We’ve all heard about detox programs for the body, which aim to clear away all the toxins which block our system. Well, considering the amount of mental ‘toxins’ we indulge in everyday in the form of negative and destructive thoughts, I thought why not have a mental detox program too? By this, I mean a series of practives you could do for a couple of weeks, or a month, at the end of which your thoughts would be purged of negativity and a new clarity and peace of mind could emerge in your life.
As any army general will tell you, an adversary is best attacked on multiple fronts at once, and so it is with our thoughts. These five steps outlined below – meditation, simplification, inspiration, exercise and positivity – work hand in hand to keep you in a good frame of mind throught the day. I would recommend you start with a timeframe like two weeks and see how you get on, and then maybe the next time try it for a month or even longer.
Step 1: Meditation
Meditation, is quite simply, the art of stilling the mind and going beyond your thoughts to a space of peace and beauty inside yourself. If you are serious about trying to rid the mind of negative thoughts, then I would recommend you make time for a meditation practice at least once a day. It is best if you do it at the same time every day (so as to build up a habit) – for many reasons, the ideal time is early in the morning, directly after you wake up and have a shower and before you eat breakfast.However if you can’t do this, at least pick some time of the day where you can sit down for five or ten minutes undisturbed. We have written quite a few articles on meditation and concentration exercises (see resource list below); try these different techniques and see which one best suits you.
A word of warning: Don’t expect that at the end of 2 weeks all your thoughts will be cleared. When I give meditation classes, one unfortunate thing I see time and time again is people coming in expecting to reach that state, and giving up in disappointment because they can’t control their thoughts after a couple of weeks or a month. The fact is, to have no thoughts at all is a very high state of meditation. Instead in our meditation we try to identify with a deeper, more ‘real’ part of our being, so that we learn not to take our negative thoughts so seriously and be swept away by them.
Step 2: Simplification
One reason why our mind runs amok is because it is overstimulated by the bewildering array of inputs out there – radio, TV, Internet, newspapers to name but a few. When we are more selective about what goes into our mental process in the first place, the easier it is to control it once it is there! Try to look at your daily activities, and separate the truly essential inputs from the superfluous. For example, we watch TV for five hours a day to relax, but the afterward we find our mind dwellining on the fictional situations we have just watched, which have nothing to do with the here and now of our lives. Another thing we often do is take on extra activities and obligations out of a misplaced sense of obligation or because others feel it is something we should do, which only serves to bring extra worry and stress into an already mentally overcrowded life!
Every morning, when you have finished your meditation practice, try to identify areas of your life that are causing excess mental baggage, and work on removing them. Don’t suddenly emiminate all superflous areas of your life at once – this will create a tremendous resistance and strain in your mind – but slowly and surely identify areas of your life that are weighing you down, and work on replacing them with something more fulfilling.
Step 3: Inspiration
If we implement the previous point and cut down on the number of mental distractions, we then have a lot of time on our hands, and as the saying goes, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop – in other words if we don’t fill this space with positivity, our mind just finds more negativity to take its place! Before you embark on your mental detox program, locate at least five or six sources of inspiration in the form of inspiring books, music, programmes (and yes, self-improvement blogs!) and have them at hand whenever you have some free time. In this way, your free time can be not only relaxing, but elevating!
Step 4: Exercise
Often much of our negative thoughts comes from stressful energy which has no outlet for release and which just builds up in the mind. Having a daily half-hour exercise regimen not only makes us feel more alert and revitalized, it also acts as an outlet for the stuck mental energy that can build up during the day. Personally, I always try to go for a run or do some other form of exercise early in the morning after meditation, because I know that life and other things will always get in the way later on! Another way to make sure you have a regular schedule is to do it with a friend – it’s much harder to back out of it when you’re letting someone else down.
Step 5: Positivity
The last part of of our detox plan deals with the obvious question – so what do we do when negative thoughts do crop up? Our initial response can sometimes be to fight with them or repress them, but this actually only gives them added strength. A better response is to see what emotion is causing this negative stream of thought and invoke the opposite quality. If your emotion is fear based, invoke the quality of love, if it is anger, invoke peace, if it is insecurity, invoke detachment. You can invoke them by repeating the name of that quality silently and feeling that quality grow inside your heart. It may be a struggle sometimes when the negative emotion is particularly strong, but persistence definitely pays off.
One final note:
When you begin a juice fast or other kind of body detox, the first thing that happens is that all the toxins get released on their way out of the system, and you feel a little bit under the weather for a while. Similarly, when you begin the mental detox, you may notice that the negative mind puts up a surprising amount of resistance, because it sees you are trying to change it. In addition, the additional awareness you get from meditation may reveal other negative thoughts you had that were lurking below the surface, so it might seem as if there was more negativity than there was before! That’s why it’s important to have inspiration and exercise too, becuse they act as a channel for these ‘toxins’ as they leave your mind. Like the physical detox, this mental detox does require a degree of commitment and a real aspiration for change, but after a couple of weeks, the peace of mind and clarity of vision you get will all have been worth it.
We have written quite a few meditation articles on this blog, among them are:
Another very nice website is meditationworkshop.org (which Tejvan made) containing pretty much everything you need to know to begin a meditation practice
- The Inestimable Importance of Inspiration
- A quick plug for one of my current sources of inspiration – the Mahabharata, which is India’s equivalent of the Iliad and the source of much of its spiritual wealth. In the 1980’s B.R Chopra directed a 96-episode adaptation of this great epic for TV; I’m progressing through it at the rate of 1/2 to 1 episode a day (Im currently on episode 36). Once you adjust yourself to the crummy special effects, there is a story here containing timeless wisdom wich is as relevant today as it was 5,000 years ago. You can catch it via streaming here…
I made a website allaboutrunning.net where I wrote quite a few articles about keeping up an exercise regimen:
More articles from our blog: