Now the thing is that we cannot control the thoughts that arrive in our mind. If we try not to have certain thoughts, then we are, by default, already thinking of them. Also thinking positively may not be realistic if we are facing life's difficulties, and it is likely to add some self-criticism as we start to see our inability to think positively as a personal failure.


So, while we cannot control every thought that comes to our mind, we do have a choice in how we respond once it arrives. One of the first things we can do when we're dealing with thoughts and their impact on our mood is to get some distance from them. Now this may sound difficult when those thoughts are inside your mind, however, we as humans have a powerful tool that allows us to step back from our thoughts and see them for what they really are. It's our ability to think about what we are thinking. It is also known as metacognition. Despite its complicated name, it's simply the process of noticing your thoughts and observing how they make you feel. When you do this, they have less control over your feelings and actions.


When it comes to thoughts, attention is power. Many people let their attention move freely, wherever the wind blows. But we can also consciously choose to pay attention to specific aspects of our experience on purpose. This is not the same as blocking thoughts and trying to ignore them. It is being intentional about which thoughts you give the focus to, and which ones you zoom in on and turn up the volume.


Many people come to therapy knowing what they don't want. They know they have some thoughts and feelings they would like to get rid of. But when we turn towards the future they do want, it comes as a bit of a shock, for the simple reason that they have never asked themselves that question before. Painful problems can be so overwhelming and demanding of our attention that we start to focus more on that and less on what we want instead. Over time, we come to realise that our well-being is not where we'd like it to be, but we have no idea what we actually want or need because we never think about it.


Your attention is valuable and helps to create your experience of life. So learning to control where you direct it can have a powerful impact on your life and your mood. That's why mindfulness has become so popular. It's a bit like lifting weights in the gym, only this time we are working a mental muscle, and as it grows, your ability to choose where you focus your attention increases, and along with it, so does your ability to manage your mood.