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Give Your Thinking Mind a Break

Pearl, my precious 18-year-old parrot, doesn’t have a problem with overthinking things. If it looks pretty, it must be pretty!

My online yoga teacher, #yogawithadriene, says this all the time.

“Give your thinking mind a break.”

Every time I hear her say this, I breathe a sigh of relief. “Oh, that. Yes, that is just what I need.”

There is only one problem. My thinking mind doesn’t WANT a break.

My mind likes to think. Even when what it is thinking makes the rest of us miserable, it is blissfully happy, churning out thought after thought after thought.

It makes no difference to my mind whether it is thinking thoughts of doom and gloom (“you are going to be alone forever,” “you have no friends,” “you have no cash”) or glee and glory (“just wait til Friday when you win the lottery!”). It is utterly fulfilled, doing what it was born to do, thinking and thinking and thinking.

It feels on top of the world, even as it shovels thought upon thought upon thought to bury us all alive.

I have to consciously work with my mind, talk to it, send it more thoughts, to get it to buy in to the idea that taking a “thought break” is actually a really good idea.

“You can rest,” I tell it. “But I’m not tired,” my mind replies.

“Think about silence,” I suggest. “Okay, I did that. Now what?” says my mind.

“Just breathe.” I wait. “Ummmm….” It takes my mind a minute, but it is up and thinking again in no time. Even thoughts about breathing are better than no thoughts. 

What I find most interesting in all this (just to clarify, my mind finds all of it interesting, as long as it gets to think about it), is how the content of my mind’s thinking is so often slanted towards what I’ve started to call “the dark side.”

Like, it is just as easy to think a happy thought as it is to think an unhappy thought….or so I would assume.

But apparently, in my mind’s lightweight opinion, unhappy thoughts are easier to think. There certainly seem to be more of them!

Why does my mind seem to struggle to come up with happy thoughts? And why do so many of the unhappy thoughts my mind gravitates to over and over again (not much for variety, it would seem) so comparison-focused?

My mind loves to compare! It compares me-now to me-last year and me-10 years ago. It compares me to people who are in my life now and people who are not in my life now and even to people who have never been in my life and people who are dead!

It compares me-now to what it considers to be “my full potential” – the me I could be if I wasn’t, well, me.

Then it thinks up lots of (what it thinks are) motivational thoughts to inspire me to reach for that full potential. Thoughts like, “If you don’t start going out more you will be alone forever” are the exact sort of thoughts it apparently finds inspirational.

“You’d better get to work if you ever want to afford that (fill in the blanks) you say you want so much.”

I have been spending a lot of time forcing my mind to read a series of books by Martha Beck, a life coach who has actually worked with a lot of the people my mind likes to compare me to. Her coaching is a lot like Adriene’s yoga lessons, which means I love them and my mind doesn’t like them very much.

In her latest book, Martha Beck is trying to teach me a skill called “wordlessness.” She talks about “dropping into wordlessness” as a pathway to accessing oneness with all life, all energy (I shared more more about wordlessness in this post). There is a lot of peace when I manage to drop into wordlessness for half a second or so, but I can only accomplish it by springing sneak ambushes on my mind, like telling it to think about “dropping into wordlessness.”

This lures it into wordlessness….at least until it catches on and turns the tables on me by thinking about wordlessness instead.

Martha Beck, like Adriene, very much focuses on the positive, which is why I am presently attempting to marinate my mind in both. And yet it still sneaks back to the dark side whenever the opportunity presents itself, issuing its pronouncements of doom and gloom, personally and professionally, just to make sure I’m not unaware of the many issues in need of facing and fixing.

If I can’t seem to manage to convince my thinking mind to take a break, I would at least love to teach it to think about things that don’t make me want to crawl into my box turtle’s habitat and burrow down into the mud next to him!

Box turtles (and redfoot tortoises, for that matter) don’t seem to think very much. They can spend days, weeks, happily wallowing in mud, burrowing in mud, digging in mud, snoozing in mud.

And so it falls to me to be the positive thinker in our little flock (Pearl, my parrot, is always positive, especially when he catches yet another glimpse of his very pretty feathery self in yet another reflective surface).

My mind seems to be hoping to win me over with that time-honored tactic of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” But I just can’t live the rest of my life burrowing in mud. And so it continues….every day, Adriene suggests yet again “give your thinking mind a break.”

And every day I attempt yet again to do just that.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you struggle with a mind that seems overly attached to thinking? Or does your mind seem to favor thoughts from “the dark side” the way mine does? How does that affect you? Do you have any strategies that work to help your thinking mind take a break or to foster a more positive line of mental thought? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Give Your Thinking Mind a Break

Shannon Cutts


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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2018). Give Your Thinking Mind a Break. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 17, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2018/09/give-your-thinking-mind-a-break/

 

Last updated: 16 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Aug 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.