Get Out of Your Head
Our minds are such powerful gifts. From it derives our ability to process information, create beautiful memories, have empathy for others, imagine exciting possibilities and solve problems. Our minds allow us to navigate and create our world. Yet the same gift that opens up many beautiful possibilities can also be the seat of our mental health issues.
How can the mind be at once so wonderful, and so troublesome?
Sometimes, our thinking is unhealthy. We spend time excessively worrying, which is being preoccupied by the future. We imagine fatalistic outcomes, and send ourselves into a panic at the possibility of our worst fears materialising. Or maybe you don’t worry. Maybe you spend too much time reliving the past. Maybe you are often thinking: “shoulda, coulda, woulda” over things you cannot take back.
Whether you focus too much on future outcomes that may never happen or spend time regretting your past, your thinking can become unhealthy. In the therapy world, those thinking patterns are labelled “maladaptive.” As the word indicates, it’s bad news for your mental health. The good news is you can start noticing when you fall into maladaptive thinking patterns and make small changes that will impact your mind in positive ways.
Here are three easy ways to start recalibrating your mind:
- Notice when you are catastrophizing
Catastrophizing is like imagining a series of unfortunate events, before anything actually happens. It can look something like this: “ I’m late for work again, which means my boss probably hates me…he will probably fire me. I’ll be penniless and homeless. I might end up moving in with my mother again. Ugh I can’t believe I put myself into this situation!” Catastrophizing is especially troublesome because it does not stop until you notice it. Instead of imagining the worst possible outcome, stick to the facts. Remind yourself that none of those outcomes are real. The more you practice this, the more you will notice when you fall into catastrophizing and be able to stop it in its tracks.
- Create distance between you and your thoughts
If that phrase sounds weird, it is probably because you have never heard the concept that you are not your thoughts. You and your thoughts are distinct entities. Your thoughts are in fact a byproduct of your neural activity, but they do not define you nor comprise the totality of who you are. Weird right? But also liberating. In realizing that the thoughts that have been most troublesome for you are actually not you, you can start noticing them as a neutral observer. When do they come up? How long do they stick around? Does your mood change as a result? Notice your thoughts, examine them, let them pass.
- Get moving
One great way to create distance between yourself and your maladaptive thoughts is to move your body. When you move in a way that either demands physical effort or in a way that you really enjoy, your focus is less on the thoughts that are harassing you and more on your body. It’s like a flow state. Going for a run, dancing to your favorite songs, lifting weights or going for a swim are some examples of how you can move yourself into freedom.
Maybe this is your first time thinking about your thinking. Hopefully, these three pointers will get you to start practicing more self-awareness. As with all transformations, changing your mind and your relationship to your mind takes time. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you embark on this journey.
Written by Melissa Beaulieu