Living in a Mental Loop: How to Escape Negative Thought Patterns

Are You Living in a Mental Loop? Research Says Yes.

Researchers who study the mind tell us we have somewhere between 60 and 80 thousand thoughts each day. In fact, 95% of these thoughts are the same repetitive thoughts we had the day before.

living in a mental loopAllie Smith/Unsplash

Are You Living in a Mental Loop? Research Says Yes.

How hard is it to change the program? It's not as easy as you may think, but it can be done.

Researchers who study the mind tell us we have somewhere between 60 and 80 thousand thoughts each day. In fact, 95% of these thoughts are the same repetitive thoughts we had the day before.

Some of these thoughts are patterns you have repeated over many months or even years. They are related to your daily routine. Those things you do each day are picked up and stored by your subconscious mind. Eventually, those thoughts develop into something you do without even thinking about it. That's what's known as a habit. We all have them. Sometimes we're not even aware of it.

As an example, have you ever driven your car while you were deep in thought? Suddenly you become aware of the fact you just drove twenty miles and don't even recall doing it. Since driving is something you do almost every day, you don't really need to think about it. It's become a habit. Your subconscious mind allowed your conscious mind to be elsewhere while it put you on autopilot.

You might think you’re in control of your thoughts, but guess what? Your conscious mind is not in control. Your conscious mind controls a paltry 5% of that precious real estate otherwise known as your brain. Your subconscious mind is 95% in control.

Like a software program on your computer, your subconscious mind is always running in the background. It's not something you tend to pay attention to. The subconscious mind is constantly feeding you information you use to make conscious decisions based on the information it has gathered from your conscious thought process.

Essentially, your conscious mind feeds information to your subconscious mind, which in turn feeds thoughts to your conscious mind. It's a loop. You literally are what you think. Getting stuck in mental loops or patterns of thought can be detrimental to your well-being.

Here's an example of how you're living in a loop.

Over the years, your workday has probably gone something like this:

  • Your alarm goes off at the same time every day.
  • You get out of bed from the same side you sleep on every night.
  • You wander into the bathroom, just like you did yesterday and just like you’ll do tomorrow.
  • Use the toilet.
  • Take a shower.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Shave.
  • Get dressed picking out certain clothes for certain reasons.
  • Drink a cup of coffee.
  • Eat breakfast… or not.
  • Get into your car.
  • Drive to work.
  • Work at the same job, with the same people, doing the same thing for the same amount of time.
  • You drive home.
  • You eat dinner.
  • You read, watch television or get on your computer.
  • You get ready to go to bed.

Guess what? Tomorrow won’t be much different.

Now let's think in more depth about each item on this list. I’ll bet you do the exact same thing in the exact same way with each of these items.

You probably put your pants, socks, and shoes on the same way. Left foot or right foot first. You shower using the same routine to lather up and rinse off. You brush your teeth using the same routine with the same toothpaste you've been using for years. You shave by pulling the razor across your face the same way you did the day before. You drink the same coffee fixed the same way you like it, hold your cup the same way. Maybe you even use the same favorite cup. You leave the house around the same time in basically the same way. You take the same route to work in the same car listening to the same radio station. You eat your meals around the same time each day. You watch the same television programs or look at the same web or social media sites. You go to bed around the same time each night using the same routine as yesterday and tomorrow.

You could probably break things down even further than this, but you get what I’m saying. Basically, we’re like automatons with a personality. A personality that you brought into existence through your thought process, a personality you may not even like.

The thing about everyday routines is that if you want to make a change, it can be difficult. Even something as simple as changing your routine by putting on the opposite shoe each morning will seem “wrong.” Your subconscious mind will begin to panic and start squawking at you. “Wait a minute, this isn’t right. You always do the other shoe first.” It will start giving you reasons why you shouldn’t change, why you should go back to the old familiar way of doing things. Your subconscious mind thinks there's a problem, and it's protecting you.

That’s with your shoes. What if you wanted to change something really important, like a bad habit or a personality trait? If you're retired, do you recall how awkward or difficult it was to break the habit of your daily work routine? It took some time before you felt like not going to work was normal, didn't it? Now you have the task of learning new habits. That in itself can be a challenge. Some people can't handle the change and end up going back to work. Their subconscious mind has them captured in a mental loop they can't break out of.

Why would your subconscious mind balk at change?

A habit is something you have repeated to the point where your subconscious mind has picked up on it and uploaded it into its program. Habits are hard to break because your subconscious mind is protective of its programs. The evolution of the part of the brain where the subconscious resides has been programmed for self-preservation.

Your habits create your personality. Do you have bad habits you can’t seem to break? Getting rid of a habit is difficult. Forcing your subconscious mind to change by thinking positive thoughts will not be enough. You need to rewrite the script it has been working off of for years.

Here's how you'll need to do it:

First, think about the habit you want to change. Habits reside in your subconscious mind. Its program runs behind the scenes. Thinking about what it is you want to change brings it up front to your conscious mind where you can better deal with it.

Once you have it in mind, you can visualize your intention to install the new healthy habit you want to replace the bad habit with. Visualization works. It’s a conscious intention to change whatever it is you're visualizing. Think about how top athletes visualize their performance before they begin their event. They visualize a perfect performance every day as part of their training in order to embed it into their subconscious mind. To get the most out of their visualization, they do it with feeling and emotion. They visualize every detail of their flawless performance using all of their senses.

Why does this work?

Dr. Joe Dispenza, in his book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, says this: “Through mental rehearsal, the circuits in the brain can reorganize themselves to reflect our objectives. We can make our thoughts so real that the brain changes to look like the event has already become a physical reality.” He goes on to say, “When we are truly focused and single-minded, the brain does not know the difference between the internal world of the mind and what we experience in the external environment. Our thoughts can become our experience. This notion is critical to your success or failure in your endeavor to replace old habits with new ones.”

Your emotional feelings and your intentional thoughts need to work together. This way, you prune your brain’s old habits' neural connections and sprout new neural networks, creating new habits.

What are you thinking?

If you tend to negative self-talk with statements like “I’m no good,” “I can’t do that,” “That's impossible,” or worse, you will need to change these negative self-beliefs first. If these negative thoughts remain part of your personality, you are defeating what you are trying to achieve, and you will never make the change.

When athletes envision their performance, it’s flawless. They don’t envision themselves falling down, losing the race, or telling themselves they aren’t good enough or that they can do better. Negative self-talk is not part of their training. It can’t be a part of what you’re trying to achieve either.

Your thoughts plus your emotions create new habits, which create your reality. You can literally change your brain, change old habits, and change your life.

It's important to remember that changing mental loops takes time and effort. You may feel uncomfortable or resistant to change at first, but with persistence, you can create new, healthier habits and break out of negative thought patterns.

In conclusion, mental loops are patterns of thought and behavior that can be detrimental to your well-being. Your subconscious mind plays a significant role in creating and maintaining these loops, but with mindfulness and effort, you can break out of them and create new, positive habits. Remember, change is possible, but it takes time and persistence.


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