This morning while making my bed, I noticed a phenomenon.

I was having the exact same thought that I had yesterday when I was tucking in my flat sheet.

Literally, at the same moment… as I was straightening the covers in the same place on the same side of the bed, I had the same thought.  It wasn’t an important thought, by far.  In fact, I already don’t even remember what it was.  But it wasn’t what I was thinking that struck me as important anyway.  It was the fact that my body was subconsciously repeating a thought just because I was repeating an action.

This is not the only time this has happened either.

I have noticed my mind turning to the same thoughts when I am putting on my make-up or driving down the same road every day to work.  Over and over again, my mind will automatically go to the same trains of thought… like a dutiful soldier, repeating the same thoughts (which in turn initiate the same feelings) in order, just like the day before.

I imagine our brains think, “Oh!  We’re driving down this road?  We’re passing through this neighborhood?  Let me consult my records and see what we’re supposed to think about!”

For the most part, this is a harmless phenomenon that most of us probably don’t even realize is taking place.

But the trouble comes in when those thoughts are negative.  

If one day, you think “Ugh, I look so old and tired” as you’re brushing your teeth in the bathroom mirror, your brain may automatically try to bring up that file again the next day, whether you actually feel that way or not.

You may realize it (and just mindlessly “agree”) or it may not even consciously register, but suddenly you start feeling sluggish and depressed.

Now, imagine your brain does this two days, three days, five days, one week, three weeks or months in a row.

Pretty soon, those repetitive thoughts are going to turn into a belief.  And what was once a “harmless” thought is now one of your foundational truths.

This is why it’s so important for us to pay attention to our thoughts.

Ok, maybe not all 60,000 of them (that we average each day).  But as many of them as possible.

It’s said that up to 80% of our thoughts each day are negative.  Whether it’s a simple thought like “It’s too hot out here” or a more detrimental  thought like “I always screw everything up”… those negative thoughts compound on top of one another all day long, until we’re left feeling stressed, depressed and exhausted.

I don’t know about you… but that is not how I want to spend my days.

I understand that my brain is trying to do its job and run the right “programs,” the only problem is a lot of those programs are faulty.

And the more those programs run, the more messed up my beliefs will get… causing me to have negative emotions like guilt, shame, anger, sadness, fear, worry and depression.

Which in turn, will cause me to behave and live my life differently.

I know we are all busy (which is a whole other topic for another day), but we can’t just mindlessly “tune out” our thoughts, because whether we acknowledge them or not… they are having an effect on us.

We need to be mindful of what thoughts we are letting take hold and when the negative ones pop in, whether for the first time or the hundredth time, we need to actively tell them to get lost.

Whether you replace them with a positive thought/affirmation, imagine them vaporizing into thin air or simply acknowledge them but then politely change the subject, the important thing is that you don’t give them any weight.

Stay aware, stay positive and when your brain tries to slip into auto-pilot mode… tell it, “Thank you very much, but I got it from here.”

More from Beliefnet and our partners