When we think of addiction we usually think about the big scary addictions like heroine or crystal meth or alcohol. As it turns out you may be plagued by an addiction that takes a far greater toll on your health – you may be addicted to thinking.
Ha! How could that be a problem? We *love* thinking. We worship thinking. Thinking helps you to grow and innovate and solve problems and plan for your day, your life, your week, your career. Thinking got you all those certificates and awards and diplomas and promotions. But what if there is a point where all the thought turns into over-thinking. Where the planning becomes worrying, and where the thought loops become obsession? What if we are a Nation that thinks instead of feels?
I feel like this is a fine line to walk, but every day in my patients (and yes, in myself too) I see people trying to solve all the possible problems of the future by thinking of them in advance. I see people so consumed by fear and anxiety about what might happen that they don’t notice the wonderful things that are happening right now. I see people trying to decide if they love their partner by making pro and con lists (hint – this isn’t going to generate the right answer for you). Maybe we all need to take a collective deep breath and watch all those thoughts go by until they can settle down just a little to give us space to feel, to notice, to breathe. Maybe then we can unwind all those knots in necks and shoulders and relax those overly tight muscles.
What is the Answer to Over-Thinking?
I feel like there is only one answer to the problem of being addicted to thinking, and that is mindfulness. I know mindfulness is the new buzz-word. Everyone thinks you should have it because it helps with stress levels and combats chronic pain, but what is it actually? In a big general sense, mindfulness means being here right now. Instead of thinking about the past and what has happened, or the future and what might happen, or analyzing the “why” or “how” questions, instead you are completely present with the here-and-now. Surprisingly, that is harder than it sounds, and it isn’t something we’re used to doing. For this the practice of mindfulness meditation is the key to training your mind to be right here, right now.
How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation
First – assume the position. Not crash position, actually just sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting gently on your thighs. Keep your back upright and straight, so not slouched down resting on the back of the chair, but rather with your vertebrae ‘like a stack of gold coins.” Keep your eyes open and your gaze downward at about a 45 degree angle. Open eyes help you to not get distracted by your thoughts. Here are the steps:
- Assume the position! (As I just described)
- Set your timer on your phone for 3 minutes. (Yes! Just 3 minutes!)
- Take three deep breaths to help settle your mind and relax your system
- Just keep your eyes open and notice what is happening in your mind.
- Chances are, you’re thinking. Notice the thinking and let it drop without following it and turning it into a story.
- When you have a new thought pop up, just notice it and drop it.
- When the buzzer rings, drop the thought that’s happening right then, and you’re done!
- Pat yourself on the back because you just did your first mindfulness meditation.
- Now rinse, and repeat! Do another 3 minutes and then you’re done for the day.
- Try to do this 5 days a week and then just watch out world because there is going to be a whole new you.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness does so many wonderful things for you – here’s just a short list.
- Cures that pesky addiction to thinking
- Reduces anxiety
- Reduces panic attacks and helps you get out of them more quickly
- Helps decrease chronic pain
- Gives you more peace of mind with who you actually are (and helps you to have less of the self-critical voice in your head)
- Increases attention span
- Helps you focus
- Increases your joy in the moment
- Enhances your immune system
- Helps reverse heart disease
As if all of that wasn’t enough, you also get to be the blissed-out joy bunny on the block because you are able to see all of the wonderful things happening right now. Mindfulness is no joke and the more research we have on it the more powerful we realize it is. Isn’t it time you dedicate 6 minutes a day to being a happier you?