It’s a common stumbling block in human behavior to have conflicting thoughts in the head. The battle in the mind can be one of the most consistent and difficult obstacle in one’s life. Those who suffer through depression are all too aware of this warfare; though anyone can fall victim to the struggle. If you are caught in this encounter, and you don’t learn how to win, you will:
- Suffer mentally and physically
- Live with distorted beliefs
- Make bad choices
- Stifle potential growth (intellectually, emotionally, financially, spiritually, healthfully)
It’s a complex game of manipulation most would rather not play. The problem is, many are a participant whether they’d prefer to be or not. I personally have to act like a chess player; thinking ahead and outwitting whatever negative thoughts or emotions my mind may bring my way. But there are ways to help combat this mental contention many of us go through. Here are five tactics to help achieve victory over the battle in the mind.
- Plan Ahead
- Improve Self Talk
- Get Active
- Learn Mental Jujitsu
Applying these strategies will take you from an overwhelmed Army Private on the front line of thought, to an active battlefield mental Five Star General. Let this mindful blueprint become your own personal montage in preparing for battle!
1. Plan Ahead
This isn’t some foreign war. It is your own and it is to be taken as a personal assault. Do not be passive or act with a victim mentality. Your mood and your actions will suffer even more detrimentally. Be realistic, preemptive, proactive, and come up with ways to fight back. This will have you better equipped and able to overcome future mental warfare. Consider:
- Envisioning overcoming the manipulative thought onslaught
- Creating positive thoughts/phrases to use in countering the negative attack
- Having a support system/people you can confide in (your own personal battalion)
- Regularly practicing gratitude
Even though you may be in a content or happy state now, realize it can be just a matter of time until you get drafted into hostile mental territory. When you’ve unwillingly been volunteered, you’ll need to be ready for what is to come. Strategize & arm yourself now.
Take on the code of the boy scouts and always be prepared!
This tactic will not only better prepare you, it will improve and strengthen your mind and emotional disposition. If practiced frequently, this technique will make an attack less likely to regularly occur. This step is all about initiative and exploring your own ways to out-think unhealthy thought processes.
Incorporating positive language will enhance this tactic.
2. Improve Self Talk
The ways we speak or think to ourselves can plant the seeds of doubt, insecurities, and limitations we become afflicted with. Contrarily, keeping them in check and adjusting these thoughts and words can become our resource for motivation, confidence, and discipline.
Recognize your speech patterns. Chances are they mirror your thought patterns. A chosen positive mind construct can be brought down by consistent inconspicuous counteractive chopping. It can be like an underlying current you may have let slip under your radar; surreptitiously pulling you under. Become more aware of the ways you are treating and talking to yourself!
One of the best ways to combat this negative internal conversation/thought pattern is by becoming your own best friend. If your friend was feeling down or in a bad state, how would you speak to him or her? You most likely would try to cheer them up! This would be done by giving them encouragement and positive aspects of their life or situation.
It just makes sense, right? Take a page from your own playbook on how you treat those you care about and apply it to yourself:
Be nice, talk positively, and imagine you are trying to uplift your best friend. Better yet, JUST BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND!!
If we talk to our friends like we sometimes talk to ourselves: “You suck! You’re not good enough. You just can’t do it!”, chances are they wouldn’t be our friends anymore. Don’t beat up, bully, or doubt your own potential. If you find yourself in this mode, it’s time to….
Realize that not all thoughts are you’re own. Often, our ideas are fed to us, either subtly or directly. So where else do these ideas and conceptions come from? Well, this happens on many fronts:
- Programs that we watch
- Social Media content that we read
- News that’s reported
- People that we interact with
- Music that we listen to
All of these can, singularly or collectively, affect our mind frames. You are not obligated to believe or incorporate them into your psyche. But if you are not centered and aware, these influences can be strong undertows, that slowly or quickly, drown your will and self-empowerment. We can even relapse into past modes of thinking we’ve already outgrown (so we think).
In the scope of the mind, physiological studies and understanding will reveal that there are memories and habitual patterns that occur and are accessed through neuron synapses. “Old habits die hard” is an appropriate applicable aphorism. Know that synaptic plasticity allows us to redirect unhealthy thought patterns.
Simply explained, thoughts can sneak back into our heads via the chemistry of the brain.* Just as these counterproductive patterns formed with practice, psychologically and physiologically, we can exercise replacing negative talk and thought with positive mind-encoding through the same means.
New, consistent, well exercised meditations and practices can dominate, clear, and redirect those old modes of thought.
*In times of relapse, I visualize my brain trying to and/or connecting to old thought patterns out of comfort and habit with seeking, electric-flowing, patterns. This illustration reframes my mind, puts the situation in perspective, and gives back my power of choice in the matter to direct those currents to positive thought processes.
Emotions are a messenger and culprit of these habits as well. To believe an emotion unconditionally can be one of the most deceitful practices we regularly expose our choices and actions to. If a thought is a grenade, emotions are the explosion...
Meditation then becomes a filter to cleanse the mind of unnecessary poison, clutter, emotion, and misdirected weaponized thoughts. (Not that you should use your thoughts invectively; but definitely not on yourself.)
Let’s continue to be clear: the connotation of what meditation is usually promoted as, doesn’t line up with its simple nature and accessibility to everyone. It’s not reserved for self-help gurus, religious practices, or celebrity endorsed new-age trends. Meditation should wake you up to being able to let go of what truly does not matter in the grand scheme of life.
You do not need to pay for it or be directed in it. Just find a comfortable way to relax without distractions.
Meditation comes down to a healthy practice of being able to clear your head in your own personal way.
You can be on a flight from Cincinnati, OH to Buffalo, NY and meditate in your coach class seat. (You may need iPods and classical music to block out that crying baby or loud-mouthed New Yorker; but you can make it happen). Real world ways of meditation also include:
- Turning off your smartphone and cancel/minimize distractions* (*a key point in truly meditating)
- A solo road trip to escape the monotony (maybe even bring some friends or your personal battalion)
- Stretching and incorporating deep, relaxed, breathing
- Exercising and keep moving forward.
…Which leads to the next tactic:
4. Get Active
Do not mistake wallowing for meditation. If we lay stagnant; whether in bed, as an inactive recluse, or TV binge watcher, we have become an easy target to being overtaken by misleading infiltration of thoughts, ideals, and/or beliefs.
As a writer, one of my best meditations, escapes, and therapies, has been to take a walk. Different times of day convey different elements of thought. That is the beauty of it. Diversity will give you a menu of positively and unique perspective. As much as negativity can smother you, positivity can be just as active, and of course in your favor.
Discover activity through the elements of nature and movement.
As the elements of nature give positive mental adaptations, so do various active work, recreational, and disciplined calibers of action. Marinating in a bad state can be resolved by movement; whether to a new environment, picking up an instrument, talking to a battalion member, or just walking away.
Healthy, productive activity is using your body and mind in conjunction for enjoyment, relief, and/or accomplishment.
The sometimes easy retreat in the comfort of being home and safety from further negative exposure is deceptive to the true value of what being active can do for the mind. And if you continue to have negative thoughts there, you can begin to associate home with negativity.
That’s a good reason to change your environment from time to time and keep it fresh.
Meditation can take place in action as well, and can help acheive a centered energy to become a fluid energetic form. To keep in balance, it’s important to have agility mentally and physically in the line of fire. Keeping your body in shape and getting your mind right will prepare you for real-life opposition. That’s why your next part of training is supplemental mental martial arts…
5. Learn Mental Jujitsu
When people join a martial arts club, it’s cliche for them to quit quickly because they want to know the art form “now or never” and don’t become the next Bruce Lee overnight. But that is not how any valuable life skill works. It is NEVER overnight.
Can you pick up a guitar for the first time and be the next Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix in 48 hours?… Most likely not. (If so, please put your secret in the comment section below)
This effective technique is based on the philosophy of the Japanese Martial Art of Aikido: “Opposition is not met with negative opposition. Instead, it is joined, controlled, and redirected through the use of spiral motion.” (my interpretation of ‘spiral motion’ is loosely translated full circle of harmony) Let me give you an example:
You get caught in traffic. If you are in a hurry, and stuck, you can picture the build up… (This situation is forewarned in part one/Plan Ahead of this training). So now, here you are.. What do we actually do in the face of such opposition? Take this time to:
- Listen to your favorite music
- Call a loved one
- Listen to an educational or interesting podcast
- Understand that stressing will not improve the situation
The negative situation has been turned into a valuable lesson and use of time. You will inevitably be in the midst of these kinds of warfare. Let it be a mental reminder to apply all that you have trained for to fight, escape, or work your way out.
Attaining powerful skills should have an understanding that there is an attached structure, discipline, and time-frame to the way of getting and being better. In this reaching and in trial, know that any worthwhile valuable skill and practice takes time. There are quick start-up kits to show you what you can aspire to be. (For example, my site is free to read and loaded with tactics to help.)
Ultimately, you have to put the information into practice. Any valuable book, product, or person, is useless when put upon the shelf. Don’t dismiss valuable information, or think the concepts aren’t relevant or applicable to your situation.
Discipline Is A Very Effective Secret Self-Defense Move
You want a one-and-done cure? Discipline is your answer. Do it every day, and the rest takes care of itself. Wake up with it, feed it, exercise it, and like a pet or baby, know it’s something you need to nurture and pay attention to every day… It’s easier said than done.
You have to defeat and phase out the old ways of being that were mentioned above. You can apply this tactic to those sneaky thoughts too.
Mental Jujitsu, when practiced daily, will help you develop discipline and patience with yourself and others. Take time everyday to learn this effective thougtht control. BE REALISTIC. It may never be as easy as you’d hope it to be. But it can get easier with discipline in thought and action.
Start with seeing the other side of your negative thought process. Constant positivity is just as real. And it is something you’d choose to preserve. Like a fighter in hand to hand combat: If negativity (a bad intentioned opponent comes your way) you would instantly defend yourself and overcome; albiet a hard strike or a choke-out to protect what is rightfully yours!
Mental Jujitsu reminds you to step aside, redirect the energy, and gain control. You may have to fight for your peace of mind. A Mental Jujitsu mindframe will give you an advantage and keep you in harmony.
Keep in mind that anyone can get overwhelmed in a moment. Remember in these scenarios that self-defeat is too easy. That’s why many fall victim and accept mediocracy. GET DISCIPLINED and be the victor!!
Discipline keeps you practicing. Practice yields results. Results give you confidence. Confidence gives incentive to continue. Continuing forms patterns. The right patterns set you up for success and a better reason to continue, grow, and attain more.
Surround yourself with your battalion. They should want the same and to participate! Maybe start up your own mental Cobra Kai Dojo, “Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?!”
We should feel welcomed and encouraged that we’re in the right place and aroud the right people. If not, this is the first step in walking away. The most healthy and safest self defense is often walking away.
If it’s not that easy, speaking up, respectively declining, are great self-defense actions to take. Knowing what is right for you, and feeling better after facing an uncomfortable situation, will give the necessary experience to improve your ranks in this crazy war of the mind.
Welcome Home Soldier
Those who truly need help should be shown their genuine efforts are appreciated. To want to learn should be rewarded or shown they’re in the right place. If you are not welcome in your home(land), you are not in the right place. It is important to find yourself in an environment that will help you overcome, move on, and thrive!
Despite your plight, situation, obstacles, learn to find forgiveness, hope, and plan for the future. Mental warfare is exhausting. But these tactics can equip you for victory and gain your peace of mind and energy back!
Invest time in yourself. Accept yourself. Stop comparing yourself to other people. (I know it’s constantly in your face; but stop doing it anyway.) Be grateful for what you have, and use all that you can to invest in your future. Time is really all we have, make the most of it and spend it wisely.
Be a soldier, if not for your country, for your spirit and well-being.
Thanks for reading. My intent here was to encourage and give strength. I have dealt with a lot of mental warfare in my life, and am happy sharing my experiences and lessons. Feel free to reach out and tell me what has helped you. I always want to continue to learn!
– Mark G