It can be so hard to practice mindfulness when the noise in our heads never stops. Here are some strategies that can be helpful when you would like to find some relief from the well-meaning and sometimes not so well-meaning voices in your head.
1. Turn the radio down. Imagine that the sound in your head is like the radio in your car. There are several different stations to choose from if you want to listen – talk radio, oldies, country, maybe some mellow music, a dance station, all kinds of choices. But if you decide none of those stations really fit with what you are wanting at the moment, turn the radio down. Imagine that there is a knob in your head that you can turn down the volume. Unfortunately, there is not an “off” switch, but you can turn it down so that the voices are no more than background noise.
2. Give the voice a new character. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they sound like Donald Duck, or Pee Wee Herman. Instead of hearing the voice as a competent adult or someone that you would take seriously, turn it into something you wouldn’t take seriously. It’s your voice after all, you can do anything you want to it, so why not have some fun?
3. Be polite, and say thank you. Tell the voice in your head thank you for sharing, and now you are going to talk to another guest at the party. How many times have you tried to shut out the voices or ignore them? It never works, right? So, you might as well stop trying to ignore it. Be polite, acknowledge this faceless voice as you would any visitor. Tell it thank you for stopping by, and then move on to what you would like to focus on. Just like a persistent child, the voices in your head will keep pestering you until you acknowledge them. That’s it, you don’t have to agree or engage in a lengthy conversation, just acknowledge.
4. Put the voice to music. If the voice is going to be there, you might as well have some fun with it. Give it a dance tune and make it a party. Make it a song in another language from another country. Give it a deep voice, or give it an opera voice. Give the song a name. Maybe it’s the “You are No Good” song in an Italian opera voice. Or maybe it’s the rap classic “I can’t Take It Anymore”.
5. Practice finding the gap. If you really pay attention, you will find a gap in the stream of thoughts going through your head. It might only be half a second, but look for it; listen for the break. When you hear the gap, inhale deeply, and then exhale deeply. And then listen for the next gap. It will come, be patient. Sometimes the gap will last a few seconds, and you can inhale and exhale a few times. It really doesn’t matter how long the gap lasts, the point is to pay attention and find it.
Our brains are amazing and complicated. They process millions of bits of information all at the same time so that we can walk and talk and digest food and breathe and figure out where we need to be next. It’s a great thing that our brains never stop working, but it can be exhausting when the chatter gets too loud or is negative and unhelpful. The trick is to work with our minds rather than resisting so much. Accept that the chatter will be there to some degree most, if not all the time. So, play with it. Find some strategies to mold the chatter rather than attempting the impossible feat of silencing it. I realize there may be some who have found a way to silence the chatter, but that is a blog you will have to find elsewhere because I don’t yet know how to do that.