Everyday Practices

We don’t have to be controlled by our thoughts

The mindfulness of sounds and thoughts practice that we went through on the previous page is a great way to begin to notice our thoughts from a more observant perspective. 

Eventually we want to continue to grow this awareness and ability to step back from thoughts throughout our day, whether we’re alone or in conversation with others.


In Lesson 2, we worked on the practice of noticing good moments. Here we’re going to do something similar, but instead work on noticing when our thoughts are getting overly negative. 

This isn’t a specific practice to designate time for, but more of a new habit we want to develop, so we can break cycles of rumination as quickly as possible. 

Disengaging from the content of our thoughts can be especially tough when we are grappling with worry, frustration, or deep sadness, but it’s also when it can be the most beneficial. 

Throughout your day, try to be more aware of your thoughts. Whenever you notice they have become more self-critical or negative, take the following steps:

  1. Pause for a moment and disengage from the content of the thought, and instead observe it as a mental phenomenon.
  2. Note the kind of thought it is, bringing an open curiosity to each thought as it arises and passes. You might label the thoughts – perhaps as “self-judging”, “ruminating”, or “worrying”.
  3. Continue to disengage from the thoughts. If this is difficult, you can use one of the anchoring practices from Lesson 1 to help bring you back to the present. 
  4. Check in with yourself after a few moments or minutes. Have the thoughts lingered? Shifted course? What else is here in your present experience, such as body sensations?

When we can step back and see how thoughts flow on their own – much like sounds or the rhythm of the breath – we start to realize that our thoughts don’t define who we are. We have options for how we interact with them. We can choose to engage with a thought, question its validity, or set it aside.

We don’t have to be controlled by our thoughts. The stories that felt so compelling can lose their hold on us, opening the door to other possibilities for how to view and respond to our experiences. 


As we practice mindfulness of thoughts, we cultivate the ability to observe our thinking patterns with non-judgemental awareness. One way to bring this practice into our daily lives is by engaging in mindful conversations. 

Conversations are a fundamental part of our human experience, and they offer an opportunity to practice mindfulness of thoughts in real time.

A mindful conversation involves openly listening to the person we’re speaking with, while observing any bodily sensations, thoughts, or emotions arising in reaction to what is being said. 


Before you start:
  • Set a goal to be open and aware of your reactions to what the other person may say. 
Step 1: Be present
  • Be fully present and engaged in the conversation. Put aside any preconceptions or distractions. While the other person is speaking, rest your attention on hearing what they are saying, rather than thinking about what you’re going to say.
  • If you want, you can tell them you’re practicing a way to help develop your awareness, so while you’re talking, you may be a bit slower to respond as you work to notice how your thoughts or emotions manifest.
Step 2: Listen closely
  • Focus on listening to them and understanding what they are saying. 
Step 3: Observe your reactions
  • Observe your thoughts as they come and go, without getting caught up in them. Acknowledge any urge to interrupt or interject and let it pass.
  • Notice any bodily sensations that arise, such as tension or relaxation, and observe them without judgement.
Step 4: Summarize and respond
  • When it’s your turn to speak, take a pause to form an intention of what you’d like to say. You can also tie in components of active listening, by summarizing and reflecting back what the person said and clarifying anything you are not sure about. 
  • As you choose your words, try to consider whether they are true or whether negative emotions are influencing how you respond.
Step 5: Listen and repeat
  • Explore what it’s like to be open to feedback and constructive criticism, acknowledging your own biases and limitations.
  • Invite an intention for kindness and compassion towards yourself and others throughout the conversation.

By engaging in conversations mindfully, we become more aware of our own thought patterns and biases, while cultivating the ability to be more present for our own experience as well as that of others. 

This increased awareness can help us manage depressive symptoms by reducing rumination and negative self-talk, leading to a more balanced perspective of our experiences. Being present in this way with others can help to deepen our connections.

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