We talk a lot these days about how to detox our body but not much about how to detox the mind. And it's the overthinking mind full of chaos that holds us back from moving forward in life. It's the overthinking mind that makes us feel anxious and worried about the future. It's the overthinking mind that we need to better control in order to stop worrying and start living.
Over the past year, I have experimented with a number of life changes -- some were forced on me -- others were choices I made. These changes have helped me detox my mind from all the overthinking about life and career that I was doing. Some things to remember: My goal here is to share what I've learned in my own life and what works for me, may not work for you.
Here are four lessons I learned on how to detox your mind from overthinking:
1. Stop consuming the news.
I used to be a news junkie but over the last few years, I found that it caused me more stress than providing me with value. So, I stopped. I turned off the news. I stopped my daily ritual of reading the morning paper or surfing online for news. My consumption of "what's going on around the world" is now limited to once a week of going online.
Here's the problem with consuming too much news. It causes our mind to think further and deeper about the topic that we read or hear about. Normally that's not a bad thing, especially when we're trying to understand the depth of something. But what I've observed is that my mind would burrow deeper into sometimes a worrisome place after hearing of all the uncertainty in the world around me.
Instead of exploring the possibilities and opportunities in life, reading about the uncertain nature of our world today caused me to start worrying and overthinking about my own future -- my career, my relationships and my life. And there I stood: Stuck. Unable to move forward.
Here's an added bonus of detoxing your mind from the news: We gain more time in our day to actually work towards our goals in life. We get to create!
2. Reduce stimulants (coffee, soda, etc.).
In March of this year, I was forced to give up my big morning cup of coffee that I had for about 20 years. And it was very difficult. I didn't realize how addicted I was until I gave it up.
The reason I gave it up was because one morning I woke up with this ringing in my left ear. It was a tiny sound, almost a supersonic beep... that would not go away for days. This annoying sound was especially more pronounced when I tried to sleep at night, because there was no ambient noise around to mask the loudness. When I saw the doctor, a specialist, I got some troubling news. I have what is called tinnitus -- a constant ringing in the ear that affects one in five Americans. Unknown cause that reduces blood flow to the inner ear, making your mind interpret signals that are not there. Some things that contribute to it are: stress, lack of sleep, trauma (I didn't have any trauma), caffeine, alcohol, sugar and salt.
Basically this ringing never goes away, but the good news is that you learn to live with it -- you adapt. Scared that I was going to have this ringing in my ear for the rest of my life, I quit coffee the next morning. And the other things, too. Talk about tough. Quitting coffee gave me so many headaches to the point where I just could not function normally for a couple of weeks. It was brutal. My Facebook friends gave me some good advice on managing it. See Facebook friends advice (March 6 post) on managing coffee withdrawal. It took me about four to six weeks of trying to get my body in balance but I did it and don't miss it anymore.
Giving up caffeine (which I never thought I would do) inadvertently had a positive side effect: My overthinking slowed. Coupled with a regular morning run on the treadmill that I started doing to replace the energy I lost from coffee, my mind was so much clearer and balanced. Reducing such stimulants helped to detox my mind because I didn't have the ups and downs anymore. No rush, no crash. I was less stressed -- yes, even though I only had one, or sometimes two cups of coffee and, a little bit of chocolate in the afternoon here and there -- giving up these stimulants helped me to detox my mind considerably. I was more even keel, more smooth during the whole day. Even with the tinnitus at night, I started sleeping better.
3. Soak the mind with positive juices.
Our mind is a sponge. It absorbs almost everything it encounters. From the negative comment a work colleague made a year ago to some awful things we conjure up in our dreams, we can't but help internalizing all the things our senses pick up. All the worries of the world get into our head and don't seem to leave, causing us to overthink our lives and the actions we want to take.
And so for one full month, anytime my mind would wander into the real of overthinking the future, I would catch those thoughts and bring them back by putting in some positive thoughts. I did this through either listening to podcasts or youtube videos that were inspirational and motivational in nature or by reading a book or a magazine article that was informative and inspirational.
From listening to everyday people to personal development authors to hearing an instructional video on how to do better blogs -- I took charge of what went into my head and made a choice to fill it with positive thoughts. I would force myself to be more proactive about what I put into my mind than just allow others to influence it.
By proactively putting only positive things (words, messages, conversations, stories, pictures, etc.) into my mind I felt as though the overthinking transformed slowly to optimism.
4. Get up and get to work on a goal, a project or a specific task.
A negative result of overthinking is that it slows us down, inhibiting our growth, limiting our ability to have love, good relationships, fun in the moment and the pursuit of success in a business or a career.
One tip that I've learned that did more than detox my mind from overthinking is to turn my often worrisome thoughts about the future into effort and work. Taking action, doing something, working on your craft does wonders for your soul.
Each time I would start getting worried about the future, I would make a proactive choice to physically get up from the place I was sitting and walk to the computer to start writing or working on my book. Sometimes I would go outside to work on planting the tomatoes in my vegetable garden. If I was at work during the day, I started writing ideas on how to improve my work or work on something really interesting. Whatever the work or project we choose -- make sure it is a difficult one because that's when we start to get flow or momentum. That's the place where so much of our success happens.
Putting action into motion when our mind starts to wander into a place has done great things to help me redirect that often wasted energy into something useful -- pursuit of my life goals or simply to have a good time in the moment. The reason action is a great way to detox from overthinking is that it forces our mind to concentrate on the things that our physical body is working on and has no choice but to assist the physical effort.
Every time you start overthinking and get into a spiral try this: change your physical position -- sit up, change posture -- and do something physical.
Growing up, I recall sometimes very difficult times when my parents were struggling financially and remember observing that in all the worry, anxiety and stress, I found my dad tending to his plants in the house with such deep care while my mom would clean the little apartment we had from top to bottom. I suppose it was their way of dealing with uncertainty and overthinking -- to work on things that they had certainty over -- things they could control. And while the uncertainties in life didn't go away, we got through them while keeping our sanity.
We detox our body because we want to look good and feel good. I believe that increasingly we need to detox our mind from all the overthinking because we have a love to pursue, a career to grow, a business to launch and a life to live. This is our time, our journey and our mind. What we choose to put into it is our choice.
Accept. Don't overthink. Move forward and embrace the chaos.
For more by Bob Miglani, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.