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Help Me, I Can’t Shut Off My Mind!!!

You know those thoughts. They creep up on you and attach to your brain like a fishing lure, just hanging out, oblivious to your pain, they could stay forever. You try to make them go away, but then the fishing lure seems to embed itself even deeper in your brain and the pain becomes more intense.

Way back in the day when I was a Junior Baby Social Worker sometimes a therapist would give advice to wear a rubber band on your wrist. When the thought would come and embed itself in your brain you were supposed to stretch that rubber band and let it go around your wrist. SMACK! Sometimes the pain made it go away temporarily, but then it would come back with a vengeance; like Voldemort going after that Potter kid.

What’s an obsessive thinker to do?

Distraction is a good coping skill that can be used in the short term to help get those thoughts out of your head. Eventually you will want to learn more lasting ways to rein in those thoughts. Sometimes a thought is just a thought, but sometimes it’s something that you need to deal with so that it can go away.

Almost 33 Distraction Techniques:

  1. Watch TV or a movie
  2. Listen to music
  3. Sing
  4. Meditate
  5. Laugh
  6. Talk to someone
  7. Work on your gratitude list
  8. Journal
  9. Exercise
  10. Play with a pet
  11. Be mindful
  12. Masturbate (only if you’re in private please)
  13. Create something
  14. Do math
  15. Play Sudoku
  16. Blog
  17. Go to Walmart and take a poll on how many people are eating red beans and rice this week
  18. Go volunteer
  19. Make a list of things you like to do to distract yourself and refer to it
  20. Write a letter
  21. Email a friend
  22. Go blow bubbles
  23. Offer to babysit and play with the kids/animals
  24. Go to a park and swing
  25. Go watch little kids play
  26. Write a story
  27. Knit or do some other crafty thing
  28. Play an instrument if you have one
  29. Balance you checkbook
  30. Give yourself an allotted period of worrying time and refuse to worry unless it’s that time
  31. Give the thought to a worry doll and leave it in another room
  32. Write the thought on a piece of paper and tell yourself that you can’t worry about it until tomorrow

By all means add to this list, take off the things that you wouldn’t do. Take a poll at Walmart and see how other people distract themselves or ask your friends and family.

You’re not the only one in this big world that worries and has obsessive thoughts and worries, but you don’t have to suffer with them. Now go on and try some of these things. Remember what works once may not work as well another time, so try lots of them.

Wishing you laughter, serenity, and a significant decrease in anxiety

Mechele

Monkey Mind?

“My mind won’t shut up.”

“I can’t focus to save my life.”

 

When it feels like your mind is in control of you and you don’t know how to take back control, chances are you have monkey mind. Monkey mind is exactly what it sounds like; imagine your mind is an energetic monkey jumping all over the place inside your head. Monkey mind is closely correlated with anxiety. It is a term that the Buddhists came up with many, many years ago.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to have monkey mind or to get rid of it.

When we have anxiety our amygdala is overactive and as bulky as Dwayne Johnson. The amygdala is the part of our brain where anxiety and fear live. Once upon a time it helped us to survive by enabling us to fight or run away when faced with mortal danger such as a T-Rex getting ready to chomp us. Now our amygdala responds as if we’re in mortal danger when we’re not. Speaking to a stranger won’t kill us, yet our mind may tell us it will. Few people die if they embarrass themselves in front of others, but some people’s minds disagree.

Sara Lazar is a Neuroscientist at Massachusetts General and Harvard. She has studied the benefits of using meditation and mindfulness. Her study which had people who meditated an average of 30 minutes a day for daily to several times a week for eight weeks found the following[1]:

  • Increased brain volume
  • An increase in the area of the brain that is involved in whether or not the mind wanders.
  • An increase in the area that helps us learn, think, with memory, and helps us regulate our emotions.
  • An increase in the part of the brain associated with empathy and compassion.

So What?

So, there are other studies[2] that document the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on monkey mind. Neither mediation nor mindfulness is easy to do, but you weren’t born walking either. It takes time and it takes patience. When my clients agree to try this I ask them to start at 1-5 minutes and work up to longer times as their concentration improves and their monkey mind gets harnessed.

Are you willing to experiment? The only thing you have to lose is a few minutes a day, but you may also lose your monkey mind and gain the ability to control your own brain and cut down on anxiety. You have to really be committed to this for it to work; don’t just try it a few times and then say you can’t do it.

And Away We Go!

  • Remember, you’re going to start with a small period of time, 1-5 minutes.
  • Set your timer for however long you want to meditate.[3]
  • Darken your room.
  • If you’re not alone let people know you’re meditating and ask them to be quiet.
  • Sit up. If you lie down you will fall asleep. [4]
  • Take some breaths. Some people say through your nose, but I like in through the nose and out through the mouth. Very slow and deep breaths.
  • Focus on your breathing in and out and in and out.
  • Clear your mind.
  • Be gentle with yourself when your mind wanders and bring it back to your breath.
  • Breathe and repeat.

This is a beginner’s guide and as you get better with it your skill will advance. If you decide the experiment is worth continuing you may want to look up videos on You Tube of how to advance your meditation practice or find a teacher to guide you.

I wish you luck and self-kindness, skill will follow.

Wishing you happiness, laughter, serenity, and no more monkey mind

Mechele

 

 

[1] https://scholar.harvard.edu

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/ This is a good article, but it is very dry

[3] You can get a free meditation timer in your Ap store. I like Insight Timer.

[4] People who meditate on a regular basis use a cushion, but if you have back problems try a chair. Sit up straight or you will get so relaxed you will fall asleep. The first time I did this my teacher gently smacked me to wake me up and boy was I embarrassed!