Our minds are amazing machines
We can reflect on the past and remember what we did, who we knew, and the haircuts we chose. We can project far into the future and imagine flying cars, space travel, and how normal holograms will probably be. Our minds give us the ability to travel far away from the moment we’re in. We can use our senses. And that can be a wonderful thing.
But have you ever had a time where you got really stuck on something that happened in the past?
Something you said that you wish you hadn’t? Something you did that you would undo if you could? Sometimes it’s helpful to reflect and learn from our lives, but sometimes it just becomes a loop, and we spin and spin – and often feel worse and worse.
And what about the future? Have you ever gotten lost in worry about what could happen, or in trying to predict what may come? Or played out a series of what-if scenarios until you’re overwhelmed and everything seems scary?
This is the backhand of the mind’s great skill. Sometimes, the very thing that lets us remember the good and imagine what could be can also get us really stuck. And often, that stuckness comes with a good deal of discomfort and makes it awfully hard to be in our lives as they’re happening.
So then what? Turn off the mind?
Not likely. For starters, we really can’t – there’s simply no real way of stopping our minds from thinking. And what’s more, to turn off the bad would likely mean turning off the good as well – no more memories, no more imagination. Not much of a life.
Instead, we can utilize strategies that acknowledge the ways that our minds pull us away – and then learn to return to the moment
One way to do that is through reconnecting with the tangible world, the physical world around us in any given moment. And to do that, we need look no further than our five senses. Sometimes, just coming back to the things we can reach out and touch, the things we hear, see, smell, or even taste can be helpful. Other times, it can be helpful to be prepared ahead of time, to keep a few little tokens on hand that are soothing, enjoyable, and use our physical senses.
For example, can you carry with you a picture of something or someone that’s important, or get a travel sized lotion in a scent that you love, or buy yourself a slinky or some old school silly putty to play with in your hands? Could you have a couple songs on hand that you know make you want to dance, or calm you down, or just get you lost in the music? It doesn’t have to be complicated – and in fact, we hope it’s not. The bottom line is this: your mind is going to wander, and sometimes it’s nice to have a few things on hand that you love, that soothe you, and that can help you come back to what’s happening in the here and now.
For more information on the present moment, connecting with our worlds, and acknowledging the awesome and sometimes painful power of our minds, here are a couple of books on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness:
- Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes, PhD
- The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, MD