Powerful Ways to Control Your Thoughts

How can I control my thoughts when they seem out of my control?

Whatever you do, do not think about a purple elephant. Don’t do it. Think about anything except a purple elephant.

I’m not a mind reader, but I’ll bet you’re picturing a purple elephant right now.

Have you ever noticed that the more you try to stop thinking about something, the harder it is to forget? That donut you’re trying not to eat, that special someone who still hasn’t texted you back, that embarrassing thing that happened at school—just don’t think about it, you tell yourself. But you can’t seem to stop those thoughts! You tell that pesky purple elephant he’s banished for life, but he tiptoes back in, this time bringing his whole purple family.

Five Ways to Keep Your Thoughts in Check

When unworthy thoughts pop into your head and try to stick around, it can feel like you’re not in control. But there are things you can do to keep your thoughts in check. And if you build good thought habits, then over time, battling bad thoughts won’t seem so overwhelming. Here are a few ideas:

1. Ask for Heavenly Father’s help. He wants you to turn to Him and will bless you. “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings” (Alma 37:37).

2. Remember the Savior. “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36). Partake of the sacrament each week. Study the scriptures regularly. “Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord” (Alma 37:36).

3. Know you have a choice. Thoughts sometimes just come. But whether you try to cast off a bad thought or dwell on it is a choice you make.

4. Fill your mind with good things. If you have a backlog of good and positive things in your memory—hymns, scriptures, quotes, experiences, images—you can call upon them and quickly replace bad thoughts.

5. Try to recognize patterns. Pay attention to what’s going on in and around you when you struggle with bad thoughts. How were you feeling? What were you doing? What was going on in your life? If you notice commonalities, you can be aware of the circumstances that lead to more bad thoughts and fortify yourself against them.

Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) said: “I have come to know that thoughts, like water, will stay on course if we make a place for them to go. Otherwise, our thoughts follow the course of least resistance, always seeking the lower levels. Probably the greatest challenge and the most difficult thing you will face in mortal life is to learn to control your thoughts. In the Bible it says, as a man ‘thinketh in his heart, so is he’ (Proverbs 23:7). Those who can control their thoughts have conquered themselves” (“Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts,” New Era, Apr. 2008, 7).