Have you ever found yourself in a moody-funk on fine summer day? Here it is a beautiful day outside – sunshine, blue sky, fluffy white clouds – and yet you aren’t enjoying it. In fact, the inside of your head feels like a dark cave. The thoughts stumbling around inside your brain are like permanent cave-dwellers who snarl when you suggest they leave.
These cheeky creatures like to roam around when we find ourselves recalling, yet again, an insensitive comment someone said to us; or we spend time hashing and rehashing in our minds the perfect comeback; or we notice the running commentary which constantly compares us to others. These cave-dwellers are especially active when we find ourselves feeling anxious about a future event, as our thoughts rush ahead, worrying about what might happen.
A fine summer day might not be enough of a distraction if we are committed to entertaining our gremlins and goblins by spending good energy thinking about things over which we have no control, things we truly cannot change. These creatures of the dark like to brood over distressing events, which in the end, rarely allows us to gain true insight. Instead we simply replay the upsetting scenarios in our heads, time and again, which sustains or deepens our sadness, sending us towards a distorted and pessimistic perspective.
Ruminating, brooding, overthinking (they are all one and the same) is toxic. Once we are in this negative spiral, our concentration is diminished, as is our initiative. Overthinking saps our motivation to do anything good and healthy and nurturing for ourselves. We may begin to think, “Why bother?” And soon, we are headed towards feeling really bleak, where it is hard to get out of bed in the morning let alone face a family gathering, go to the gym, or cook a healthy dinner.
However, when you notice you’ve been hanging out with the trolls in your cave instead of soaking up the sunshine, here are three quick ways to help you break up the party and to stop ruminating, brooding, and over-thinking:
One: Distract yourself.
When you find yourself caught in the spiral of worry or rehashing an event, stop yourself mid-thought and do something active. Get up from your desk and go for a quick walk. Do a few yoga stretches that feel delicious to you. Call a funny friend who will say something outrageous to get you laughing. Play a piece of music you love that lifts you up. Dance – even a few moves will help – the sillier you feel, the better this technique is, and hopefully your dance moves will have you laughing. It doesn’t matter really what you do as long as it is fun for you and can transport you out of your pessimistic spiral.
Two: “Stop! That was then, this is now.”
For example, when ruminating on past events, the insensitive comment, an argument, or regret you have about an interaction consider using this technique, developed by Gay and Katie Hendricks to break up a brooding pattern and the get the cave-dwellers to back off. Next time you catch yourself brooding, do these four steps:
- Tell yourself, “Stop!” or “No!” (This reminds you: you have been caught brooding).
- Stand up (or move to a new spot in the room) and pick a point behind you which represents the past.
- Turn your entire body to face that direction and with your right hand, point and say, “That was then.”
- Now turn and face forward, and with your left arm outstretched, bring it to your heart and say, “And this is now.”
Yes, this technique may seem a little silly, a bit ridiculous. And so is ruminating on a lovely summer afternoon. Do this series of words and actions at least three times or until you feel a shift happening.
Three: Cleanse your mind and soul every night.
As you lay your head on your pillow, review your day and notice any grievances, regrets, slights, snubs, worries, or resentments that have shown up for you.
A phrase I love repeating, when I notice my worried mind getting activated, is from The Course in Miracles and it goes like this:
“Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I relinquish all resentments, grievances, and regrets. I choose the miracle.”
Repeating this easy, friendly mantra for a few minutes each evening before falling asleep will go a long way towards cleansing your mind, body, and spirit of the daily frustrations.
Out of the Dark – Into the Light!
Go ahead, make some noise, make it uncomfortable for those nasty cave dwellers. Get up and dance! Choose the miracle. Choose the bright summer day. Send those cave-dwellers packing. You have better things to do with your time. Much better.
- Let me know which one of these three techniques you find work the best for you.
- Perhaps you have a particular tactic you find especially effective in sending your goblins and creatures of the dark packing – I’d love to hear about it!
Have a beautiful day!