Be Aware of the Snowball Effect of Your Thinking by Richard Carlson

A powerful technique for becoming more peaceful is to be aware of how quickly your negative and insecure thinking can spiral out of control. Have you ever noticed how uptight you feel when you’re caught up in your thinking? And, to top it off, the more absorbed you get in the details of whatever is upsetting you, the worse you feel. One thought leads to another, and yet another, until at some point, you become incredibly agitated.

For example, you might wake up in the middle of the night and remember a phone call that needs to be made the following day. Then, rather than feeling relieved that you remembered such an important call, you start thinking about everything else you have to do tomorrow. You start rehearsing a probable conversation with your boss, getting yourself even more upset. Pretty soon you think to yourself, “I can’t believe how busy I am. I must make fifty phone calls a day. Whose life is this anyway?” and on and on it goes until you’re feeling sorry for yourself. For many people, there’s no limit to how long this type of “thought attack” can go on. In fact, I’ve been told by clients that many of their days and nights are spent in this type of mental rehearsal. Needless to say, it’s impossible to feel peaceful with your head full of concerns and annoyance.

The solution is to notice what’s happening in your head before your thoughts have a chance to build momentum. The sooner you catch yourself in the act of building your mental snowball, the easier it is to stop. In our example here, you might notice your snowball thinking right when you start running through the list of what you have to do the next day. Then instead of obsessing on your upcoming day, you say to yourself, “Whew, there I go again,” and consciously nip it in the bud. You stop your train of thought before it has a chance to get going. You can then focus, not on how overwhelmed you are, but on how grateful you are for remembering the phone call that needed to be made. If it’s the middle of the night, write it down on a piece of paper and go back to sleep. You might even consider keeping a pen and paper by the bed for such moments.

You may indeed be a very busy person, but remember that filling your head with thoughts of how overwhelmed you are only exacerbates the problem by making you feel even more stressed than you already do. Try this simple little exercise the next time you begin to obsess on  your schedule. You’ll be amazed at how effective it can be.

– Richard Carlson, PH.D from Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life

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