“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
On Tuesday evening, I had a concern on my mind that I was unable to release. I knew there was no point ruminating on it since there wasn’t anything I could do about it, yet I continued obsessing over it.
We are told over and over to let go of things that frustrate us, frighten us or cause us pain, but just because we understand cognitively the logical actions to let go, it doesn’t make the practice of letting go any easier. It’s like being told not to think of a giant pink elephant.
So perhaps rather than trying to push the elephant out of the room so to speak, we can welcome it. We can tell it “I see you, but I’m just not that interested in being taken on an emotional roller coaster ride right now.”
Some practices that have helped me cope with difficult thoughts and concerns include exercise, journaling, and meditation.
- Exercise: My absolute favorite activity to reduce stress and free the mind. By moving our bodies, we stimulate the production of endorphins and other chemicals in the brain that help to clear out stress and elevate our mood. No need to get fancy here. 10 Push-ups and 10 squats every time you get up to go to the bathroom or refill your water will do the trick
- Journaling: A therapist that comes in the form of a pen and paper. This practice allows us to brain dump everything on our minds onto paper so that we can clear out the mental space required to decrease cognitive load and think clearly. If free hand journaling isn’t for you, I recommend The Five Minute Journal. This journal provides a simple way to start your day happy using the science of positive psychology to improve happiness.
- Meditation: This practice allows us to observe our thoughts and concerns without attaching to them. Meditation helps us recognize that we are not our thoughts, rather, we are the awareness behind our thoughts. I have been using the Calm App for 3+ years and absolutely love it. I literally use this app every single day. It is also great for sleep!
When we stop resisting and fighting our thoughts, worries and concerns, the battle stops. And from there, once we stop wrestling with our thoughts, once we stop getting swept away by them, or pushing them away, it’s much easier to shift our attention from the persistent elephant back to the present moment. With repetition, we solidify this habit. It doesn’t get easier. We just get stronger.
Have a strong day!