Do you ever wish that you could just take a vacation from your mind?
Do you wish that you had an “on-off” switch on the side of your head that you could turn off your worry about the future, your regrets of the past, the things you keep telling yourself over and over that you need to work on or change?
Our mind, the Queen of Chaos, can literally drive us crazy. We live in a culture that fosters an overactive mind, that creates worry, frustration, dissatisfaction, sleeplessness, and a feeling that no matter what life we have, something (or many things!) about our life needs to be different. It is as though our minds create a war inside of us, and we think that the way to peace is through continuing to examine what we need to change, how we need to improve, or we fixate on changing or improving someone else, like our spouse or our kids!
The bottom line is this: We will never feel the content, joy, love and satisfaction that we want to feel in our lives by remaining at war with ourselves.
So, how then do we stop the war? There is one simple answer: We have to practice not listening to the chronic chaos of the mind.
Peace will never come from losing those 10, 20 or 50 lbs. It will never come by finding the perfect mate. It will never come from finding the perfect career or raising happy kids. Rather, all of these things that we think will be the key to our peace and contentment, are actually all CAUSED by first and foremost, finding the inner peace and love first.
No matter what life looks like now, and it may look chaotic, the first step always needs to start with ending the war within your mind. It is only when you learn how to stop beating yourself up for life not looking the way you want it to, that you can actually find some clarity to change what you want to change.
I have had thousands of clients come to me because they want to fix some aspect of themselves, their relationship, or some other chronic issue in their life, hoping that if they fix this part of their life, they will finally feel the way they want to feel. But, this approach is backwards. It is only when we recognize that it is the internal response to our life circumstances that determines how we feel and think about ourselves and our lives, not the circumstances themselves.
Just like you brush your teeth twice a day, every day to keep your teeth clean, so too must we have practices every day to keep our minds clean from chaos. If you miss brushing your teeth even once, the grime starts to grow. The same goes for the chaos in the mind! Here are some daily practices to keep the chaos at bay:
1. The Morning Questions: Every day, as soon as you wake up, ask yourself this question: “What do I need to let go of right now to be calm?” In other words, what are the thoughts I am having that are causing chaos in my mind? Ask this question over and over for five minutes (set a timer on your phone), and write down the responses that come to your mind. Then ask yourself the second morning question: “What do I have to be grateful for?” Set the timer for another five minutes and write down the responses. These 10 minutes have the power to change your whole life!
2. Be Aware of Your Addiction to Thinking by Noticing Your Body Sensations Throughout the Day: Every thought that we have creates some sort of physical response in our nervous system, and emotional feeling in our bodies. Yet, we just allow our mind to go wherever it wants to go, and never take control over the direction that it goes in. The definition of addiction is being enslaved by a habit. So when we are habitually and unconsciously thinking, we are literally addicted to this pattern of thought. Start to pay attention to the emotional and physical responses in your body when your mind goes to that habitually negative place it always goes. Does your neck get tense? Do you have knots in your stomach? Do you feel run down? Cranky? Pay attention to the physical reactions to your addictive thinking.
3. Notice Your Attachments to Outcomes: When we have a strong attachment to producing a particular outcome in our life, we become fixated on trying to control aspects of our lives that we really don’t have any control over. This causes fear and anxiety, because the more we try to control something that we can’t control, the more out-of-control we feel. Then in order to try to feel more in control, we try even harder to control what we can’t control in the first place! Does this sound insane, or what? Ask yourself who or what you are trying to control, that in truth, you don’t have any control over?
4. Choose to Let Go: Sometimes we are afraid to let go of the thoughts that our minds fixate on because our fixations actually become a part of our identity. I often hear my clients say, “I don’t know who I would be if I didn’t keep trying to fix or control that part of my life.” We focus on past mistakes because we think that if we keep feeling the shame and regret, it will prevent us from making the same mistake again. We focus on worrying about the future because we think if we spend our energy worrying about it, some how we can control the outcome of our future. A daily practice of letting go of past regret and future worry, and consciously directing your mind to right here, right now, creates an immediate sense of calm and peace within.
The bottom line to managing your internal chaos and creating a peaceful mind is to PAY ATTENTION! Pay attention to where your mind automatically goes, and don’t blindly follow it. Be in the driver’s seat of your mind instead of being a backseat passenger and giving the Queen of Chaos the keys.
BIO: Joanna Kleinman is a psychotherapist and founder of The Center For Extraordinary Relationships In Cherry Hill, NJ. She has been in private practice for over 20 years, inspiring individuals across the country to live lives they love. The philosophy of her work is that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our relationships with ourselves and others. Through in person counseling, online virtual counseling with people across the country, and her nationally acclaimed workshop series “Dethroning Your Inner Critic”, Joanna has helped thousands of people to transform the quality of their relationships, the confidence by which they live their lives, and to create a permanent shift in how they experience themselves. These shifts are the result of an innovative and transformational approach in which stress, overwhelm and dissatisfaction can be altered, by learning to separate oneself from what she calls the “Inner Critic”; the voice in the mind that has been speaking to all of us all day, every day, for most of our lives. In understanding how this voice keeps people stuck in old identities, beliefs, patterns and behaviors, she has helped countless individuals, couples, and families let go of the past, redefine the future, and create breakthroughs in the quality of their relationships and their lives. Joanna has been a contributing writer for The Huffington Post, Women’s Health Magazine, Courier Post, South Jersey Mom Magazine, Parent.co, and Parents.com. She has been sought out as an expert motivational speaker for companies including Campowerment, Virtua Hospital’s Annual Women’s Conference, and the National Association of Women Business Owners. Joanna also served as a crisis intervention specialist and has worked with major corporations including Cigna Behavioral Health, Kantor Fitzgerald, Commerce Bank, Fleet Securities, and the U.S Navy. Joanna lives in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband of twenty years, and her 3 children.