Have you ever found yourself in a mind-rut? You know, those repetitive thoughts that pop into your head and circle round and around like a whirlpool in floodwaters, picking up speed and trash along the way. “Why did you do _____ again?” “What is wrong with you?” “Why can’t you……?”
Unfortunately, mind-rut thoughts aren’t positive, helpful or encouraging. It would be great if they were more along the lines of, “you’re capable of doing this,” or “you’ve taken on challenges like this before and figured it out, “or “you are smart and a valuable member of this team.”
Why do I call them mind-rut thoughts? Imagine a path through a forest. The path is created because it is a simple and typically efficient way to get from one place to another. Overtime and constant use, the path develops ruts. What was once efficient and effective, has become something that is challenging to navigate.
Just like a path that is repeatedly used, the brain creates neural pathways that with continued use become deeper, stronger, more efficient in transforming information. The longer we are stuck in a mind-rut thought (or series of thoughts), the more serious the consequences. The brief list: mental fatigue, muddled thinking, brain-fog, difficulty making decisions, physical fatigue, sadness, frustration, procrastination, anxiety, irritability, and more.
We all experience these types of thoughts. Remember, the brain attends to the negative and typically ignores the positive. So, if we’re wired to focus on the negative, and mind-rut thoughts are common, what’s a poor human to do? Practice mindfulness techniques to retrain your brain.
First, become consciously aware of the thought(s). Most of us are oblivious to our repetitive thoughts until we experience the consequences of our actions. (We have procrastinated to the point of panic, can’t seem to make a simple decision, or wonder why we are easily irritated.)
When you have identified your mind-rut thought(s), create a question for which there is no short easy answer. For example, change “I’m not good enough,” to “What would it feel like to be good enough?” Or “I’ll never find a job I like,” to “What would it feel like to find a job I like?”
The brain likes puzzles to solve. By asking yourself a question for which you don’t have an easy answer, your brain will begin to work to create/find an answer. You may notice opportunities that weren’t previously obvious. Innovative ideas, new questions, new energy will become available to you.
This won’t happen overnight but if you take the time to become aware of a mind-rut thought, create a question, and remind yourself regularly of the question, you’ll be surprised at what begins to shift.
Try it! What have you got to lose? Go forth and generate questions for which you don’t have ready answers. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll discover.