Are you a chronic worrier? Do you obsess about things? Or, does your mind seem to always be stuck in the past?
When any of us experiences high stress (eg., an illness, a death, intense work pressure), our sense of well being is often temporarily hijacked by our thoughts running off into the past or into the future. I call this the Runaway Brain. Tune into your mind’s chatter at any given point, and there is a strong likelihood that you will find yourself everywhere but here. You may be regretting a decision you made or worrying about how you will make ends meet if you lose your job. The problem with this tendency of the brain to meander out of the present is that neither the past, nor the future, actually exists, except in your mind. The only thing that exists is right now. This moment. The rest is pure imagination.
So, to stay calm and steady during life’s challenges, it becomes very important to learn how to live in the moment. How do you do this? Well, next time your brain has “run away” to another point in time, pull yourself into the here and now. You can do this by using your five senses. If you are driving, notice what you see outside, listen to the song playing on the radio, or focus on the warmth of the sunshine on your face. Let yourself be fully present and aware. If you are in the shower and your mind begins to wander, notice the sensation of your fingers massaging your scalp, the smell of the shampoo, and the warm water soothing your body. In any situation, you can take a focused, deep breath to derail obsessive thoughts. If you mind starts to wander again (and it usually will!), don’t get mad. Just gently pull yourself back into the present, as often as necessary. If you practice being present-focused regularly, you will have a vital tool for stopping a runaway brain and bring back some peace of mind.