We are not made to just use our minds and think all the time. And doing this can make our IBS worse…
Does this sound familiar: I used to wake up, my mind would take over and run the show until I went to bed. And even during the night, my mind could continue to be on overdrive.
Like many people I was taught that intellect and using the brain were honourable causes. And let’s face it, most jobs these days use grey matter more than other muscles in the body. The fact is, most of us are letting our brains take over and rule our world.
This changed my mind
Not so long ago I watched a Youtube video from an unlikely looking Indian yogi called “Sadhguru”. I have always been put off by Buddhas, New Age stuff, and “enlightened beings”. But I decided to brave first impressions and be open to what he had to say. I could feel that this man had understood something about life that I was just not getting.
He sat down and said, with a grin on his face, that he didn’t use his mind continuously – just when he needed to. He could be doing something, and not be thinking at all. When he needed to pick something up, he would use his arm and hand, and then rest it next to his body. And he did the same thing with his mind. When he didn’t need his mind, he would switch it off, and he knew that when he needed to think about something or analyse, his brain was there.
How many times does something happen and we overthink it? We get home from work and something that happened during the day goes round and round in our head, messing up our evening.
It’s a sort of compulsive overthinking. And it doesn’t actually help us at all. In fact, it’s a total waste of time and energy
What’s the link with IBS?
Compulsive overthinking generally veers off and becomes negative. It can even transform itself into anxiety. As the mind and body often react together, this can affect our digestion and stir up our IBS symptoms. If we can learn to settle our minds, we can learn to reduce the level of tension in our bodies that can so often be fuelling symptoms.
So what can I do instead?
We may not realise it, but we actually have the choice, the possibility to break this swirl of negative thoughts. And that’s where “mindful meditation” comes in. (I put this in quotes because for me it conjures up images of Buddhas and enlightened beings sitting crossed legged for hours going “Ummmmm” – but I use 10-minute sessions on my Iphone app:)
It may seem like an empty sort of practice, but it actually offers a valuable way of grounding ourselves and choosing our thoughts. We battle with meditation because our mind takes over and shoots off in all directions. The secret is not to do battle. Let your mind run like a wild horse if it needs to, and then gently bring it back and help it become still. If you stay with it and practice, you can learn to shut off compulsive thinking and choose something that is more useful to you instead.
There are other ways than “mindful meditation” to achieve this – like sport, doing something we enjoy. The challenge is doing this and allowing our minds to rest. That’s why I would suggest using meditation at least to get you started, and especially if you feel that your brain is stuck in the “on” position.
The next time your thoughts spiral, I challenge you to choose a better option.
Even if you don’t believe in it, or think it’s a waste of time, or feel too tired (I know all the excuses because I used them myself:) as soon as you can just go and sit down quietly for 10 minutes with a guided meditation and see what happens.
If you are using the free 7 days of calm by Calm.com, look in the “Daily Calm Highlights section” (which is also free). There are excellent guided meditations on Choice and Resilience that I invite you to try out.
After the ten minutes notice how you feel: Are you calmer? Are you more relaxed? Do you spend a better evening? Do you sleep better? Are you nicer to your family? You may find you release wind or burp. This is actually a positive sign that you are letting out some of the tension in your body.
You may just find that the 10 minutes you “just wasted” actually gets your evening back for you. And the more you practice, the easier and more effective this gets. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself, now.
If you can, do this every day. If you don’t want to, at least use this technique when you feel you are on overdrive.