As seen on Oprah.com
If you’re like most people, your mind is busy, filled with untamed emotions and unruly thoughts. Your attention is often anywhere but right here. You churn out thought after thought as you live in the chaos and clutter of your busy mind.
Busy mind is a catchall term I use to include anything that pulls you away from showing up fully for your life in this moment.
Your busy mind is made up of a mix of thoughts, emotions, doubts and fears (along with various other thought patterns). By the way, it is the same for everyone. In our society of more and better, our minds operate with constant mental noise: planning, judging, analyzing, commenting, remembering, forecasting and so on.
Too much mental content frays your nerves and keeps you awake at night. The mental junk drains you; the drama and distraction always leave you feeling exhausted. You don’t realize how much your busyness controls your day until you collapse on your bed at night.
Simply put, your busy mind is an overwhelming place to live.
Although thinking is useful, overthinking can be detrimental and even destructive. It increases stress and blocks access to your potential. But please don’t fret. Knowing you have a busy mind is the first step. Get to know your busy mind, and you’ll see how too much thinking drains your energy.
When you’re preoccupied by thoughts and emotions, you experience life through the filtered lens of your busy mind. You see life through the haze of emotional disturbance or the tension of mental stress.
Here’s the take home point. You are not your busy mind.
You are not your thoughts and emotions. Spend a few minutes (or hours) in nature and you’ll shift beyond your busy mind. You’ll feel more settled and clear, more open and vast. Beyond your busy mind, you meet life head-on. Beyond the noise of thinking, thinking, thinking, there are no veils to hide behind and no filters to alter your perspective.
Beyond your busy mind you experience clarity and (dare I say) peace.
In order to understand how your thoughts and emotions may be ruling your world, it is essential to get to know your busy mind. Let’s look at it more closely.
1. Sloppy Brain
I call my busy mind my “sloppy brain” when I’m distracted and feel clumsy and out of sorts. Let’s face it, sloppy brain happens to all of us. I see examples of sloppy brain on the highway, in the grocery store—everywhere. Too many of us are sloppy in how we show up in our day-to-day lives. This isn’t a judgment, just a fact.The distracted, sloppy busy-mind is in a weakened state. It speeds through life and doesn’t slow down to take even a few seconds to tell you to, say, mindfully place your phone and keys in the same place, set your teacup away from your laptop, or notice the stop sign in front of you.
2. Crazy Busy
“Crazy busy” has become a common phrase and an accepted way to live. We’re so addicted to getting things done that we’re oblivious to what’s really happening around us. Just look around any public area, and you’ll see most people looking at their phones while waiting in line, walking or even talking with others.
When you’re in “crazy busy” mode, you’re not really focused on what you’re doing or whom you’re with. Your mind is too busy processing stuff to do, daily activities and places to be. Being “crazy busy” can make you feel as though your world is spinning out of control and there’s no end in sight. It’s not just you. It’s most of us. How often have you greeted friends and boasted about being “crazy busy”? The bottom line is that you cannot feel awake and fully alive when your mind is “crazy busy.”
Many of your daily activities are repetitive, like brushing your teeth, checking emails, taking a shower. The thoughts streaming through your mind tend to be repetitive as well. Many of today’s thoughts were yesterday’s thoughts—they keep replaying in your head. For example, you might think, “I have to go to the post office,” over and over for two days straight until you actually go to the post office. The script for autopilot is often a thought loop that keeps running in your head: “I need to lose weight,” “I need to make more money,” “I should clean my closet,” and so on. When you’re on autopilot, you think the same thoughts over and over without being aware of it. Living on autopilot is exhausting and will leave you feeling drained at the end of the day.
4. Information Overload
Everywhere we look, we are surrounded by information to process and choices to make. Experts tell us to do this, buy that and eat this. Bombarded by advertisements, news, emails and senseless posts on social media, our mental hard drives become overloaded, inefficient and sluggish. Every day, your busy mind tries to absorb and remember the onslaught of information coming across your mental screen. In our overstimulated society, living in the busy mind can lead to exhaustion and fatigue, chronic stress and even depression.
Last, overthinking is a major cause of chronic stress in our highly demanding culture. On any given day, you experience thousands of repetitive thoughts, many of which are tainted with judgment and anxiety. Too much planning, worrying and replaying these loops is exhausting. Incessant thinking creates tension and robs us of peace. Although thinking is useful, overthinking is draining. Although stress is necessary to flourish at times, chronic mental stress causes chronic physical stress, which is harmful to your health.
The good news is that you are not your busy mind.
Get to know what your busy mind is so busy doing by looking at your thoughts.
Mindfulness mediation is a powerful way to become familiar with your mind. You can also call out the traits of your busy mind throughout the day. Name them out loud. There is my Sloppy Brain. Here I go being Crazy Busy. Am I on Autopilot? Here comes Information Overload. And wow, I’m Overthinking this issue. Name these conditioned patterns and eventually they’ll weaken.
Get to know your busy mind as if your life depends on it. Because it does.