“What is your favorite remedy for brain loop?” a friend asked her Facebook circle, “I mean those times when you keep replying negative possibilities over and over in your head.” Dang, I know what she’s talking about, don’t you? A quick survey of my circle uncovers these variants: rehearsing conversations, re-designing solutions, repeating disasters. Take your favorite verb, add a “re” to it, and you’ve created your own dust devil of obsessive thinking.
My Facebook friend’s plea inspired a small cluster of remedies. My personal favorite: “I like to imagine baking blueberry muffins.” After scanning her page the umpteenth time for new posts, I realized that I too long for solutions to brain loop.
Recently I was lucky enough to hear wilderness guide and Zen practitioner Kurt Hoelting speak. He diagnoses this malady, in part, as a post-modern tendency for the mind to more and more often busy itself quite separately from the body’s location. A useful skill at times, but oh so dangerous as we lose the ability to be present to our surroundings and begin to live in mental constructs. I don’t know about you, but I find these heady playgrounds too easily become a funhouse nightmare.
So here, in honor of my Facebook friend and the greater good, is a collection of ways to unloop the loop and reawaken to the present.
- Walk on the Wild Side: Kurt recommends silently moving through the natural world noticing its smells, winds, sounds, creatures, and simply being a part of it. Check out his book Circumference of Home. Yes, we can do this in the city. What are the differences between each of the crows I see on the way to work?
- Balance the Equation: Discipline myself to imagine one good outcome for every bad. If that doesn’t work, try 2 goods/bad.
- Neurological: When caught in a loop, we are literally traveling the same synapse pathway in our brains over and over. Direct the thought to take a different path.
- Flood Your Senses: Sing a favorite song – loudly. Bicycle. Breathe. Do I smell blueberry muffins?
- Become a Daoist: Qigong practitioners would interpret brain loop as yang qi (that’s the hot, active life energy) stagnating in your mind. Guide it down and out through your feet. Encourage yin qi (the cool, quiet kind) to enter through your feet. Imagine them in balance.
- Get down to Brass Tacks: My husband claims that he simply needs to boil any troubling situation down to its main components, (such as “What am I worried about?”) then write them clearly and concisely. Understand what is true then act accordingly. Glad it works for him!
- Short Circuit Spirals of Shame: Psychologist Brene Brown interviewed thousands of people and discovered common cycles for folks who get into brain loops related to shame. Her Ted Talk with 4 million hits, gives you a great overview, or pick up one of her books. She’s the real deal. Authentic, practical, and funny.
- Give your imagination a more entertaining job: Nothing works better for me than aligning my mind’s concerns with a physical, creative task. Pull out the crayons to draw the pathway to take, what challenges pop up, and how to overcome them. Physicalize your team of resilient skills, each as a super hero Name them. Call on them. Make up a song about overcoming. Have fun.
- Taming Your Gremlin: Speaking of fun, check out Rick Carson’s book by that title. It’s a droll, effective set of strategies for those pesky inner voices, giving them names, outrageous attire, and having fun with their strange messages.
- Gratitude Lists: Write down ten things you’re thankful for. For big funks, make that 50. Once I take in the view that my life’s quality is determined by many small goods (toast with huckleberry jam), I have climbed out of my mind and back into the reality of a life that is, all things considered, pretty darned good.