Detach yourself from your own thoughts? Is that even possible?
Absolutely! Sometimes, it’s even beneficial, if not outright necessary.
Doing so involves challenging any preconceived notions you might have. This fully opens up your mind, creating a freer space for thoughts.
A cleaner mind that has been released from any attachments that might have been shackling it.
After all, while you have a mind, you are not your mind.
You should be the one in control of your thoughts, not the other way around.
But more often than not, we allow our thoughts to get the better of us and control our every action.
Here’s how you can detach yourself from these thoughts and live a freer, more authentic life.
10 steps to achieving true detachment from your thoughts
1) Focus on the smaller things
When your mind is attached to something, it’s often because it’s preoccupied. And when it’s preoccupied, it’s often with something large.
This renders you unable to concentrate on any one thing. Whether it’s the future 20 years from now or a looming deadline, stressing yourself out about these things will only further overwhelm you.
The first step to detaching is to take a step back from always thinking about these things. Only then can you truly devote yourself to what’s currently important.
That’s both the irony and the beauty of detachment.
Detach yourself from what’s not urgent so you can zone in on what is.
In short: detach yourself from the past and the future in order to live in the moment.
Not only will you be more productive, but it will also protect your mental and emotional health.
2) Take it easy on yourself when you make mistakes
Any action begins with recognition.
Therefore, another important step on your path of detaching from your thoughts is recognizing what exactly you want to change—or what you want to detach from.
Remember, change is always gradual.
So don’t beat yourself up if you fall back into old habits or have trouble letting go of your attachments.
Instead, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back, and try again. Praise yourself for taking steps to be a better person.
Being too hard on yourself will only further delay your personal development.
3) Manage your emotions healthily
A stable, emotional landscape is a prerequisite for detachment. You need to both unconditionally accept your emotions and not let them get out of hand and control you.
From my experience, people tend to ignore, repress, or push away their negative emotions.
However, instead of looking down on yourself for feeling these, try looking at these negative emotions like this: they provide us with key information about the situation we’re in.
In the same way, physical pain can be the symptom of a deeper sickness; emotions are how your brain signals that there is something wrong. They can give us insights into what we should do instead.
So let’s say you feel jealous. Instead of downplaying it or repressing it, accept that you feel that way and reflect on it:
- What does my partner do that I’m jealous about?
- Do I fear that they may abandon me?
- Do I really need to feel jealous, or can I take a different approach to resolve this situation?
The more you bottle up your emotions, the worse they will become. But if you accept them and process them healthily, you’ll be able to let them go eventually.
4) Learn to deal with uncertainty
Nothing can stress you out quite like uncertainty. Back then, I used to be obsessed with how things should be—and I’m sure many of you can relate.
However, this mindset will only make you fixated on the future. Be acquainted with uncertainty and accept that you can control only so much.
There will always be unexpected changes or sudden emergencies. Things won’t always work out the way you want them to.
Focus on the present and accept challenges as they come. Essentially, have a come what may attitude.
Not only will you become more adaptable and develop a stronger mind, but because you’re more at peace with whatever happens, you’ll be in a better position to overcome whatever the future may hold for you!
5) Channel the energy into something productive
Attachment breeds negative thoughts which in turn spreads stress and negative energy throughout your whole system.
The trick? Learn how to channel this energy into something productive.
Here’s a classic example: blood pumping from all the anger you’re currently feeling? Try:
- Working out;
- Going for a walk;
- Doing that piece of work you’ve been putting aside…
These are all great, productive outlets for such energy.
6) Change your habits
Detaching requires just as much “doing” as it does “thinking.” Think of it as a process that’s less about overcoming negative thinking and more of one that involves establishing new habits.
After all, focusing on the mental aspect will not guarantee a change in behavior. But in my experience, a change in behavior will always change your psychology as well.
To start, consider habits where there is nothing you need to “overcome.” Things that are inconsequential or for you already have positive feelings for.
Whether it’s your habits involving your pet, your plants, or your exercise routine, start with something light. Then, work yourself up to the larger, more important habits.
7) Don’t thought stop
Thought-stopping is when you are overly fixated on looking out for negative thoughts and being overly eager to stomp them out. While it may feel like it, this is actually not what mindfulness is about.
In reality, it’s counter-productive because you’re still thinking about negative thoughts—you’re still too attached to them.
Ultimately, this makes it more likely for you to have them, and they still have significant effects on you.
At the very least, it’s still distracting you from pursuing more productive endeavors like building new habits.
Mindfulness is not just about being aware of your thoughts—it’s also about being at peace with them. Overall, thought-stopping is not a healthy way to deal with negative thoughts.
In fact, some psychologists even think that trying to stop your own thoughts can be even more harmful than the negative thoughts themselves.
8) Try “name it to tame it”
‘Name it to tame it’ is a mental technique by author and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel.
Here’s you can do it:
Whenever you find yourself in a negative thought pattern, try to “label” what you’re feeling. Think of the emotion or thoughts you’re having as a story—try putting a title on it or even summarizing it.
You’ll quickly notice that a lot of your thoughts are repetitive and essentially tell the same story.
For example, an insecurity that frequently pops up is something like: “Who am I to be giving mental health advice on the internet? Are you perfect? Do you know everything?”
Obviously, this is not a healthy way to think. So when these thoughts rise up, I tell myself: “Ah, it’s that self-doubt story again. The plot is all about insecurity and self-sabotage.”
By doing so, I allow myself to take a step back to see the situation from a broader, less personal perspective. Then, it’s far easier to take a deep breath and realize that it’s just my thoughts, not reality.
Then I can stop giving it my attention, let it go, and continue on with my day.
9) Keep a journal
Journals and diaries are essentially thought records if you think about it. They are, therefore, incredible tools to change negative thought patterns and attachment issues.
Once again, writing down your destructive thoughts affords you an outside perspective of them. It then becomes far easier to identify and analyze what goes on in your head and what causes them.
For example, the first time I tried to do this was when I got rejected on the first date and felt down about myself.
I wrote down how I remembered the date went, all while taking note of my thought process during each event and each exchange. I also tried to list down any physical reactions I had.
By the end of the night, I realized that it had less to do about me and more to do with him. I corrected all my irrational thoughts: one rejection does not mean I’m ugly or unlovable!
10) Talk to yourself
Negative thoughts have one goal: to control you, to take over your behavior.
So when they pop up, why not talk back? Tell it: “Okay, thanks for sharing.” Then get on with the rest of the day.
It might sound silly, but it’s actually an extremely effective way for some people to shrug off these thoughts.
Thoughts are internal, spoken in the depths of your conscience. By externalizing your reaction to them through speech, you are reasserting control over your own body and your own behavior.
This can be easier said than done, especially for those who are more obsessive about their thoughts and typically indulge them the moment they arise.
Be aware all the time—but not to the point of thought-stopping!—and catch yourself before you spiral down the negativity.
What exactly do you mean by detachment?
According to The Oxford Dictionary, detachment is “a state of being objective or aloof.”
While being objective is powerful and important, being aloof isn’t always the best idea. Because when you’re aloof, you’re not in tune with both your internal emotions and the external events around you.
In other words, when you’re aloof, you don’t care about your actions, decisions, relationships—about anything, really. That’s not what we’re trying to do when we talk about detachment.
Make no mistake: being objective does not mean having zero emotional investment at all times.
In fact, if you want something, you better be emotionally driven to get it.
Quite ironically, if you want to be completely focused and involved in something, you need to be truly detached from the things that will detract you. This includes the outcome of whatever undertaking you’re on. Because when you’re fixated on the outcome, you won’t be able to give it your all to the process.
The best advice I’ve ever received on how to do this?
Imagine yourself an actor—a really, really good actor. Like an Oscar-winning one.
You can fully immerse yourself in the role—AKA your goals and plans—from an emotional and psychological standpoint, but you can also step back and see things from an objective, outer perspective.
This is how you detach.
How detachment and mindfulness benefit you
You’ll be in a better state to reach your goals
The path to any dream is filled with all sorts of challenges. But won’t it be easier if you’re not one of those challenges yourself?
Being too attached to things will only hinder you from your goal. You’ll be more prone to negative thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
Being detached and practicing mindfulness ensures that you have a healthier, more stable mental base, allowing you to truly give it your all.
A sharper, stronger, and happier mind
With less stress and anxiety, your mind has more room to reach its full potential.
You’ll find yourself having improved mental stamina and clarity. You’ll be able to work on things for longer and more effectively.
But it’s not just about work. Without your mind drowning in what-ifs and should-haves, you’ll also enjoy and appreciate other things on a deeper level too.
Now that you’re less prone to destructive thoughts, your mind will now learn to appreciate positive experiences even more.
Walking your dog, the food you eat, your short chats with friends, and time with your partner—they’ll all feel more fulfilling!
You’ll be less stressed
Stress kills. And I firmly believe most of our stress comes from a lack of detachment. After all, we worry and stress about things too much because we are too attached to them.
Stress is a wasteful and counter-productive emotion. Not only does it make you spend energy on things you shouldn’t, but it also detracts you from things that you should be focusing on.
Detachment allows you to let go of the past, accept the future, and treasure the present.
Before you detach from this article…
Always keep in mind that your mind is probably the most part of who you are. Keep it clean, clear, and healthy and the rest of your life will follow!
I hope the tips above will help you in some way or another. Whenever you feel negativity bubbling up from within, always try to ground yourself in the present moment.
Remember: they’re just thoughts, not reality!
Your thoughts are not you. They do not control you—you control them!