We all have that rude roommate in our heads. The one that starts rearranging the furniture of our minds during important work calls or in the middle of the night, dragging our insecurities into terrifying configurations and shouting about how we’re doing it all wrong.
We waste a lot of energy spinning out on made-up scenarios, analyzing the past and trying to predict the future. But how much is that voice in your head actually helping you get stuff done?
A lot of our thoughts are pretty useless. Worse, they’re full of shame and blame as if self-flagellation is a good strategy for change.
In fact, it’s what’s keeping us from evolving. All those thoughts about how much we suck are extra, unnecessary distractions draining us of the energy we need to create a life of meaning and satisfaction.
Let’s try an experiment. Let’s see what it’s like to stop those heavy thoughts and what becomes available when the mind becomes really, really quiet.
First, notice you’re having an extra thought. You’ll know it’s extra because it feels awful in your body: heavy, tense, constricted, urgent and/or anxious. My extra thoughts force me into tunnel vision and I become hyper-fixated on my fears. Once I recognize that I’m holding that shape in my body, it’s time to stop the thought.
At this point you’re probably saying, “No sh!t Sara, but HOW?”
As Albert Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” So you’re not going to use your mind. You’re going to use your body.
Create a physical ritual you can use that will help you interrupt the thought. You want your ritual to be something fast and easy, that you can do over and over, anytime you’re getting hijacked by your thoughts (including in public spaces).
That might mean making a sound, like “pssh” as in “Pssh off, heavy thought.” Or it could be a gesture, like how you flick your fingers to get rid of a sticky booger. Bonus points if your interruption makes you laugh: play enhances our practices of self-regulation and makes for more creative problem solving.
You don’t have to kick your mindmate into the streets—it’s a tough world out there. You just need to teach them that if they can’t say something nice, they don’t need to say anything at all. Nobody gets to talk to you like that. Not even yourself.
Sara Russell is a relationship coach, podcast host and Taoist practitioner who helps her clients analyze behaviors, relationships and systems to see where old habits are no longer serving them. Co-conspire with Sara on Instagram.
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