Several centuries back, poet and polemicist John Milton penned the following line: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
Despite the four hundred year throwback, some things never change.
I, for one, can totally relate. What’s going on in our upstairs is everything, and negative self-talk can feel almost impossible to escape. Ever lie awake in the wee hours, desperately wanting to break out of your own, self-created psychological prison? Yeah, that.
The good news is, it’s not impossible to put that cerebral chatter to rest. Here are five simple ways to give yourself a break from that wrinkly, masochistic bastard known as your brain:
Engage in difficult physical activity. Preferably outdoors.
Pick something that requires superpowers of focus and concentration: a bootcamp-style obstacle course, 18 holes of golf, a game of tennis, a mountain climb. Being outside will provide a dose of vitamin D, and you’ll get to channel excess physical AND mental energy. Plus, Mother Nature is the best companion ever. She soothes those wicked wounds.
Volunteer your time to help people in need.
Do ANYTHING that forces you to focus on someone or something outside of yourself. Seriously, anything. If you’re helping a kid read some Dr. Suess, listening to a nursing home patient talk about how they met their hubby or banging nails to build a new house for a homeless fam, it’s almost impossible to stay self-obsessed. And letting go of that painful self-consciousness is like dropping 50 pounds of excess weight. Freeing, for realz.
Do a guided meditation.
Learning to calm your restless mind is the best skill you can possibly possess — way more important than knowing how to cook ramen noodles or snake a sink. People with a firm grip on their cerebral chatter are wayyyyyyy happier. But instead of trying to meditate all on your own (which can be challenging at any time, but even more so if you’re facing major mental stress), experiment with some soothing guided meditations full of chirping birds and gurgling streams. There are lots I dig, including the Solfeggio scale meditations from Glenn Harrold (which you can snag in the iTunes or Play stores), Andrew Weil’s A Symphony of Brainwaves, Abraham Hicks’ Getting Into The Vortex and tons of others. Explore and find one that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.
Help solve a friend’s problem.
I’m betting you’ve got a friend or loved one (or a whole roster of ’em) with issues. Helping them to help themselves is an amazing way to forget your own problems and put stuff in perspective. Pitch in to offer advice, help with a project or assist with a dreaded chore (MOVING). Even just listening attentively and without judgment is huge — because who actually listens without fidgeting like a two-year-old anymore?
Mindfulness is all about being in the moment. And when you’re fully present at any given time, you can’t be obsessing about the past or worrying about the future. There are lots of ways to be mindful, but one is to put your attention on your body — feel your legs as they’re walking, your hands as they’re typing, your mouth as it’s swallowing your triple soy latte. You can also put your attention on your breathing — in and out, in and out. Just find a way to BE HERE NOW. ‘Cuz now is all there is — don’t let your brain convince you otherwise.