Just over a month ago I started a thirty day journey to stop my “flywheel” mind. In that thirty days my goal was to practice doing one thing at a time and to meditate everyday. I have had some mixed results with this adventure but I did start to build some good habits while I regained control.
Let me start with where I fell down the most. Meditating everyday proved to be more difficult than I expected. When I remembered to do it, I was pressed with the urge to get something else done. This urge is the mind’s attempt to push its way through life. Meditation’s goal is to let go of those urges. Thoughts will arise and you simply let them pass without attaching to them. So doing nothing but letting the thoughts go is quite a hard practice. Yet, every time I was able to sit in peace and meditate I came away from the experience balanced and found myself in a more rejuvenated state.
If you are looking to build a habit of meditation into your life let me offer you these tips:
- Schedule your meditation each day. When you set aside sacred time to sit you are signaling to your brain that this is important. For me, what works best is to have it the same time everyday. This way you are developing a routine that you will create your habit around.
- If you are new to this practice, start with some guided meditations. Having guidance to keep you focused will be a life saver while practicing. Guided meditations provide you the tools to build a strong habit. Without some basic tools to navigate, it will be easy for the mind to run rampant and overwhelm you. There are some great apps you can get on your phone for this. Headspace is my preferred.
Where I had the most success during this time was in focusing on one thing at a time. Often, when my mind would start to race, I would simply remind myself to pick one thing and move forward. Staying in the moment with the one task at hand provided incredible relief and balance for my mind. Perhaps the greatest win with this practice is that when I am singular in focus I do not allow my brain to fire off all of the feelings of panic. This has a downstream effect by lowering the body’s stress response over time. Essentially, while staying centered, you are training your mind to stay in a state of wellness instead of survival.
If you are looking to build habits around singular focus here are a couple of things that worked for me:
- When the mind starts to run off and fixate on all of the worries or to-do list for the day, take a moment to write them down. Writing out a list is like opening a valve on a pressure cooker. Once they are on paper, pick one and take action. This way you have acknowledged the thoughts and taken back control through the action.
- Note the feelings associated with each item. Do not try to fix or change the feeling. Just be a space for the feeling to be present. Allowing the emotion to run its course removes it from the body. I go into great detail in this post how to regulate here: Flight…The other quiet emotional trigger response (and how to get out of it)
Getting in control of your mind is perhaps the greatest achievement you can have in your life. It can be very hard at first but with the right tools and practice (habits) you can turn it into an ally. So, instead of your mind resembling a flywheel that is out of control, it may now resemble a fidget spinner. A spinner that is balanced on a flat surface. It is still running but is not all consuming. We can enjoy the spinner while it works for us and not against us.
Photo provided by Ian Dooley via Unsplash