus point, one look at it is enough to realize that you are distracted.
2. Encourage yourself
Quite often, the inability to focus on important tasks is because one does not see the benefit to oneself, or it is a distant prospect. Since the brain likes to be rewarded here and now, the distant prospect of satisfaction does not suit it, and it resists such counter-productivity. So you have to cunningly get it to stop being cranky and assign a reward for its efforts.
For example, if you focus on an important task and you can solve it at least partially, you will be rewarded by lingering on social networks for 30 minutes with a mug of tea and chocolate. The main thing in your subconscious is to twist the correlation between a quick solution to the task and the reward for the work done.
3. Break down large tasks into smaller ones
In the case of a wandering mind, it is one of the most effective ways to solve a problem. We often begin to procrastinate or rush from one thought to another because we think the task is impossible to accomplish. And if so, why focus on something that will not bring any benefit?
It’s different if you convince your brain that you’re only doing a small amount of work. For example, imagine you need to move a hundred boxes from one place to another. That sounds like a hard and dull task. It’s different if you need to move 10 boxes, take a rest, then 10 more, so gradually solve the global task by breaking it down into smaller ones.
4. Clear your mind regularly in a diary
To many people, keeping a diary sounds like a ridiculous waste of time from a bygone age. It’s not a bad tool for getting rid of the thoughts that get in the way of concentration. The fact is that most of us can’t tell everything that we have in our souls, even to the people closest to us. And the paper will absorb everything.
There are two ways to vent your emotions: freestyle and focused analysis. In the first case, you haphazardly write down your thoughts, not thinking about what you’ve written. It helps if your wandering mind regularly produces dozens of ideas that overlap. In the second case, you create a clear structure of thoughts, ask yourself questions, and answer them. This method is better suited to understanding more serious topics.
5. Use mantras
It is common practice to speak negatively of mantras, not in a religious sense, but in a way that is generally accepted, labeling it as pointless auto-training. Certain mantras, words repeated a great deal, can cause your mind to concentrate on one thing or, at the very least, to stop racing from one thought to the next.
You can “coax” your mind by repeating phrases such as “this is just another day of working on yourself, which will soon bring your fruits” or “soon you will become better; the main thing is not to stop working on yourself” and other similar things. For instance, if you want to force yourself to go to the gym, but you have been there many times and have not seen many results, you can “coax” your mind into going by saying things like, “this is just another day of working on
6. Achieve an easy victory
There is a correlation between having a wandering mind and not being successful. Because, as we discussed earlier, the brain requires pleasure in the shortest amount of time possible, when you repeat the same actions repeatedly without receiving any reward, the brain eventually stops finding those activities interesting. One can achieve some limited success, but it is still considered a victory to trick the mind. Set a secondary task related to the preparatory work that you can finish quickly, with little effort, and then finish immediately.
Your brain will reward itself with hormones of joy for its efforts, and it will want to have even more pleasure as a result. Although this task will not bring you much reward, you will experience a surge of vitality. Because of this, we can expect him to be more willing to work on the solution to more difficult problems.