This graph shows that as for today, 75% of the U.S. population are overweight. For Sweden, that number is almost 60%. This one shows the ten-year increase in amphetamine-based medication being prescribed to children under the age of 17 for being labeled with attention deficit disorders.
And this one shows that as for today, nearly one-tenth of the Swedish population are now being prescribed antidepressants. For U.S., that number is even higher.
Now these are some quite alarming data. However, it could have been my personal data just a few years ago, as I have experienced many of these states myself.
It started 10 years ago now and in a horrific series of events, my mother hastily died in an accident which was unforeseen and left me in chaos. I was 14 at the time.
A few years after that, I had developed addictions. I had become addicted to cannabis, to sugar, to tobacco, to video games. For some years I lived a life where I was constantly distracting myself from the pain of the fact that the woman of my life had left me forever.
In our culture, we are raised from the very beginning of our lives to crave stimulants, and the world we live in is an obvious reflection of this. And I’m not only talking about drugs.
Think of anything we do: watching movies; watching sport events; eating cream cheese; listening to music; watching pornographics; going shopping. The list is endless and all of these are consumer competence. They are produced as a response to human need.
We have lost control of how we use it and have ultimately let them gain control over us on how we think. This was to the highest degree true for me and my past behavior.
And whether you are a tech billionaire, a Buddhist monk, a military officer, or a high school teacher, you are to some degree being unwillingly dictated by your own thoughts but also free to change that.
The American psychologist and philosopher William James said that:
“Thoughts become perception; perception becomes reality. Alter your thoughts, alter your reality.”
The world in which we live in… its quality, its character… is nothing but a reflection of our own minds. And the only way to influence in which world you want to live in, or in which world you want your children to live in is to learn how to influence your mind.
I wish to share with you today what I have developed as the two most important methods on how to stop thoughts from controlling you and ultimately take charge of your mind and thereby reality. It’s the realization that made me process the trauma of the death of my mother, the key insight from 18 years as a monk by Björn Lindeblad and the core idea from William James’s statement.
METHOD NUMBER 1: PRACTICE MEDITATION
Developing a habit of doing this for just 15 minutes at a time, four days a week can change your life in many ways it did for me. By definition, it’s the art of developing mindfulness. It’s practiced by consciously directing and maintaining your attention on an unstimulating object, such as the breathing and doing this for lengths of time.
This practice produces a more calm mind, less prone to overreaction, more rational and higher performing. But the ultimate goal of meditation is to start objectively observe the mind. Let me give you a visual example of what I mean.
Imagine yourself a web made up of thoughts. Every thread a possible thought path, leading to different places. After some meditation training, one is able to identify thought patterns, see where they will lead and choose to take another one. And this is what happened to me at the monastery.
As I started to see which one of my thought path led me to anxiety and had done so for so many years, I was actually able to direct my thoughts towards something constructive instead. And this means that as you gradually learn the structure of your own web of thoughts, you become able to actively predict which thought will lead to in which emotional state, which will make you able to actively choose states such as calmness, serenity, and high focus over stress, anxiety, and anger.
In theory quite clear but again it can only happen as the mind is provided enough space and silence without being constantly stimulated.
METHOD NUMBER 2: RESTRAIN YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL INPUT
The saying that you are what you eat certainly applies to food. But have you ever thought of the notion of bad information having the same effect, making us mentally unhealthy, obese, addicted?
In our age of information and unprecedented junk data load enters our minds every single day and this junk data then influences our minds, it affects our values, it creates our needs and desires and even how we think.
It’s our responsibility as individuals to carefully feed our minds with selected input, and that input then, if chosen wisely, will produce this desirable mental environment in which we can start to understand our minds properly enough to control them.