How many thoughts did you have today? Scientists estimate we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. Many of them are the same ones we had yesterday. And often these thoughts are predictions about the future, or worries about the past. Many of them overwhelm us and hurt us.

Our thoughts are often a virtual reality about what might happen. How often have you had worrying thoughts that never came to anything? Famous American author Mark Twain said: “I am an old man and have known many great troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Noticing thoughts, particularly negative ones, can be a powerful tool to help bring us some peace and calmness. One of the first ways we can start to notice thoughts is almost like a cat, waiting at the mouse hole. We can start to be aware of when we feel a bit off. If you’re feeling a bit off, sad or angry, start to notice it, and without going into the story of the ‘off feeling’, say to yourself: “STOP! Take three deep breaths.” Every time you have that off feeling, do this exercise. In fact, try it right now.

Then, notice how you feel after you truly stop and breathe.

Sometimes our negative thoughts are overwhelming, such as: “My work colleague walked right past me looking really sour. What have I done? I probably offended her when I was talking yesterday. I never get things right!” When this happens it’s important to STOP and breathe. Then we can look at the facts. We may try and stand in the colleague’s shoes, or gently ask her if she’s okay. We might find that she’s just had some really bad news and her sourness was nothing to do with us.

Stopping and breathing is such a powerful, yet simple tool. Try it regularly, and notice the difference it makes.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash