A wise teacher of mine once said the single most prevalent mental health issue in our society today was “busy mind”.
In a culture where multi-tasking has become a sign of efficiency and success, it may seem blasphemous to suggest that it’s unhealthy, but that’s exactly what we’re suggesting. So what exactly is a busy mind? How do we recognize it and what can we do about it?
A busy mind is one that has the sensation of darting from one topic to another. It often occurs when we feel tired, overworked or over-stressed. Some of the clues are: difficulty focusing, frequently misplaced items and missed appointments or forgotten birthdays.
We all experience these things from time to time and when we do, it’s a warning about our state of mind. It’s our innate health telling us that we’re not “in the moment” and to slow down.
Moving from busy mind to a state of deep calm is all about awareness. We can learn to become more aware of our thought process by paying close attention to our feelings.
Have you noticed the difference in how you feel when you’re on vacation, laying on a beach in the warm sun after a swim, as opposed to how you feel when you’re late for an appointment and caught in traffic?
Your body reflects the difference in your thinking. It feels as though the circumstances are dictating your feelings and your state of mind. The truth is, however, that there are people laying on the beach whose minds are busy and full of anxious thoughts just as there are people in a traffic jam who are calm and philosophical about their predicament.
So the good news is that it’s not the events or circumstances that dictate our experience, but rather it’s our thinking at that moment. It’s an inside job. Whatever the circumstances, we can have a busy mind or a calm perspective, we get to choose.
It’s important to lower our tolerance for busy thinking. It often has become our habit or learned behaviour and we see it as normal. We can, however, break the habit and unlearn the behaviour. As we become more aware of our thoughts and feelings we can recognize our busy mindedness sooner and find healthy ways to slow down our thinking.
Take a nap, take a walk, have a cup of tea or do some yoga stretches. Eventually all we need to do is to see that our thinking is speeding up and simply slow it down. Then guess what? Calm becomes our norm more of the time. It’s the place of inspiration and good feelings and definitely more fun than busy, busy minds.
Great reading on the subject is as follows: Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Jo Bailey and Richard Carlson, or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series by Richard Carlson.