Running or ruminating? Helping your mental health along the way 

I noticed as I slugged along for my morning run today, there are scores of us, runners bouncing along.  Are we all pounding the pavement in the last-minute hope of boosting our immune systems or perhaps we’re channeling our energy into one of the few things we can control?

For so many of us, fear comes with uncertainty and in times of uncertainty we get busy hypothesizing scenarios.  I know I have been busy working out my game plan for scenario A the kids are off school for the next 4 weeks, scenario B the kids are off school for the next 3 months and C they are off school until September, but how helpful is all of this?

As we get busy scouring the web for statistics, watching those neat infographic heat maps that chart the number of cases and deaths and surrounding ourselves with information, I’m not sure it’s entirely helpful.  Perhaps knowledge isn’t power.

What the science says

Recent thinking among Neuroscientists suggest, that when we allow our mind to wander and think of the raft of possibilities of what might be and what could become we are activating our default mode neural network (very helpful for creative lateral thinking), but perhaps not so for keeping a clear rational head for dealing with a crisis.

Some studies have shown that when over activated the default mode network can stimulate hyper-connectivity, in other words it is much easier for us to catastrophize or self-blame.  The more our mind wanders the more we obsess over what could go wrong.

Lets switch

Meditation can help bring focus on your thinking, rather than letting your thoughts control you, you start to channel them intentionally.  A meditation like Berkley’s Greater Good Science Centre’s love and kindness may give you a route to do this.

Another route is through adaptive thinking, taking a mental narrative or story you’re telling yourself that is negative and flip it into a positive memory.   This type of thinking is underpinned by our strengths.  If we are clear on what our strengths are then it tends to be easier to find the things that are working for us.  Try the VIA strengths finder to identify your top 5 signature strengths.

For me, running is a great release, I can take a problem and literally pound it out on the pavement coming back with a solution and clearer head.

Whatever route you chose to help with a cycle of worry, let’s not get stuck in ruminating about the worst-case scenarios for long.

Author Bio: Jess Young, Co-Director, Square Peg Round Hole

Photo credit: Open Clip Art Vectors, Pixabay

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