How to stop your mind from talking all time
www.raptitude.com’s tagline is “getting better at being human”
How to stop your mind from talking all the time
A couple of Sundays ago, I left for a friend’s house to watch the Oscars, and decided to keep from talking in my head the whole way there.
I’ve been doing micro-experiments like this a lot recently, committing to total presence for very short stretches of time. Can I, for example, keep my mind on what’s happening the entire time I’m doing the dishes? After each little exercise I can go back to my normal distracted stupor if I want to.
So for the 30 minutes or so between my door and my friend’s, including a stop at the store, I dared myself to keep my attention on the current real-life scene only, and not get drawn into any mental dialogues. Put another way, I decided to put words aside for a little while, and observe everything else.
It worked. The talkative part of my brain mostly shut up, and I discovered for the 600th time that the world is intrinsically beautiful and peaceful whenever I manage to take a break from thinking and talking about it.
Ideally I’d spend my whole life in this state — when you’re just observing things and it really doesn’t matter what happens, because it’s all very curious and beautiful, and if trouble does show up you’re already in the best headspace to deal with it. You get the specific sense that you don’t need to be anywhere else, which makes you realize how rarely you feel like that.
The most prominent quality of this state of presence is the quiet that comes over the outside world. You can still hear the city noise and traffic, but the loudest thing has gone silent, which is your normal mental commentary.
I’ve had this state happen before, but it always seemed to come randomly. After this most recent experience, I realized something that should have been obvious: if you practice doing it, it happens more.
This latest experience happened because I made a conscious agreement to stay with the moment as it actually is. That means I simply agreed not to bother engaging with words, internally or externally, unless there was a clear reason to. And wow did my experience change quickly.
Why not make that agreement all the time?
Well, our words defend us against parts of reality we don’t like. You don’t have to open up emotionally to anything if you’re already occupied with dissecting it or labeling it or otherwise evaluating it. So in order to drop the words from a given moment, you have to agree to invite all the details into your experience without judgment, and that isn’t something most of us have a lot of practice at.
So you fall into a comfortable train of thought, maybe about how things should be…and in seconds the present has become only a faint background to your thoughts. This is a bad habit and we are practicing it all the time.
How to get better at this:
A complete rundown of “Living in the present” skills would be too big for one article, but we have a very clear starting point: the path back to the present moment lies in paying attention to physical, concrete details. Your body, your clothes, the air, the background sounds, the surface you’re standing on.
Physical things only exist in the present. Keep your attention on something physical and that means you’re keeping it on something that is actually happening.
Basically, the mind will run its mouth off whenever it gets a chance, which is virtually all the time, except when:
a) You’re doing something that demands you attend to something physical. This is why people like death sports, because you are forced back into the present (or else you die.)
b) You make a habit of returning your mind to something physical whenever you notice it’s wandered off. The only place it can really wander to is your thoughts, because everything else is part of the present moment.
Returning your attention to the present is a fairly simple, learnable skill, which can eventually become a reflex.
If you ever feel like you don’t know how to do it, just put your attention into some part of your body. When you notice it’s wandered back to some words in your head again, put it back.
The basic skill of putting your attention somewhere on purpose has a million applications, like defusing cravings, nipping bad moods in the bud, preventing yourself from being offended, and getting more work done, to name a few.
Hey Saimon what do you think? 私に勝手な一コメントいわせていただければ・・・
The reason I chose this article is because I’ve been trying it in my own life.
I realized recently that I have a lot of anxiety (much more than I realized) and I’ve been working on it. My anxiety really came out with Corona, but there are other things too.
In particular, I noticed that if I am angry and I let the voice start talking, I will get a lot angrier and will stay angry for a long time. But one time a year or two ago one of my children did something that made me angry while we were playing in the park, and because we were in the park I ended up moving my body around (throwing a tennis ball against a wall) and doing this physical movement took some power away fom the voice in my head (because I couldn’t concentrate on it and on throwing the ball at the same time).
I learned from this that if I don’t let the voice in my head talk, i will lose my anger much quicker….and i learned that physical movement is a helpful way to do this.
I’ve also become much more aware of WHAT it is saying – often it isn’t actually all that helpful, it’ll be telling me “I’m not very good at this, maybe I should give up”
(I had a lot of that related to starting this podcast, luckily I have friend – Smith from the podcast Smith and Tanaka – who was able to encourage me through the whole process – honestly without him I’m pretty sure I would have given up….thanks man)
So recently I’ve been trying not to let the voice in my head talk all the time during my daily life, and although it isn’t particularly easy (hopefully it’ll get easier with practice), I do feel the benefit – I do feel calmer and less stressed, more at peace with the world.
Listeners, what do you think? 皆さん、いかがでしょうか？
Do you have a voice in your head? Does it talk a lot? What does it say?
Have you ever tried to stop it talking? How did it go? Did it feel better? Was it easy or difficult to maintain?
Music by Kajiki
Sound Effects: https://freesound.org/people/tensaimon/bookmarks/
SNS: tensaimon (instagram: kusaimon)