Many people spend more time in their heads than they need to — 80 percent of the time. This habit creates a default background of anxiety, stress, preoccupation and less time enjoying the moment.
When you are exercising and your mind keeps wandering about what you have to do at work tomorrow, your thinking mind is at work — it wants everything to be a problem.
Mental chatter can serve us or enslave us.
“The Thinking Mind is always chattering away while you’re waiting in line, while you’re in bed trying to sleep, when you “tune out” of conversations with people, or when your mind wanders while reading,” says Mark Manson.
The problem with the thinking mind is that it likes to be in total control until you actively remind yourself to stay in the moment. It diverts your attention from everything important to the noise, stops you from creating, and sometimes poses as reality and cause fear and anxiety.
Mental chatter doesn’t deserve the attention it demands. “Talking in your head rarely arrives at any great revelations, since what’s floating around is often just a bunch of un-ordered thoughts and worries,” writes Alice G. Walton of Forbes.
In our increasingly busy and connected world, brain fog is becoming far more common. When you spend a lot of time in your head, it becomes difficult to think. A cluttered mind is disruptive and frequently hinders productivity and critical thinking and causes mental fog — often described as a “cloudy-headed” feeling.
Common conditions of brain fog include poor memory, difficulty focusing or concentrating, and struggling with articulation.
Imagine if you could concentrate your brain power into one bright beam and focus it like a laser on whatever you wish to accomplish. When you struggle to concentrate and spend most of your time in your head, everything you do is harder and takes longer than you’d like.
The pressures of daily life can make it insanely difficult to stop and think about your thinking. But maintaining mental clarity and focus is not impossible. The good news is, you can shift the behaviour and spend less time in your head whilst you busy becoming your best self.
Returning your attention to the present (and calming your thinking brain) is a learnable skill, which can eventually become a reflex.
Your thinking mind is a tool, and we can learn to put it down when it’s not needed, which is most of the time. You have an enormous amount to gain by simply spending less time in your head.
Recognise and name your state of mind.
“The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence,” says Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.
At our best, we feel calm, confident, focused, enthusiastic, and optimistic when we’re most creative, and productive. At our worst, we typically experience self-doubt, impatience, irritability, defensiveness, pessimism and we tend to spend even more time in our heads wondering about everything that has gone wrong or could go wrong.
Most of us move along the spectrum between our best and our worst all day long, depending on what’s going on around us.
To think better, improve your mental clarity and make the most of your brain energy, it’s important to recognize your state of mind at any point in time. Naming your emotions (or better still, what you are thinking of) tends to lessen the burden of being at your worst. The physician and psychiatrist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.”
David Rock argues that when you are experiencing significant internal tension and anxiety, you can reduce stress by up to 50 percent by noticing and naming your state. In his book, “Your Brain at Work”, David Rock explains, “Without this ability to stand outside your experience, without self-awareness, you would have little ability to moderate and direct your behaviour moment to moment.”
“You need this capacity to free yourself from the automatic flow of experience and to choose where to direct your attention. Without a director, you are a mere automaton, driven by greed, fear, or habit,” he argues.
The basic skill of directing your attention to the “now” improves your ability to think critically about important issues and make better decisions.
“Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future,” says Tolle.
Rather than choosing to obey your thinking brain most of the time, choose to engage in your present activity mindfully.
Spending less time in your head takes time. The thinking mind does not like discipline and will resist your efforts to discipline it. It loves its freedom more than anything else, and won’t let you master it easily.
The ability to switch it off for focused develops over time through concentration exercises — reading engaging long books slowly (don’t skim), starting a distraction to-do list to tame the thought, using everyday experiences as opportunities to be mindful, and practising active listening,
Shutting down the mental noise means more time for what really matters. This results in saving a lot of mental energy and time wasted on thinking on issues that do not add anything to your life.
This article was originally published on Medium.
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