Stop The Rollercoaster
A recent study done by psychologists at the Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada discovered that adult humans have over 6,200 thoughts a day on average. If we include sleeping time in the hourly average, that makes over 258 thoughts an hour- and more than 2.2 million a year. What the hell are we thinking about all the time? These thoughts are probably not productive if there are so many of them, which brings to mind a mental image of each of us, just cooking dinner or sitting in traffic with our heads surrounded by a cloud of what ifs and I wonder whys.
Anxiety, in my unprofessional opinion, is the experience of having your day hijacked by all of these random (or in some cases, repetitive) thoughts, and in severe cases it becomes neurosis. Anxiety is so common because the mental experience of it is so universal. Situations outside of your control, what will happen to us in ten years, and past behaviors you wish with all your heart you could change are some examples that come to mind.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t worried about these things at least a little. Of course, all of these thoughts are perfect to drive yourself nuts with since none of them are happening right now, and none of them are anything you can ever do anything about. All this mental noise does not make for much inner peace, and if the inside of your head is noisy, any noise from the outside like minor annoyances or not-so-pleasant surprises seems like that much more of a perturbance.
Steering your ship through the crashing waves of pointless thoughts feels like chaos because it is, and living like this limits your capacity to choose how to react to situations that arise in your life with thoughtfulness. This ability, to choose how to react rather than doing so reflexively or dramatically, is called equanimity.
It’s possible to train your brain to not have so many thoughts, but that takes a lot of dedicated meditation to get there. In the short term, an easy and surprisingly very effective practice to gain equanimity is simply to close your eyes as you lie in bed at night for five minutes and observe your thoughts.
Watch them as you might look at a cloud sailing through the sky, without reacting emotionally to it, and without following that thought to something related (because then you are just thinking about stuff without getting anywhere). When you dedicate yourself to seeing your thoughts for what they are, which is just electricity in the ether, you can train yourself to not cling so tightly to them as they whiz around your mind. Slowly, you will start to notice a shift in how calm your mind has become, and how much command you have over your reactions. Earning this control will change your life.
– Colleen, Sacred Hour Massage Therapist + Head Staff Writer