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Are there times when your mind is running on overdrive, when you can’t sleep or relax because your thoughts distract you so much?
This issue is one that I deal with on a regular basis. From what I hear, it’s a common problem, regardless of age, gender, occupation, or nationality.
We find that we get so wrapped up in a cycle of thoughts that we forget we have a body attached to our head… And that that body needs taking care of too!
There certainly are benefits to being a cerebral person: we’re creative, we’re constantly coming up with new ideas, and we have a huge capacity for critical thinking and analysis.
But those benefits can feel like a curse sometimes, especially when we just can’t stop thinking about stuff!
When the background chatter in your head gets to be too much, what do you do? Do you let yourself get wrapped up in it or stressed out by the thoughts? Or do you reach for something to quiet the constant stream of consciousness?
For many people, I’d guess a cold beer (or two…or four…) or a joint shared with friends are the go-to methods…
But does that really help? Sure, your mind temporarily turns off or gets distracted from the whirring and stressing, but is that really a sustainable solution?
To get out of your head, to stop a cycle of busy, energy-draining thoughts, I propose that instead of reaching for external things to quiet the mind, we simply shift the focus of our energy from our head to our body.
For my favorite healthy ways to do just that, read on…
1) Get orgasmic
Whatever your preferred way, as long as everyone involved is on the same page and excited about what’s going to happen, get to it! Those natural endorphins are fantastic anti-thought and anti-stress chemicals.
Added benefit: you can probably help someone else feel great while you’re at it ;)
Turn up the bass (or the sweet sounds of Mozart) and let the vibrations steal your thoughts as they flow into your ears and out your limbs through movement.
Doesn’t matter if you “suck at dancing” — this method is more about the vibes and the beat. Get out of the thinking and into the feeling.
3) Get a massage/give a massage
Best if done by a professional, it’s amazing how many times an hour of massage has made a huge positive difference in the rest of my week.
Your awareness of your body increases both during and after the massage, and those kinks you’ve been holding are often a result of over-thinking throughout the rest of your day. Work out the kink, and you’ve begun working out the physical manifestation of your overworked brain.
If you can’t afford a professional, enlist a friend with strong hands and offer a massage in return. It’ll be a mutual exchange of relaxation. Candles and incense are optional, but usually a great addition to the relaxation experience.
4) Climb a mountain
There are few things that beat the feeling of conquering a chunk of rock, especially if it’s a really large chunk of rock. Grab a bottle of water and some nuts, find a path, and take an afternoon hike. Even if you only get to a vista, you’ll gain a new perspective on your surroundings and give your body a chance to breathe, sweat, and get “high”.
Best if taken literally, you can also use this method in a metaphorical way to get out of your head. Pin-pointing your focus on an immediate challenge will naturally take you away from whatever is clouding your mind, replacing a busy, worried head with a sense of purpose and a well-earned sense of accomplishment when you complete your task.
5) Run until your legs can’t carry you
This method can be applied to any sport, as long as you’re actively pushing yourself to a sustained point of high physical exertion. Besides getting a blast of those feel-good endorphins from your runner’s high, if you do this properly you’ll be more focused on breathing and the pain in your legs than on any whirring or stirring in your head.
In the end, you might feel sore, but you’ll have had a break from the stress your thoughts can create.
Obvious bonus: if done often enough, you’ll whittle your body into even better shape (and you’ll have more stamina for #1, #2 and #4!)
6) Pet an animal
This might sound a little silly to some of you, but bear with me. You already know that hospitals use certified therapy dogs to calm patients, and in Japan there is actually such thing as a “cat café”, where customers enjoy coffee and tea in the company of cute kittens to de-stress (my best friend has lived in Japan for the past two years and swears by them)!
Why not turn to a furry animal – or scaly reptile, if that floats your boat – and shift your focus from your own mind to their happiness, petting them until you’re rewarded with purring and some unconditional love? You’ll get that warm-and-fuzzy feeling and make a friend in the process.
For more information on this supercharged, extra-healthy way to get out of your head, read Phil’s article on meditation. I’ll admit, it’s extremely difficult at times, but once you get into the flow, meditation will be your best go-to resource to quiet your mind.
It’s best to start simply by focusing your mental energy on following your breath, bringing air deeply into your lungs, holding for a few seconds, and then slowly releasing the air back out.
Tip: visualize breathing through the point at the very tip of your nose as you breathe in for a more actively oxygenated experience.
8) Help someone out
Probably the very best way to get out of your own head and forget your own little stories, helping someone else with their issues can change your perspective on your own situation. And of course, it also makes a positive difference in that person’s life at the same time!
You often learn useful lessons by working with someone through their problems (because we all know how hard it is to help ourselves sometimes), and later, you can use your experience with their situation and apply those lessons in your own life.
Take a second to reflect on about what you think about most. What do we get so caught up in thinking about?
Often the answers are work, school, relationships, family and friends. So much of our stress comes from sources outside ourselves.
But you must remember that you have control over your thoughts, and that you are responsible for your own happiness and well-being.
So next time your mind goes on overdrive, remember to go back to basics and get in tune with your body.
This will create a good feeling from the inside out that will help you deal with the stress from outside. From there, you’ll be free to go out there and make great things happen!
About the Author
Ginger is a Peak Potentials Coach and the Feel Good Team’s resident nomad. Through her coaching, she helps you navigate major transitions, whether to new locations, new jobs or to new phases in life. Ginger also coordinates with writers for The Feel Good Lifestyle so that you have fresh, inspiring content.