I’ve had some bad days lately.
Those kinds of days when you keep slumping deeper and deeper into a state of despair. When this happens, I get these thoughts festering in my mind, like: “This is going to be a long, depressing winter,” “Everyone else is locked down with their families, and I’m all alone,” “How am I going to keep going?”
These thoughts torment me. It’s like I’m at war with my mind. I know I’m not alone with this mind war. We’re all being tested in the exact areas where we need to do the most work: being still and controlling our minds.
Humanity has gone through arguably far worse global catastrophes. But unlike past pandemics, the challenge of being locked down—with only our minds—seems to be augmented by relying on the comforts we have been abusing to numb our pain and distract ourselves: the internet and social media. How ironic is it that the thing that promised to make us more connected is now the thing making us feel lonelier than ever?
Whenever I get into one of these funks of online dependency, I always turn to a few self-care practices to help switch my state from being at war with my mind to being at peace.
The first thing I do is walk. I walk a lot. Sometimes I walk for hours. On a recently particularly nasty day, I hopped in a car share, drove to the furthest edge of the rental boundary, ditched the car, then started a long three-hour walk home in the pouring rain. When I eventually got home, I was soaked, but my mind was clear, and I felt infinitely better than when I started.
I always feel better after going for a walk. Sometimes I’ll just go for a short walk around the block between work calls. Sometimes I’ll take a walk down to the ocean with a mug of hot water. Sometimes I’ll bring my phone and listen to music or an audiobook. Other times, I’ll leave the phone behind and focus on being present in nature.
There are no rules for my walks. All I have to do is put on my boots and get out the door. Those first few steps are movement toward clearing the war in my mind and bringing in peace.
If I’m having a real dark and stormy day in my mind, I’ll implement some extreme, positive self-talk on my walks. Positive self-talk is a relatively simple concept: say nice things to yourself—essentially, be your own coach. The challenging part is having the awareness to recognize you’re talking poorly to yourself in the first place.
Once I catch that I’m at war with my mind, I’ll go full coach-mode and give myself a little pep talk:
“You are exactly where you need to be.”
“Everything is happening for you, not to you.”
“All that you desire will come to you at the perfect place, at the perfect time.”
“What you seek is seeking you.”
“You love, and you are loved.”
and above all,
I repeat these mantras over and over until the war in my mind subsides and peace enters my thoughts. Positive self-talk is a powerful tool.
If I’m still in a funk after a walk and positive self-talk, I’ll turn to meditation.
Whenever I share with friends or family about meditation, I always get the same two excuses from them: I don’t have the time, and I don’t know how.
When I hear these excuses, I usually nod and smile, then ask them what they’re currently binge-watching on Netflix. After a brief pause, they list a show, then another show, then a third and a fourth before it clicks that they do, in fact, have the time. They’re just not making meditation a priority. The ironic part is that the clarity you achieve during meditation will always save you time later in your day.
Meditation has been one of the most transformational practices I have adopted in recent years. Like anything, it can be learned. There are countless apps and online programs that can help you get started. But know this: if you can sit still and focus your attention on your inhale and on your exhale, then you are meditating, and you are working to transform the war in your mind into peace.
The pandemic will eventually end, and we’ll enter our next normal. One thing that will not leave us is our minds. No matter where we go and what we do, we will always be with our mind.
So I invite you to create a beautiful relationship with your mind. Make your mind your best friend by applying the practices of walking, positive self-talk, and meditation.
It’s time to become friends with your mind, stop the war, and call in peace.