Everyone needs to stop and think sometimes, but excessive reflection can lead to perpetuating negative thoughts and even depression, so it’s important to avoid over-thinking. That can be easier said than done, however, especially if you’re living alone or with limited social contact or have little to occupy you. Fortunately, though, there are plenty of ways to keep those unwanted thoughts at bay, so if you’re one such sufferer, you can turn your life around right now. Here, Russell Herbert Jack, a Southland-based mindfulness teacher, shares five simple ways to rein in your thoughts and turn melancholy days into bustling, cheerful ones.
Plan some activities
Consider what activities you enjoy and jot down some that you could pursue at home. You might include cooking, photography, online games, and model-making, for instance, or home improvements, craftwork, and educational study. Passive pastimes, such as watching movies or listening to music, can be reserved for any spare time left. It’s essential to stay fit, so add in some physical exercise appropriate for your accommodation. You might choose weightlifting or yoga, for instance. You now have plenty of pleasant and worthwhile occupations to focus your mind on through the day.
Set a timetable
It may be hard to know how to fit all your listed pastimes into your day, so prioritize your favorites and set time slots for them around your mealtimes, daily chores, and other routine commitments. This basic framework will give you a sense of purpose, and you’ll find there’s little time for reflection as you pursue your timed agenda. Allow yourself a little flexibility, though, and adjust your timings for maximum ease and satisfaction.
Arrange calming background sound
If you find silence troubling, fill it with sound while you pursue your activities. You might choose music or chat shows, for instance, or recorded sounds of natural elements such as summer breezes or rolling waves, which you can find online. But keep the volume down so the sound doesn’t distract you from your schedule.
Make daily human contact
Make a point of reaching out to at least one friend or family member a day. They’re sure to be glad to hear from you; perhaps they’re finding life a little quiet, too. Set a time in your schedule for this social interlude, so you’re not tempted to skip it. Suppose you can’t think of anyone to contact; look out for opportunities to pass the time of day by volunteering or helping out a neighbor. Human contact will bring warmth and comfort into your life, helping you turn negative thoughts into positive ones.
At the end of each day, look back on everything you’ve done and pat yourself on the back for all your achievements. Congratulate yourself on pursuing your activities and taking them further, and if you’ve enjoyed your day, be proud of your ability to beat down the blues and turn your mood around. There may be other achievements to celebrate, too, such as bringing cheer to one of your contacts or mastering a new skill.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. Make it your goal to sit and focus on your breathing for two minutes at a time – in the morning and the evening, or when your negative thoughts start bothering you. Focus on your breathing, and observe your thoughts without judgment. It’s just a quality of mind – to be busy. Learning to watch your thoughts without attaching meaning to them is a great way to take away the power of negative thinking over your life.
With this simple plan in place, your days will fly by so fast; you’ll hardly have time to stop and think. When you do pause for reflection, you will be able to observe your thoughts without judgment, and you will focus more and more on absorbing the riches and delights of your new way of life.
About Russell Herbert Jack
Russell Herbert Jack, Southland Yoga Trainer and mindfulness teacher, is based in New Zealand. He specializes in Vinyasa Yoga, Qigong, and guided meditations, helping clients achieve harmony of body, mind, and soul. Russell is passionate about animal rights protection, regularly volunteering with the World Animal Protection Organization and donating to protect endangered species in New Zealand.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.