Your thoughts are not neutral and insignificant, they matter

Feeling Matters columnist Marci Sharif offers 5 tips to be more consistent with meditation.
Feeling Matters columnist Marci Sharif offers 5 tips to be more consistent with meditation. Getty Images/Getty Images/iStockphoto

In talking to people about their one-word intentions for the new year, one of the responses that struck me most was “discipline.”

Discipline gets a bad rap. It sounds naggy and annoying, but it doesn’t have to a be a strain or killjoy. Employed properly, discipline can help maximize happiness and success. I love it as an intention.

Discipline is one of the core tenants of the virtual program I run, Mindset Workouts. Just like physical workouts help train our bodies to become stronger and healthier, a healthy mindset takes some work. Our erratic monkey minds need training, a bit of discipline, for us to feel strong and well.

What does that look like?

For one thing, it’s not happy, happy, joy, joy. It’s not pushing out everything other than positivity and stamping smiley faces everywhere. Mental discipline does involve increasing awareness of what’s going on in our heads.

MORE FROM MARCI SHARIF: How to right your wrongs in 5 steps and start the new year strong

We tend to believe that thoughts happen in the privacy of our own heads, so they don’t really matter; they don’t affect much. But I see it like this: Our thoughts set the tone in our minds. They determine how our minds are set, and mindset affects everything, from how we see and interpret the world to how we behave and interact.

Mindset Workout

Marci Sharif will hold a workshop on three ways to tune up your mindset Feb. 4 at YogaTres in Bellaire;

Mindset Workout Workshop
February 04, 2023
11:00AM - 12:30
Location: Yoga Tres 5427 Bellaire Blvd., Bellaire, TX 77401

You can also sign up to participate in the weekly virtual Mindset Workout program at

A healthy mindset is one that’s resilient and more positively oriented. We can better cope with life’s ups and downs and bounce back from blows. We’re more inclined to see the bright side of things and find enjoyment. All of us can benefit from increasingly moving this way.

And that brings us back to discipline.

Disciplining our minds and tuning up our mindsets starts with awareness: Awareness of what’s going on in our heads and of the principle that our thoughts do indeed matter.

Enter the exercise we’re doing as a Mindset Workout this week. It takes just one minute and it’s straight out of a spiritual text called "A Course in Miracles" — you can play with it, too.

The exercise involves closing your eyes, pinpointing each thought as it arises and, essentially, teaching yourself that thoughts matter. You would say, for example, “This thought about ____ is not a neutral thought. This thought about ____ is not a neutral thought,” and so on. This takes just one minute, but ideally, do it for at least a few days to help the concept soak in.

This brief meditative practice helps us to a.) become more aware of our thoughts and b.) ingest the idea that our thoughts aren’t meaningless or neutral, that they do have effects. It’s helped me to see how my thoughts affect my behavior, and everyone around me is affected by even a seemingly benign thought, like “the house is a mess.”

I hope you’ll give this exercise a try. As you do, please bear in mind that everyone’s thoughts can be wild and all over the place. The thoughts you notice don’t mean anything about you, and learning which thoughts to listen to and which to disregard is another key part of building a healthy mindset.

So, don’t overthink this (that never helps anything), but see how it feels. If it opens your mind or loosens you up, you’re onto something good — and that’s what it’s all about.

Marci Izard Sharif is an author, yoga teacher, meditation facilitator and mother. In Feeling Matters, she writes about self-love, sharing self-care tools, stories and resources to know and be kind to yourself.