It can be so easy to get caught up in stress, anxiety, and unhelpful thoughts and emotions. In times like these, we need to create some mental space, but how?
In this episode of Mentally Stronger, I want to talk about a favourite practice of mine called “when in doubt, zoom out.”
This practice helps us to “zoom out” from whatever negativity we’re focusing on at that moment, to see a wider perspective and to create some much-needed mental space. I explain how to get started with this super easy practice and the important benefits it can bring.
Keep reading to learn how to try it yourself, or tune in to my podcast below.
Why we need more mental space
There’s a metaphor I like to use to explain this practice. If you put a tablespoon of salt into a cup of water, it will be intensely salty and unpleasant to taste. But if you put that same teaspoon of salt into a swimming pool of water, it will be barely perceptible.
In the same way, when our mind begins to fixate on our problems, insecurities, anxieties and struggles, they tend to feel very intense and overwhelming. The mind can get very constricted around them, and our problems and worries become centre stage in our lives. Everything else is in the background.
However conversely, the more mental space we can surround those thoughts with, the less they will bother us.
How to zoom out and create more mental space
The first step when the mind is racing or constricted is to just take a mindful pause. Start by taking a long slow deep breath.
Then, take a moment to mentally zoom out and take in a much greater perspective of what is happening in that moment of your life.
Our problems rolling around our heads are not the only things happening in any given moment. Beyond our thoughts, there also might be birds singing outside, trees gently moving in the wind, the sun shining, and so on. It can be helpful to take a moment to connect with what is happening in your immediate surroundings, just listening, feeling and sensing.
You can go even further with your perspective and take a moment to consider that there are planets spinning, everything is changing, time is moving on.
There may also be good things in your life that you can reflect on in that moment– people who love you, food in the cupboards, your body’s health, and the fact that you’re safe. There are probably things you are grateful for in that moment as well as your problems.
Bringing back a more balanced perspective
This practice is not about only wearing rose-coloured lenses. It’s not that we ignore the difficult things in our lives. But when we zoom out into this broader awareness, it allows us to hold whatever is bothering us in a larger container. A see it from a broader and more balanced perspective.
It’s like we surround that problem with a mindful awareness… and suddenly, those negative thoughts don’t feel so overwhelming or deadly serious. They don’t have to be the centre of our attention. We can make room for a fuller picture. When we view things from a much broader perspective like this, we can deal with our struggles with greater wisdom, equanimity and effectiveness.
We don’t always have to try to get rid of our mental struggles or unpleasant emotions. Instead, when we are caught up in them, we can choose to ‘zoom out’ into this larger awareness and give ourselves back some mental space, a more balanced perspective and more inner freedom and peace.
So, my invitation is to give this a try in the next week and see how it feels for you, whether it’s useful or helpful in your own first hand experience.
Next time you feel caught up in stress, worrying, rumination or any kind of thought or emotion, take a breath and take a moment to zoom out. Take in the bigger picture of all that is happening in the present moment and in your life.
Let this practice reconnect you to the aliveness and fullness within and all around you – that we so easily lose touch with when we are caught up in our heads.
I hope this is helpful for you. Thank you for your practice, take care and stay strong.
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