Have you ever stopped to notice the endless chatter that goes on in your head? Have you ever listened closely to the narrative in your brain about what is going on in the world around you? What is this voice and is it productive? 

Imagine having a roommate that follows you around all the time, and provides endless commentary on your life. Sounds awful. You would evict that roommate immediately!!

So why do we tolerate our own madness?

It wasn’t until I read Solve for Happy that I recognized that I had my own voice and the extensive influence that it has in my life. In my first discussion of this life-changing book I related an experience I had that taught me that an event only has the power I give it in my mind. But that power is derived only in the narrative created by the brain to provide some sense of control in a world over which we actually have very little.

Why do we have a voice in our heads? 

Long ago the voice in our heads worked to analyze threats to our survival and arrive at a decision on how to protect ourselves from harm. But today our physical survival is rarely in question and we have moved to analyze those things that threaten our ego – a combination of how we view ourselves and how the world views us. Often that voice in our head is the brain’s attempt to create a false reality- one in which we are in control of so much more than we are in the real world. One in which I can win all my arguments with Hill! But this voice keeps us from living in the present. It rehashes the past. It predicts the future. However, rarely does it provide any meaningful insight that improves our lives now.

Perhaps the most important thing you can realize on our journey to happiness is this: you are not the voice in your head. You are not your thoughts and the voice talking inside your head is not you. I struggled with this concept when I first heard it. I grew up in a culture where I was taught that my thoughts defined me, they defined my path in life, and ultimately my worth. Mo Gawdat taught me that I no longer have to judge myself for the thoughts that enter my brain.

Hearing him describe the voice in my head and teach me how to control it was quite liberating. This recognition has allowed me to become much less judgmental of myself and others – as I found that my voice tends to be quite critical. I have learned to forgive myself and others of past mistakes because if I’m not thinking about it, there’s nothing to worry about. I’ve given myself permission to not agonize about the uncertainties of the future and trust the plan that I already have in place which has brought success.  In all this, I therefore have more energy to be present in any situation and spend quality time with those I love.

So how do we change the narrative in our heads? How do we quiet the inner voice and place ourselves firmly in the present?

Recognition of this voice is the first step on the pathway to calming the mind and creating an environment where we can find peace. Just acknowledge that the voice exists and observe the journey it takes you on. See what it says, what conversations you revisit, future interactions you have planned out, the people who annoy you, the terrible lunch you ate, etc. These are all examples of “the voice” and identifying it will give you power to stop it.

After that, it’s becomes a journey on the pathway of stillness where you can learn to quiet the mind and become an observer free of judgment, thinking, and analysis. It starts by taking those measured breaths and building one breath at a time.

A favorite concepts from the book is this: Joy comes when the analysis ends.

Think about that – No more comparison, no more judgement, no more chatter. Just peace. Just stillness.