Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced overthinking, worry, stress, anxiety…or wandered into the kitchen wondering why you came here in the first place?
(If you said no, you might be a robot.) If you said yes, you’re human, and you’re not alone. Fortunately, the human mind is a wonderful part of you, and you have agency over it.
In this article, we’ll look at mind control, the benefits, and how you can adopt new skills to control your mind with science-backed strategies.
What is Mind Control?
Mind control is a skill you can develop to gain self-awareness and maintain balanced thoughts that positively influence your mental and emotional health, physical health, and even relationships.
For those who have ever struggled with overthinking, worry, stress, depression, or anxiety, mind control is a great skill to develop and integrate into your life. In fact, by intentionally engaging your mind in a new way of thinking, you can rewire your brain!
Mind control involves intentional practice in activities that include:
- Positive visualization
- Physical activity
- Acts of kindness
- Limiting exposure to negativity
- Setting boundaries internally and externally
Keep reading to explore the 20 strategies you can start using today!
What Are the Benefits of Mind Control?
Mind control affects our overall well-being and physical health because your mind, body, and emotions are inextricably connected. Put simply, how you think influences how you feel emotionally, and how you feel produces chemicals in your brain that affect your physical body.
Research points to the many benefits of mind control, including:
- Increased focus and productivity
- Improved emotional well-being
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved physical health
- Better relationships
- Higher life satisfaction
- Greater self-awareness
- A Higher sense of purpose
“As we change our mind, we change our body at the cellular level.”-David R. Hamilton, Ph.D.
But what happens when we’re passive about what comes into our minds? Let’s check it out…
What is the Negative Impact of Unwanted Thoughts?
The negative impact of unwanted thoughts harms our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The reality of our mind-body connection means that our unwanted thoughts could be more than just a distraction; they could influence our overall health.
A lack of mind control and negative, unwanted thoughts may cause:
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Low self-esteem
- Poor decisions
- Reduced coping capacity
- Weak relationships
- Lack of focus
- Increased reactivity
Get Unstuck And Beat Burnout
Do you need to recharge? Are you burnt out? It’s not your fault!
Learn the science behind your burnout and use my framework for getting unstuck, increasing your energy, and preventing burnout from happening again.
Let’s dive into 20 simple, science-backed strategies you can use immediately to control your mind from unwanted thoughts.
20 Science-Backed Strategies for How to Control Your Mind
Filter your thoughts with the Six-in-Six Rule
The Six-in-Six Rule means that when you’re in a state of worry or concern about a particular issue, you take a minute to ask yourself one simple question: Will this situation still be a big deal in my life six months from now?
If the answer is no, don’t give yourself more than six minutes to think about it.
Using this method, you can avoid putting unnecessary mental energy toward things that don’t matter in the long run. On the flip side, you permit yourself to spend your mental energy on things that matter most.
The science behind this rule comes down to focus and attention. The more you can build intention around your thoughts and avoid being reactive to them, the more likely you’ll see an improvement in your productivity. Ultimately, you have the agency to choose the thoughts you let your mind focus on.
Apply the “True, Helpful, Kind Method” to your thoughts
The True, Helpful, Kind Method is a method people use to determine if they should say what they are about to say by using the filtering questions: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind?
These filters are not only helpful for deciding what to say, but these questions can also help you stop overthinking about things that are taking up mental energy from the things that matter most. This is important for mind control because research shows overthinking can cause sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, and even affect your relationships and ability to make decisions!
Here’s an example of what this looks like in real life…
Let’s say you’re about to go into a job interview for a job you’re very qualified for, but perhaps you’re feeling anxious and ruminating in self-doubt. You’re telling yourself, I’m one of 300 people who applied for this job. It must be a mistake that they picked my resume out of the pack. Why would they choose me? Maybe I’ll just cancel. I’m not smart enough. This is going to go terribly.
- Is it true? No. There’s likely a reason they picked your resume out of the pack.
- Is it helpful? No. Your thoughts about bailing when you’re nervous are rarely beneficial.
- Is it kind? Definitely not. You’re qualified. Beating yourself up is unkind.
For ideas on how to stop ruminating or overthinking, check out these six helpful tips.
Map your emotions
Your emotions impact your body in various ways. Your feelings can also help you determine the root cause of what’s happening in your body and what to do next. Using tools like Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions and others can help you gain self-awareness by determining the core emotion you’re feeling (and recognizing the emotions of others.)
For example, you may say, “I feel out of control.” When you look at an emotions wheel, you can see that your feelings link to the core emotion of fear. Knowing that, at the core, you might be afraid, you can ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”
Identifying and naming your emotions more easily helps you better understand yourself and your thoughts and communicate with others.
Ask yourself, “What’s the best that could happen?”
Positive visualization is an excellent way to reframe your thought patterns. But how do you do it? A straightforward method is priming your brain to think differently with positive-focused questions.
You’ve likely heard people say, “What’s the worst that could happen?” While this question means to be encouraging, it primes the brain to think the worst.
Instead, ask yourself, “What’s the best that can happen?” By priming your brain for a positive outcome, you are more likely to process what’s possible.
Here are a few scenarios where you might reframe your mind for the best outcome:
- Going into a job interview.
- Before your first day at a new job.
- Before you’re about to give a presentation.
- Preparing for a first date.
- Before a difficult conversation with your mother-in-law.
- Before heading to a networking event or party where you don’t know many people.
Be mindful of your triggers
The American Psychological Association defines a trigger as a stimulus that elicits a reaction. Triggers vary from person to person, but a negative experience usually influences them. When someone is triggered, they experience an emotional or physical reaction that might lead them to a pattern of thought that spirals them into confusion, anxiety, or even violence.
Some people don’t even realize they’ve been triggered when they are. For example, they may suddenly feel their mood change or their mind start spinning but not understand why.
Preventative skills like practicing mindfulness can be a helpful tool to raise your self-awareness about what is happening in your body when you’re exposed to triggers so you can name your feelings, thoughts, and reactions and recognize how you might be triggered in the future. Therapy is also a great way to identify and process your triggers.
Are you looking for ideas to get started? Try one of these 30 mindfulness activities.
Flip the script on your younger self
Many people find that their bathroom mirror is an easy place for self-criticism and judgment to ruminate. Spiraling into negative self-talk, some people walk away from their mirror depressed or out of sorts. Can you relate? It’s time to flip the script!
In a recent episode of the On Purpose podcast, Jay Shetty interviewed Kendell Jenner about mental health. As Kendell described going through the process of healing, she shared an idea she got from her therapist, who said toput up a childhood photo of herself on her bathroom mirror.
Now here’s the kicker. Would you speak those exact words of criticism and judgment to the child staring back at you? The likely answer is no.
This simple step is a great way to give yourself pause before you go down a self-criticizing thought spiral. In psychology, this is similar to the “Empty Chair Technique.” It allows people to gain a different perspective on their internal conflicts or struggles. In the case of speaking to your younger self in the bathroom mirror, trying this approach might help you experience more self-kindness.
Take a 5-minute breather
When you’re busy and your plates are spinning, you may be tempted to power through and get it all done, but research suggests that this may be counterproductive and lead to burnout. Taking five-minute to 30-minute breaks throughout the day increases your energy levels, making you more productive in the long run.
In the heat of stress, it’s always best to take that five-minute breather to regroup. Walk around the block, practice mindful breathing, or chat with a friend. It’s valuable to get out of your element. However, to maximize the benefit of your breaks, build breaks into your day for stress prevention, not just intervention.
Your daily break routine might look something like this:
- Morning: Spend 30 minutes in meditation before beginning the day. Try alternating meditation and exercise each day, or if you have time, do both.
- Meetings: Block your meetings for 45 minutes instead of an hour. Give yourself 15 minutes at the end of each meeting to take a walk and let your subconscious process your thoughts.
- Lunch: Completely disconnect from work during lunch. This is an excellent boundary practice. Take this time to eat and do an activity you love—play a game, chat with a friend, or take a walk.
- Afternoon break: Set aside 20 to 30 minutes mid-afternoon to step away from the hassle of the day and recalibrate. Take this time to journal, meditate, read, or do something creative.
- End of your day: Spend time with a partner or friend disconnected from work and errands, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Share your highs and lows of the day and check-in. If you cannot connect with someone, spend this time in your gratitude journal.
Keep a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is an excellent way to reshape your brain and improve your well-being. Research shows it can reduce stress, enhance sleep quality, help you build resilience, and improve mental health.
Try one of these 35 gratitude journal prompts to get started and see what happens to your thought patterns over time.
Here are a few gratitude prompts to get you started:
- Write about three things that made your day better.
- Think of someone you’re grateful for and write about why (send them a note!).
- Write about a challenge you’re proud of yourself for overcoming.
- Write about a memory that brings you joy.
Rewire your brain with goal-setting
When you set a goal for yourself, it helps add meaning to the task at hand. Goal-setting drives motivation and also enables you to focus. Similar to positive visualization, a goal can give you a picture of what’s possible and clarity of mind. Research shows that goal-setting rewires your brain toward achieving your desired result!
To get yourself started, check in with your emotional temperature in the different areas of your life, including:
- Business: How do you feel about your work and career?
- Friends: How do you think about your social life?
- Family: How do you feel about your relationships with your partner and family?
- Personal Passions: Are you getting fulfillment from activities you enjoy?
- Spiritual: How do you feel emotionally, spiritually, or mentally?
- Health: How are you feeling physically?
Get more ideas in our article on five science-backed goal-setting tips.
Choose a mantra
Mantras are a great way to focus your mind. They are often used in meditation to aid concentration, but they can also help you set the tone or intention for your day, week, month, or even year.
To choose a mantra, consider your desired outcome based on your context.
Here are a few mantra ideas to get you started:
- I can do hard things.
- I choose peace.
- I’m forgiving.
- I take one step at a time.
- I’m courageous.
- I permit myself.
- I am enough.
What mantra might you choose to set your intention this week?
Budget your values
Knowing your values is a great way to gain self-awareness and clarity about who you are and what you want out of your life. When life gets confusing or you’re in a situation where you’re unsure about what decision to make, revisiting your values can help you make the right next step for yourself.
By revisiting your values in the same way you might review your financial budget, you’ll be able to evaluate your decisions and measure them against who you’re becoming.
For example, suppose one of your values is generosity. You might look at your calendar to determine how you might show up this week with generosity—maybe it’s bringing a meal to a friend in need or volunteering at your local food bank.
Do any of these values resonate with you?
What are your values? Review our list of 216 core values to get started.
Enjoy a positive distraction
Guess what? Not all distractions are counterproductive! When you’re stressed or stuck in a negative thought pattern, one of the best things you can do is take a mental break and enjoy a positive distraction. Research shows that a positive distraction can impact your brain in such a way that it increases performance. Companies, including Google, Facebook, Ideo, and others, implement play into their corporate culture because they know that it increases productivity and well-being.
What kind of activity helps you regain mental clarity? Consider activities you enjoy, like reading, listening to music, watching a movie, chatting with a friend, playing a game, etc.
Include meditation in your routine
Meditation is an excellent prevention and intervention activity to control your mind and regain focus.
Meditation can help rewire your brain for more happiness by reducing stress, increasing your sense of well-being, improving your sense of connectedness, improving focus, accelerating creativity, and improving memory, to name a few!
Are you interested in starting a mediation routine? Dive deeper into our article about how meditation rewires your brain.
Use your senses
One easy way to get in tune with your mind and body, especially when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, is to take a few minutes to check in with your five senses. (Bonus: you might also include this activity in your meditation routine.)
What do you hear, see, taste, feel, and smell at this moment? Go through each of the five senses one at a time, perhaps spending one minute focused on each one. Therapists call this a grounding exercise, which can help you relax and focus. Give it a try…
- What do you hear? Close your eyes and pay attention to the sounds around you. What do you notice that you didn’t notice before?
- What do you see? Look straight ahead, then to your right, left, feet, above, and behind you. What do you notice that you didn’t before?
- What do you taste? Notice what’s on your tongue. Can you still taste what you last ate or drank?
- What do you feel? Notice the tips of your fingers, how your clothes feel on your body, or how your feet feel in your shoes. Notice how your body reacts to the sensations.
- What do you smell? Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose. What memories do you associate with the scent?
Break up your routine
For example, keep your phone on your bedside table because you use it as an alarm clock in the morning. But as soon as you wake up, maybe you’re tempted to check your email or social media, often not mentally prepared for what you might see. You then roll out of bed with a potentially unbalanced thought pattern that sets the tone of your day.
Does this sound familiar? It might be time to break up your routine. Research shows that breaking up your routine can also get your brain out of autopilot and reengage your mind to think creatively and solve problems better.
Express your thoughts and feelings
Gaining self-awareness is a great way to understand your thoughts and control your mind. It turns out that expressing yourself is also good for your physical and mental health!
Research shows that when you bottle your emotions, they don’t simply go away. Often your body absorbs unexpressed emotion in the form of increased cortisol levels, which can lead to physical and mental health issues.
Some of the best ways to do this are by journaling or sharing your feelings with a close friend. You can start small with some simple reflections at the end of the day, or you can go deeper and invest in yourself by talking to a therapist. Other ways to express your feelings may be through art, singing, dancing, poetry, or music. What is your favorite way to express yourself?
The research is detailed; there are loads of mental health benefits to exercising, including stress relief, memory improvement, better sleep, reduced anxiety, and, oh yeah, it’s also good for your body!
What to better control your mind? Add movement to your daily routine. Even if you can’t take an hour out of your day for a workout, you can incorporate easy ways to exert more energy.
Choose one or two activities to try today, including taking a five-minute walk, using the stairs instead of the escalator, using a standing desk at work, walking to lunch, stretching while you watch TV, etc.
Limit your exposure to negativity
Terms like “doom-scrolling” and “headline anxiety” are becoming more common as people have more access to news and events than ever before. Though we’re more connected than ever, extensive exposure to negativity can negatively impact your mental health, including increased depression and anxiety. It can also affect your coping capacity and reduce your resilience.
Some easy ways to limit your exposure include:
- Turning notifications off on your phone
- Limiting your time to 30 minutes a day looking at the news
- Reducing your social media check-ins to three to five times a day at a max of 10 minutes at a time
- Carrying a book with you to read for those idle moments when you’d be tempted to check your phone
Schedule life-giving activities in your week
When was the last time you had something to look forward to on your calendar? Life-giving activities are the type of activities that make you feel like time is going by quickly or make you feel energized or fulfilled. The act of simply looking forward to these types of activities can have a positive impact on your brain!
It might be time to look put that weekend away on the calendar. Don’t have time for travel? Block out time for an activity you genuinely enjoy and would look forward to—a night out with friends, a visit to that museum you’ve wanted to see, or even a coffee date with an old friend.
Participate in an act of kindness
Research shows that something unique happens in your brain when you participate in (or even witness) an act of kindness. There’s a release of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, which promotes overall well-being and builds a connection with others.
Here are a few acts of kindness to get you started:
- Order someone a surprise food delivery.
- Volunteer at a local charity like a homeless shelter or food pantry.
- Double-tip your server just because.
- Write a rave review for your favorite local small business or restaurant.
- Do a chore your partner hates to do.
- Send a thank you card to a friend just for being great.
- Offer to babysit your friend’s kids for free, so they can have a date night.
Want to participate in more acts of kindness? Check out one of the 62 ideas to be a nicer person!
Controlling Your Mind Takeaways
To summarize, take note of these practical mind-control takeaways:
- Ask yourself, “What’s the best that could happen?” Reframe your thoughts with positive visualization.
- Filter your thoughts with the 6-in-6 Rule. Ask yourself if you’ll still be worried about this six months from now.
- Flip the script on your younger self. Put up a childhood photo in the bathroom and speak kindly to yourself.
- Take a 5-minute breather. Breaks give you energy and help you stay productive.
- Be mindful of your triggers. Practice mindfulness to be aware of what’s happening in your body in different situations.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Express what you’re grateful for to improve positive thinking.
- Rewire your brain with goal-setting. Setting your mind on a vision for possibility is a great motivator.
- Choose a mantra. Add intention to your day, week, or month with a positive mindset.
- Budget your values. Let your values help you make better decisions.
- Enjoy a positive distraction. In the weight of stress, a positive distraction is a helpful medicine.
- Include meditation in your routine. Centering your mind is a great way to rewire your brain for more happiness.
- Use your senses. Getting grounded by paying attention to your five senses is a helpful exercise to add to your meditation practice.
- Break up your routine. Get out of autopilot and reengage your mind with a new pattern.
- Apply the True, Helpful, Kind Method. Filter your thoughts with the questions: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind?
- Map your emotions. Use an emotions wheel to help you identify and name your feelings.
- Express your thoughts and feelings. Grab a journal, or chat with a trusted friend or therapist to unbottle your emotions.
- Exert energy. Exercise is not just good for the body. It’s also good for the mind!
- Limit your exposure to trauma and negativity. Overexposure to traumatic events in the news might harm your mental health.
- Schedule life-giving activities in your week. Put something on the calendar that you can look forward to.
- Participate in an act of kindness. Engaging and even witnessing acts of kindness create a positive chemical reaction in your brain!
For more ideas on controlling your mind and building mental toughness, check out these seven tips to strengthen your mind.