How many thoughts do we actually think per day? Getting smart with your attention.

Do you ever think about how many thoughts are just oozing out of our brains at any given moment? Interesting thought, isn’t it?

In an entire day, it sure seems like thousands of thoughts are pummeling us at once, but do we actually know how many we’re dealing with here?

There’s a number floating around the internet that I’ve been curious about. According to multiple sources (mainly blogs, nothing from any scientific journals or research), in 2005 the National Science Foundation claimed that we have approximately 50,000-70,000 thoughts pop up per day. Deepak Chopra has also promoted this same idea, but his site claims a whopping 60,000-80,000.

If I had a penny for every thought…I’d be rich! The analogy works much better with numbers like those.

Another aspect to consider is if this number is during waking hours only. Let’s say these numbers are true and we think 60,000 thoughts in a day. If this counts for all 24 hours, that’s 2,500 thoughts an hour. For waking hours only, that’s a whopping 3,750 thoughts an hour! With all of those thoughts, how is it possible to concentrate on anything in our exterior realities? Wouldn’t we be stuck in our own heads, wandering around aimlessly?

Ask yourself often: what am I paying attention to? Click To Tweet 

Obviously, this statistic is different with every person, but it still makes you wonder: does anyone ever actually keep track of how many thoughts pop up on a given day? Is it even possible to stop and count it whenever a thought occurs?

When we’re armed with information like how many thoughts go through our heads, it can help make sense of why we think the way we do. It gives us an awareness of what we’re paying attention to and thinking about, which creates our reality.

Some days it’s easier to pay attention, those days when our head feels clearer and we notice the little subtleties in life; the shape of the clouds, the flowers blooming. Other days it feels like the thoughts are flying at us so quickly that soon we’re begging for sweet relief from the nagging worries.

Although we’re not sure of the exact number of thoughts, just asking the question increases our self-awareness. Next time we get caught up in these thoughts, we can catch the cycle of incessant noise before it gets too out of control. The ability to think about our thoughts, or metacognition, helps us choose how we react to them.

Credit: Cristofer Jeschke

If we can be aware without over-analyzing and obsessing over our thoughts, therein lies the key to gaining better control over what we think about. If we put less emphasis on the thoughts that don’t serve us, we take away their power and they become fewer and further between.

We need to take ourselves off auto-pilot and choose how we want our thoughts to shape the life in front of us. The more we practice this, the easier it is to kick the negativity and cycle-inducing thought processes to the curb and pay attention to our most intellectually stimulating thoughts.

Observe what thoughts come up for you and watch how they make you feel. Observe the story you tell yourself about the thought without judgement and then let it go as quickly as it came.

Watching your thoughts is difficult, but investing in your own mental health is priceless. Enjoy the process and embrace the changes that will end up taking place.

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