We can’t escape it, the dialogue of the mind; the chatter. It’ll always be there. Learning to address it in loving and positive ways is how we grow.
“You made me feel this way.” We have all heard it. We have all said it. We were going about our day and someone derails our momentum and it’s all their fault. We are stopped in our tracks and back in our mind’s story. It repeats over and over again. It feels impossible to escape; consuming. We want to place blame for our feelings. We want our antagonist to take back whatever it is that they did or said. But they can’t. Nor can we undo the reaction. I’ve heard it again and again and I continuously have to remind myself that no one else is in control of my emotions. Of course someone may have done something that we perceive as hurtful and we are allowed those feelings. But only we allow them to manifest and fester. No one pushes us over and sprinkles sad dust on us. Though it can sure feel like that sometimes. The pain or anger or sorrow can feel like it will never go away. And we continue to react. The story of whatever that feeling is begins to run a muck. It flies down a path that brings up more pain, more angry, more frustration, often leaving the original reaction far away in the distance. And we continue to place blame. So how do we stop the chatter and regain our positive momentum?
What I teach my two girls is to take a deep breath. Calm down. Regroup. The power of a deep cleansing breath to quiet the mind and hit the reset button is something remarkable. But even knowing the true benefits of taking that “time out” doesn’t mean I’m always so quick to do it. I can even find resistance to doing it. It’s like my mind wants to spiral. It wants to get lost in the struggle. I have to continuously remind myself to come back to the breath. Much like in meditation when the mind begins to wander, in our daily life, when we find ourselves lost in the chatter, we come back to the breath. Then when the mind is a little quieter, I again can tackle my feelings.
In a recent Johns Hopkins study, researchers found a 30 percent improvement in their working memory when they employed an exercise called a “dual n-back.” The study participants practiced for 30 minutes every day for 5 days a week and tested their skills and training their sharp mind to be stronger by recalling “a constantly updating sequence of visual and auditory stimuli.”
In summary of findings, the researchers explained that the participants “saw squares flashing on a grid while hearing letters. They had to remember if the square they just saw and the letter they heard were both the same as one round back,” they wrote. “As the test got harder, they had to recall squares and letters two, three, and four rounds back. It’s kind of like the children’s electronic game Simon, but instead of just recalling sounds and colors, you have to remember the current sequence and the one a few rounds back.”
We want to make sure that not only our bodies but our brains are healthy. Otherwise creativity and innovation can’t happen. But you don’t need to do a major overhaul to improve your brain function. It can be something as simple as taking time to laugh with a colleague or stocking up on olive oil. Read on for five ways to help your brain thrive.
While it now seems trivial, I’ll use a personal story as an example.
My husband recently went away for a fun-filled weekend to our home state. He saw friends and family and really enjoyed himself. When we didn’t have time to really talk on the phone, I got angry. I felt annoyed and hurt, and so began the chatter in my head. When he came home I had a difficult time connecting with him. The feelings I had the day before weren’t gone and I wasn’t able to push them down enough in order to be happy to see him. Of course I was happy to see him. I couldn’t wait for him to come home. So why wouldn’t I let myself enjoy the moment? What was I holding onto? After a day of self-reflection, I realized that I was jealous he was having a good time while I was at home alone with the kids. I was jealous he got to see loved ones. Jealous that he got to sleep in. Worried he was happier to be there than he normally is here. I discovered that even though I felt anger towards him, he had done nothing TO ME. I was reacting to feelings that were triggered and blaming him. That can happen in close relationships. We rely on each other heavily, so it’s easier to trigger feelings. For me, when he wasn’t here, and I felt disconnected, I got lost in mind’s chatter. I expressed my feelings to him later and he understood, and apologized (though not necessary) and reassured me I had no reason to worry (again, not necessary). He also agreed to hang with the kids while I get my nails done this weekend! Crisis resolved, even though there was really no crisis to begin with. It was all just some derailing emotions.
Even being armed with this knowledge doesn’t mean I will never feel angry or hurt by anyone ever again. It doesn’t mean the chatter won’t return. We all have missteps on our journeys. My mind is always there trying to pull me down all sorts of treacherous rabbit holes. But the important thing I try to remember is that I am in control, even when I don’t feel in control. I am the one who (wo)mans the hub of my emotions. And I am the one who can bring me safely to the other side. My thoughts are mine, and they are allowed to be acknowledged. My feelings are real, and they deserve to be addressed. By treating myself with love and compassion, honoring my story, (and continuing to take those deep cleansing breaths,) I can more easily continue to do the same for others. I can regain my steps along this journey with confidence that I am on the right path and with greater strength for when hurtles come along.
Here’s a beautiful song for your listening pleasure.