Do you hear voices in your head?
Believe it or not, we all do. We all have a continual voice that comments endlessly on everything around us. If we're having difficulty with a co-worker or family member, the voice starts imaginary arguments with them in our head. If we're afraid of a challenging task, the voice tells us why we won't succeed.
Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, calls this voice "your inner roommate." He points out that if you had a real roommate that was as critical, judgmental, and endlessly complainy as that inner voice, you'd throw him out tomorrow, with all his smelly laundry.
Getting rid of the inner voice isn't so easy, because we tend to believe what we think. We accept what that inner voice tells us, even when it's self-defeating thoughts like, "You'll never succeed," "You can't lose weight," or "You'll always be depressed."
The fantastically good news is that you don't have to believe everything you think! In order to change our thoughts, though, we must first become aware of those thoughts. We have to "hear" the inner voice, and decide whether we want to believe what it's telling us.
Over the years, I have developed a series of mental shortcuts "“ I call them "mind hacks" "“ for developing better thought habits.
Here are a few easy mind hacks to help you develop that awareness of your own inner voice.
Mind Hack #1: What Was My Mind Just Thinking?
The first mind hack is so easy that you can practice it today. For the next 24 hours, simply ask yourself, as often as possible,"What was my mind just thinking?"
If you're doing the laundry and worrying about an upcoming project, mentally say, "Worry." If you're commuting to work and thinking about a conversation you had last week, say "Conversation."
Every time you remember to "check in" on your mind, award yourself an Awareness Point. At the end of 24 hours, write down your score. Pretend like it's a game, and the object is to beat your own high score.
This mind hack sounds easy, and it is "¦ for about an hour. Most people forget to keep playing, because they get lost in the mind again! Checking in on your mind regularly develops the "muscle" of mental awareness, so you can see your thoughts more clearly, and change them more easily.
Mind Hack #2: Getting Into the Balcony
Imagine yourself in a theater, with your mind sitting on a stage, illuminated by a bright spotlight. Now imagine yourself sitting in a balcony, looking down on your mind. You have a terrific view, and can see everything going on in there: the hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, and all the other thoughts and emotions playing out on stage.
This is a useful mental technique whenever you notice yourself feeling worried, anxious, or depressed about something. Get into the balcony. Look down on your mind, and see it from a higher perspective.
From the balcony, you can see the drama as it's playing out. If you're obsessing about your spouse or partner, you can see how the mind is playing out an angry or fearful future. If you can't let go of an argument you had with a friend, you can see how the mind is triggering those emotions in an endless loop. You don't have to get caught up in it!
Getting into the balcony lets us look at the mind from a higher level. It helps us get free from our thoughts. Once we get free from our thoughts, we can begin to change them. We can rewrite the script.
Mind Hack #3: The Transcription
Imagine they've developed a speech recognition technology, like the kind on your smartphone, but it works in your head. Every thought you have gets translated into words. At the end of the day, you get a big stack of printouts that represents your entire inner conversation for the past 24 hours.
As you read through this transcription, what does it say? Is your mental dialogue harsh and critical, or is it helpful and kind? Does it complain about others, or does it lift them up? Is the overall dialogue destructive, or is it constructive?
If you're visually-oriented, you can even picture the transcription in real time. When you find yourself wrestling with uncomfortable thoughts, imagine them being transcribed and printed out, in real time. What are the thoughts saying? What would you say to someone who said those things to you?
I once heard someone say, "No one will ever talk to me as unkindly as I talk to myself." Once we become aware of the things our mind is telling us about ourselves and others — once we "hear" that inner voice — we can start to change those thoughts.
And as Steven would say, once you change your thoughts, you change your life.