We have all had that nasty sensation where our mind gets stuck on something, some music or thought and after awhile it’s just annoying. Or maybe you get upset with someone and you’re trying really hard to let it go. But the more you think about stopping thinking about it, the more it annoys you. It wasn’t until I read an article about this in Psychology Today a few months ago that I learned a name for this: Earworm. It’s something you want to get rid of. Here is some advice and methods to try. Each of them involves doing something else that interrupts that thought process. When chewing gum or singing a different song doesn’t work, here are some more suggestions involving Mindfulness.
Interrupted breathing technique: First get comfortable and slow down your breathing. Lengthen your breathing to inhale and exhale as long as possible. Now once you’re comfortable, break your inhale into three segments. Try to inhale only enough to fill one third of your lungs and hold…now one third more and hold…..now fill your lungs and hold….then fully exhale. Repeat. If this causes too much discomfort or anxiety, do half fill and hold and full fill and hold and repeat. Once you’ve practiced this 10 times now fully inhale and exhale a few times and begin the second half. Inhale fully, then exhale one third and hold, then another third and hold, and then the last amount and hold, and then inhale fully. Repeat this 10 times.
Sensory exercise: ” Name three things” Close your eyes where you are and listen first. Pay attention to what you hear. Can you name three things you’re hearing? Can you hear your own breath. Can you hear any sounds outside? Can you hear your stomach? Name three sounds you can hear. Next name three things you can feel right now. Can you feel your feet touching the floor? How about your toes inside your shoes? Can you feel your wristwatch on your skin? The amount of things we can feel but never pay attention to is enormous. Name three of them. Now think of three things that make you happy. Three memories, or three things you like to do, or three people you like to be with for example, and just focus on those memories or how you feel about those people. Repeat this process three times. The things you are hearing may be the same each time but try to pay attention to new things you feel and different memories and people each time.
Sensory extreme: I learned this one in yoga class and it involves doing something completely out of your ordinary comfort mode. There is nothing quite as stimulating and refreshing and inversion and letting the blood flow to your head. If you are game, go flip yourself against a wall and pay attention to everything you feel. So stimulating that it’s crazy! Scary and crazy! But guaranteed you won’t be able to obsess about what was on your mind before. Some other versions of this is to do the “down dog” position of yoga. This involves putting your body into a V, your hands in front and legs outstretched, trying to stretch and touch your heals to the ground. Just this effort with your head hanging lower than your heart will be enough to stimulate you and will get your mind paying attention to the present moment and all the sensations going on. Another modification is to lay on your bed for a limited period of time and just let your head hang backwards or forwards. Try both of them and see which one feels more comfortable for you. You might want to set a timer and people with certain health conditions may not be able to do this at all. It’s just another option and one of my favorites because you go rightside up, the rush is like waking up from a nap, it’s very refreshing and freeing. Maybe you used to do sommersaults when you were a child. You might try one now. Or try doing a cartwheel. Doing anything completely out of your usual comfort zone can be a great way to get your mind off whatever it is that’s driving you crazy.
I would love to hear your responses to your trials or other tricks you’ve found helpful. Please share!