In the same way that many of us approach diet as a means to detoxify our bodies, we can also take steps to clear unwanted, unhelpful, toxic patterns of thinking. Unlike the food we eat, the thoughts we consume and digest are a lot less tangible. This means that often we are sitting at a buffet of “bad thoughts” filling ourselves until we explode, and we aren’t even aware it’s happening. This is why it is important to find ways to step away, cleanse your palate, are start fresh when it comes to thoughts, feelings and emotions. Below are 5 different methods of beginning that journey, mix and match to find what works for you:
● Find some time for nature: Our bodies and minds have lived for eons with the sights and sounds of the natural world. No matter the season, find some time to spend outdoors each day. With the appropriate clothing and gear, all seasons offer a free mind-cleansing experience: fresh air, natural light, and little exercise. Take the time to frequent your favorite trail, watch the full moon, or walk the dog one more time.
● Talk it out. Our minds can be a cluttered place. We don’t think in nice neat sentences like, I am feeling bad today. Instead, we tend to think in fragments, images and feelings. Finding a trusted friend (this includes your favorite furry friend) that you can talk to helps tidy up the clutter. But putting your thoughts into words, they seem more manageable, less oppressive and it gives them somewhere to go.
● Breathe. I am sure you have heard this one before, but it’s important enough to bear repeating. Slowing your breathing down fundamental changes the way your brain functions. A shallow, quick breathe signals to the body that you are very likely in danger. This tenses your muscles, and leads to a more frantic thought process. Over time, these things can add up to feeling overwhelmed, scattered, forgetful, and tired. A couple times a day, make sure to slowly inhale over 4 seconds, and exhale over for seconds, focusing specifically on the way the body relaxes as you let your air flow out.
● Create a Safe Space: Your thoughts come from you, right? Well, why not take some time to sit and create a sanctuary for you to go when you are feeling overwhelmed. IN a comfortable sitting position imagine the place that you feel the safest. Imagine the smells, the temperature, your clothes. Imagine the colors and the other inhabitants of this place (if there are any). Ask yourself if you are sitting, standing or lying down. Now that you have your safe space, give it a name. A phrase that just puts you in that place. Notice how this word effects you; do your shoulders drop? Does that knot in your stomach begin to unwind? Do you release your clenched jaw? Good. Now use it everyday and make it your own!
● Be a duck. Growing up, whenever I got upset about something, my aunt would say, be like a duck, let it roll like water off your back. Back then, I didn’t really appreciate what this meant. I do now. Be a duck, and don’t let things get to you. A duck exists the same whether the rain comes or not, because it doesn’t let the wet effect it. We can choose to do the same with toxic thoughts and experiences. When you approach situations that cause stress or invasive thoughts, ask yourself, how is fighting this going to help me? What would happen if I just let the thoughts come, and then go? We often end up holding on to negative ways of thinking by engaging those thoughts in a battle of wills. Instead, let the rain just keep on raining, and remind yourself that it is better to be uncomfortable for a short time, then be locked in battle with undesirable emotions forever. Remember, be a duck and actually let those drops roll off and away.
Like any skill, these tips and exercises are best utilized when they are practiced regularly. Take it slow, try one at a time, and soon enough you’ll be filling your plate with things that keep your mind and body healthy, balanced, and clear.