Day 87: Lesson 2 from quitting booze and sugar. Use your body to hack your mind.

I’m a serial over-thinker.

Seriously. I can turn absolutely anything into a drama. At the moment, my stomach is in a knot about my daughter’s school Easter Egg Raffle! (I’d need a whole separate blog to explain that one but I’m fairly sure most of you would see why I’m concerned.)

Anyway, the point is it’s easy for me to get trapped in my head and then spend hours, days or weeks trying to think my way out of those traps. You’ll see evidence of that in some of my previous blogs.

The lesson I’ve learned is that thinking your way out of the trap is one of the most difficult approaches. I’d call it advanced level mind-management. There are easier ways to free yourself and then you can come back around and look at the trap without the simultaneous pain of being caught in it.

Here are 3  practices I found very helpful:

1. Wim Hof Method

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the one thing that worked for me more than anything else. It made me feel powerful, capable and in touch with my mind and body. I had this incredible sense of wellbeing when I finished – despite feeling exhausted and sometimes quite light-headed.

The Wim Hof method uses a specific breathing technique, where you take 30-35 deep breaths and only exhale about 75% each time. On the final intake, you hold your breath for as long as possible, then breathe out and hold for about 15 seconds. You repeat this 3 times. The final part of the method involves a cold shower.

I’ve had cold showers every day since 9 December and, although I really miss the luxury of hot showers, don’t think I could return to them. Every morning, no matter how I’m feeling, I stand under that cold water and prove to myself that I am capable of anything as long as I can just surrender and stay calm. It’s the most powerful physical way I have found to get straight into my mind at a subconscious level and change my programming for the better.

In case you want to find out more, here are some great links:

Who is Wim Hof? – 7-minute clip

Who is Wim Hof? – 21 Minute Mini-Documentary

How do you do Wim Hof Breathing?

2. Exercise – as long as I was invested in it

I like aerobic exercise. I prefer springing, leaping, bopping and sweating to stretching and holding poses so HIIT and running work better for me than yoga or pilates but that’s not true for everyone.

The most important thing is that whatever you do, it has to occupy your mind in a way that feels positive and gives you a break from the tension of thinking. If it doesn’t do that, it’s better to find something else that does.

When I’m running, I usually listen to audio books as I find that’s another way to move my thinking away from whatever I’m fixating on. Some of my favourite audiobooks have included:

On Sobriety:

The unexpected Joy of Being Sober – Catherine Gray

The Sober Diaries – Clare Pooley

On Parenting:

Listen: Five Simple tools to Meet your Everyday Parenting Challenges – Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore

Calm Parents, Happy Kids: The Secrets of Stress-free parenting – Laura Markham

On Mental Health:

Change your Brain, Change your Life – Dr. Daniel Amen

I know what to do, so why don’t I do it? – Nick Hall PH.D.

(I’ll review some of these in later blogs)

3. Power Posing (with music)

I first learned about power posing when I watched Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, “Your body language shapes who you are“.

I tried it for the first time just before I had to go on stage and speak to an audience of a few hundred senior leaders in an organisation. I figured the technique was a placebo at best but placebos are perfect for monsters we’ve manifested in our minds so it seemed worth trying. That day, I went out and spoke confidently. I felt great and the feedback was excellent.

I’ve used the technique during the last 87 days when I wanted to make myself feel more in control and calmer.

I created a short PowerPoint presentation of quotes and chose a couple of songs that made me feel brilliant. Then I stood in front of my computer, powerpoint presentation on and music playing in my headphones for 2 minutes.

If your instinct is telling you there’s something cringey about this one, you’re right. The first few times I did it, I cried and took great big gulping breaths but once I let those waves pass, I’d always finish feeling powerful. The last couple of times I’ve done it, I’ve ended up laughing at myself and the laughter felt great.

When our thoughts cause us to create tension, releasing that tension through the body is one of the simplest ways to break the cycle and feel better. I used to face my cravings head on and try and force myself not to think about them or force myself to think I could beat them. It was exhausting. These methods have taught me not to think my way out of cravings but instead to move away from them physically.

The development of the mind comes through movement.

Maria Montessori

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