What You Need To Know About Your Thoughts

Thought is a magic tool humans have that enables us to dominate this planet. Here is what I find interesting about thought, and what you need to know about it if you want to live happier. 

1. Your brain never stops thinking

Never, not even for a second, not even in your sleep, unless a person is anesthetized or dead. As long as you are living, you are thinking. 

The mind is restless by default, jumping from one thought to another. This is mainly due to the Default Mode Network (DMN). 

The DMN is a network of brain regions that are active mainly when we are not actively focused on external tasks. It is what causes our non-stopping flow of thoughts. It is associated with daydreaming, self-reflection, autobiographical memory, mental simulation, and social cognition. 

Most of the thoughts generated by the DMN just pop up out of nowhere and without control, in a one-after-another, non-stopping fashion. 

The brain uses about 20% of the body’s energy at all times, and a lot of them are spent on these passing thoughts that are unimportant. 

So, WHY? 

Why the human brain keeps thinking

To survive

Human society is complex. We have social interaction, massive cooperation, languages, tools, wars, and changing environments. To survive in this complex world, we need complex thinking tools like making plans and decisions, solving problems, creating stuff, self-reflecting, and imagining. 

That’s a lot of information to process. So the mind continuously thinks, analyzing the environment, learning from the past (building thought models), making predictions, and preparing for the future. 

Our brain is like the CPU in a computer. The CPU never stops computing as long the computer is power-on, even if you don’t run any program on it, the operating system itself is a program (like the DMN) and it’s constantly running, planning, allocating resources, and monitoring any change. 

What thoughts is the brain generating?

Automatic thoughts. You can find what automatic thoughts are, and how they work here: Automatic Thought Model (ATM).

2. What we can and can’t control about our thoughts.

What we can’t control:

  • To stop thinking
  • To NOT think about something
  • What kinds of thoughts pop up

What we can control:

  • To actively put our attention somewhere
  • To actively think about something

In a word, we can’t control automatic thoughts, we can only control active thoughts.

3. You are not your thoughts.

Thoughts are just what your brain learns from the interpretation of each of your past experiences. You have limited experience, and your interpretation is not necessarily accurate, so your thoughts are just models in your head that merely help you go through your past life, a lot of them could be totally wrong. 

More about this here: The ETEAR model.

So your thoughts are not your fate, nor some kind of divine order that we need to follow.

A lot of your thoughts are wrong.

You are not your thoughts.

You don’t have to listen to your thoughts. 

4. You can change your thoughts.

Your thought patterns are just habits that you have, you can change your thought patterns by controlling where to put your attention

To control your mind, meditation and mindfulness practice are great tools. 

Control your mind, control your life.

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