We live in a society that glorifies the brain and we forget that bodies built the world around us. The brain is a powerful tool, but it’s an overused one. Being trapped in the brain can have damaging consequences for personal health.
Why do we get stuck in our heads? And what can we do to regain a deeper connection with the other 80% of our physical being - our body? Read on to understand the problem - and prepare to move towards a solution!
Can You Get Out of Your Head?
We talk to ourselves all the time. Our minds constantly narrate our life, putting labels on experiences, people, and objects while judging situations as good, bad, or anywhere in between. This self-talk and critical narration, together with rumination, goes on and on and on - if it’s left unchecked.
We need to make judgments about the people and environment surrounding us, to assess what’s going on for our own safety, and know how to navigate the day-to-day. So, for these purposes, our minds and brains are doing an excellent job and we can thank them for it.
However, a problem with thinking in our modern era is that we do it too much. Our brains are overstimulated and overactive, to the point that many of us spend more time being lost in our thoughts and less time actually experiencing life. Are you a compulsive thinker? Has thinking too much ever stopped you from enjoying yourself?
Of course, thinking has its place. But thinking is just one tool available for experiencing reality. Because so much of society is geared towards the mind, we often don’t know when to put this tool away so we can appreciate life as it truly is - not as our minds ‘perceive’ it to be. Confused? That’s a good sign you are about to start thinking differently, let’s delve a little deeper….
The Map is Not The Territory
Imagine you’re looking at a map of the neighborhood you live in, you printed it out a few days ago. You can make out lots of familiar buildings, places, and features. But you spend so long fixated on the map that you start to mistake the map for your actual neighborhood.
So, when you come back to look at your physical surroundings, you’re puzzled because things have shifted around. ‘This wasn’t there before!’ but the map is old, things change, but your perceptions have stayed the same. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t update your internal map very often, it ‘decides’ how things should be and keep quite a fixed opinion (e.g. my neighbor is always grumpy).
We get stuck in our heads and spend more time in there instead of observing and experiencing what’s outside of us. We’re no longer responding to reality as it is, but as we perceive it to be. We are deciding in advance what life is like rather than being curious about how it could be.
If we’re always listening to the constant voice in our head, we’re not really listening to what’s going on right now in front of us. So, why is this a problem?
The Problems of Overthinking
Does living in our brains mean we feel less? Does spending hours gazing at 2D screens make our attention more two-dimensional? (Don’t overthink the answers!)
Here are some of the issues that stem from thinking too much:
Overthinking can lead to overeating. Overthinking uses up a lot of brain power, and that power has to come from somewhere! Eating is also a temporary distraction from troubling thoughts and stress, and it’s common for people to resort to unhealthy, sugar-laden foods to both fuel and drown out the mental chatter.
The body requires calm to be able to get to sleep at night. If you’re thinking too much, this can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, stopping you from drifting off into the land of nod. Worrying thoughts keep us in a state of anxiety making it hard to let go.
The Rise of Sitting Disease
We spend way more time sitting than our ancestors did. Sedentary lifestyles, especially brought about by desk-based jobs and personal time spent binge-watching TV, have given rise to the term ‘sitting disease.’
Studies have revealed that spending too long being sat down increases the risk of lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. In other words, activities that require us to be in our heads, combined with sitting down, are harmful to health if sufficient movement isn’t introduced into the equation.
Obsessing with worries or stressful thoughts increases the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your system. This creates a feedback loop where the brain perceives the cortisol from the body and looks for more reasons to worry (the brain always tries to make meaning and create a story from the sensory data sent from the body).
The Mind is Full
If your mind is filled with ideas about how things are, there’s little room to adopt different new ideas and perspectives. Inflexible thinking stops us from adapting to change and means we can get stuck in our ways. It also makes it harder to enjoy new experiences and instead we become mentally rigid and afraid to step outside our comfort zones.
Rejecting Personal Wisdom
There’s nothing wrong with intellectual pursuits, but it can become unhealthy when we seek to acquire new information to fill an emotional hole. We bury our personal wisdom beneath a pile of appealing ideas and concepts that may not be as relevant to our unique experience. Rejecting the treasure within for shiny objects outside of ourselves is an everyday tragedy. Trust your intuition to guide you.
Difficulty Making Decisions
Sometimes thinking more and more about a problem doesn’t bring you closer to a solution. Eventually, overanalyzing becomes a barrier to making a good decision. Scientific research has explored the ‘unconscious-thought effect.’ This is what happens when you take time off from decision-making and return with an improved thought process that fosters better decision-making.
The Inability to Relax
Like a car engine that has overheated, thinking too much can overstimulate your brain, making it difficult to relax and recharge. We habitually become accustomed to doing, fixing, and solving and forget about being, relaxing, and enjoying. What would a mental vacation look like for you?
Overthinking a situation can lead to anticipating the worst. Worrying doesn’t feel good and it isn’t practically useful. If you worry about something that ultimately never happens, then the worrying was pointless. If you worry about something that does happen, your worrying still didn’t make the situation any better.
You’re better off focusing on solutions to the issue or trying on a whole new perspective around the situation. Oftentimes, worrying is worse than the problem itself. Decide what you can control, and take action.
Becoming More Physically Present
It can be challenging stepping out of the comfort zone of staying still, but the rewards are well worth the challenge. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain and body:
Improved Brain Health
Straight after a session of moderate exercise (it produces a noticeable rise in heart rate and breathing) the brain has increased blood and oxygen flow. This leads to a reduction in anxiety and an increase in cognitive function.
Long-term benefits of moderate exercise can create an improvement in planning skills, delayed gratification, and the ability to control one’s emotional state.
Getting out of your head and into your body means there’s less mental chatter to keep you up at night. Is it any wonder we can’t sleep if the day was spent just sitting and doing virtually nothing?
Increased Red Blood Cell Count
Moderate exercise causes your body to produce more red blood cells which transport oxygen around the body to power your muscles and your mind!
Improved Lung Function
Your lungs become more efficient at transporting oxygen around your body. This increases the energy available to think in more decisive, creative, and enjoyable ways. Higher emotional states require more energy, lethargy equates to low moods; it’s entropic math!
Reduced Risk of Disease
Your overall state of health is improved through consistent exercise, reducing the risk of the most prevalent lifestyle diseases like Cancer, Diabetes, and Obesity. Exercise is the antidote to stress and anxiety, it also stimulates the immune system to keep your body healthy. The more energy your body uses up, the more work your immune system puts in to keep it healthy.
Activities to Get More Into Your Body
It’s said that action is the enemy of thought. Try these activities to reinforce your connection to your body and get out of your head:
Yoga, Tai Chi & Qigong - People have been practicing Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong for thousands of years to get more in touch with their bodies.
Massage - Receiving a massage is a beautiful and relaxing way to get more in touch with your body.
Aerobic Exercises - Swimming, walking, jogging, jumping rope, and using an elliptical trainer or stationary bike are all highly effective ways to redirect the energy from your brain into your body.
Slant Board - A slant board is a flat-surfaced object, usually made from wood or foam, designed for you to stand on to improve the strength of the muscles and tendons in your legs. Incredibly simple yet very powerful for improving your connectivity with your body.
Grounding - Walking barefoot on the earth increases your exposure to negative ions, neutralizing the buildup of positive ions in your system and promoting reduced inflammation.
Better Brain Health
Getting stuck in your head can be paralyzing. Preventing you from making decisions, enjoying life, and getting out of your comfort zone. If you put your body in charge for a day, what would it like to do? Where would it like to explore? What sensations would it like to experience? How would your day look if your body was in charge?
If you want more energy to fuel your brain and body you can take advantage of this month’s special Brain Boosting Bundle. Release anxiety and encourage movement by nourishing the brain with Banju and Viento, a powerful duo proven to enhance health, happiness, and mental harmony.
 Levine JA. Sick of sitting. Diabetologia. 2015;58(8):1751-1758.
 Strick M, Dijksterhuis A, van Baaren RB. Unconscious-thought effects take place off-line, not on-line. Psychol Sci. 2010;21(4):484-488.