Left to its own devices, these are the two places the mind will take you: those situations from your past (sometimes very recent past) that bring you down in some way, either because something back there feels unresolved and didn’t go the way you wanted it to, or you’re longing for something or someone you once had; or imagined anxiety-producing events in your future that may never come to pass. We humans are funny. We get attached to stories about ourselves or other people, or about the way some event happened, or might happen in the future, and we boil ourselves. We go back and re-do the thing in our minds, coming up with the perfect response, or replaying an event as it actually happened, reliving the experience with all its pain, discomfort, and disappointment. Or we start planning for an event in our future, frequently worrying about the worst case scenario and how we’ll handle it. Your nervous system can’t differentiate between an event that’s happening, or an event that’s happening only in your head. Much of the pain we deal with comes from our thinking (not that devastatingly painful things don’t happen…). So if you allow the mind to do as it pleases, you will very frequently find yourself in a state of depression or anxiety.
The trick is to start to catch yourself as soon as you realize you’ve taken off to do a little mental time-traveling, pick yourself up, and come back to the now. Shut down your mental “flux capacitor”, regroup and recalibrate your inner compass, and point it toward all the blessings in your life. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re in the midst of a painful event, go ahead and feel all your feelings whatever they may be. But if you find yourself traveling back to a situation that brought you heartache, but nothing productive will come from replaying it, get out of there! Start to pay attention to where your mind travels when you’re doing those mundane things, like folding laundry or taking a shower. Notice your patterns of thinking, because every thought you have creates a chemical reaction in your body. If the groove you’re in keeps taking you to the past and future, see if you can use your breath to bring you back to the present, because every inhale and every exhale always occurs in the now. The moment you realize you’re somewhere else, take a deep, conscious breath, hold it in, and then let it all go. Repeat at least three times, and think of one thing in your life that brings you joy. That makes you feel grateful. That reminds you of all you have. Gratitude is an amazing feeling, but it’s also a practice in and of itself. Training your mind to stay present takes a lot of discipline and desire. You have to want to gain some mastery over that monkey-mind, and then you have to work, because the monkey doesn’t stop swinging from branch to branch easily, and fold itself into lotus position just because you want it to. A regular yoga practice helps a lot. So does seated meditation. But the first step is just to be aware. To notice your mental habit patterns, and to start to throw a monkey wrench (haha) in there if you need to! Sending you lots of love, as I always am, Ally