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How to Control Intrusive Thoughts

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Thoughts are important. In the scriptures, we are commanded to let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly. President Ezra Taft Benson also stressed the power thoughts have when he said:

“Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character—and our character will determine our eternal destiny.”

So, what do you do when you are faced with intrusive thoughts you can’t get rid of, whether they are inappropriate, unhealthy, lustful, or just completely distracting? Here are four ideas that may help you control intrusive thoughts.

Avoid Suppression & Increase Self-Monitoring

We never want to entertain evil thoughts and we certainly don’t want to revel in them. However, we sometimes fight too hard to suppress unwanted thoughts. Psychologically, this process of suppression is usually unsuccessful. In fact, the opposite happens. We are trying so hard not to think of something that it becomes all we can think about.

It’s important to examine our thoughts and try to understand where they are coming from. We should acknowledge that we have the thought and then make a conscious decision on how we want to act. Thoughts are powerful, but your choice of what to do with your thoughts is even more so.

Practice Mindfulness

Much of unwanted thought occurs in the abstract. We fantasize. We dwell on the past and obsess over future possibilities. Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of the present and savoring the place you’re in right now. Some simple ways to practice mindfulness include:

  • Pausing and describing everything you see in your mind
  • Expressing gratitude in prayer each night
  • Accepting that something has happened and choosing to do the best you can moving forward
  • Focus on doing something simple today to reach the end goal you ultimately desire

Daily habits such as these can help keep your mind from wandering too far off the essential things and keep intrusive thoughts in perspective.

Recognize Triggers

So many things around us try to exert influence in our life. We need to do our best to recognize things that trigger unwanted thoughts and to figure out how to handle those situations. This may include avoiding things or cutting unhealthy things out of our lives.

This could include relationships, places, activities, groups, books, movies, songs, and more. If we can cleanse our life of things that spark unhealthy thoughts, we will find our minds much clearer.

Start Adding Light

Instead of fighting the darkness, focus on adding light into your life. The darkness is so hard to overcome without the light of Jesus Christ. If we will turn to him and do the good things he asks us to do, he will help us overcome the darkness within us. We can constantly seek him out in every aspect of our lives, from the daily study habits we keep to the media we partake of to how often we pray to him for help.

It is Christ who gives us new hearts and this can extend to new minds as well. Our whole being can be refreshed and made whole as we actively choose to turn ourselves to Christ as best we can in every instance.

How have you overcome intrusive or unwanted thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.




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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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