As I’m sitting on the balcony overlooking the beach in Spain, it dawns on me how much I love getting away from it all on a regular basis. I feel released from normality and new thinking occurs much more frequently than in my day-to-day life.
Have you noticed how your mind is affected by what is around you? Our daily lives lead to daily thoughts and daily feelings. Good journey to work, good feedback from boss, a win of tennis with mate? This equals us feeling good. Missing the bus, being overlooked for a promotion, not fitting into our jeans? This equals a bad day. It’s like we are being tossed and turned by a giant wave with no means to stop our reactions from happening.
Changing your surroundings can make all the difference to how you feel at any given moment. For example, in the heat of an argument with both parties polarised, taking just a five-minute break or removing yourself from the situation can mean new insight, a softening and willingness to compromise which simply was not present moments earlier. Why?
It is no secret that most of us go through life like sleep walkers. We are neither present nor focused, our attention shifting from thought to thought. And as so many of us engage in circular thinking of one sort or another – experiencing anxiety about money, relationships, the future, the past, our bodies, our children and so on – we tend to spend a lot of time in our primitive, reactive mind. This part of our brain was developed thousands of years ago in order for us to survive and it equipped us with a lot of really really useful tools. Like hyper vigilance (anxiety), withdrawing and hybernating from danger (depression) or experiencing a temporary sensation of increased strength to protect our loved ones or to fight for survival (anger). Great for our ancestors, not so useful today.
Our primitive survival brain is a closed shop and it is purely based on past experience. There are no new insights coming from here. To break the deadlock of repetitive negative thinking we need disruption, to abort doing the same expecting something different. When we disrupt the flow of adrenaline and cortisol by changing our surroundings, we remove ourselves temporarily from the circularity of thought and return to what matters in the present moment. It offers the breakthrough needed to reach a solution or some sort of truce.
By removing ourselves from the familiar we land automatically in new unchartered territory. We dislodge the autopilot mode of the primitive mind and engage our conscious, intellectual mind that looks to make sense of new information, thus creating change. When we linger in our conscious mind we can be wise, curious, creative, change, solve problems, invent new solutions, keep things in perspective and keep things in the right proportions.
So the next time you are feeling stuck, locked in an argument that no one is winning or feeling drained or alone… try changing something. Go for a 10 minute walk, make a phone call which is not related to the problem, go and make a coffee, find solitude and meditate, do breathing exercises, take the dog for a walk, book a class, do yoga, go for a run – just change something and something will change for you.