How often do you allow yourself to simply be with your own thoughts? I’m going to guess the answer is not that often and that’s a shame, because zoning out and just being with your own thoughts is a fantastic way to unwind and, even more importantly, to unlock your own creativity.
Mindfulness – the act of being focused on the present and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without judgement – is a wonderfully grounding practice, and the Internet is fit to bursting with suggestions on how to be more mindful. Yet sometimes it strikes me that we’re all overthinking mindfulness and making it into a bigger task than it needs to be. After trying many different tools and techniques, I have found that the simplest answer is often the best and, in this case, the simplest answer is to simply ‘zone out’. Yes, you heard me. Just zone out. Stop, stare off into space, let your thoughts go where they will without specific focus or any kind of self-judgement, and just be. It is the simplest thing in the world, yet the act is nothing short of transformative.
My partner does this well. Especially on planes. It used to drive me nuts. I would usually board with an armful of reading material loaded onto my iPad and with a book (and a few magazines) for back-up, and still find myself bored and restless after a few hours. Then I would look over and see that my partner had been staring contentedly at the flight map for the past three hours. Part of me could not fathom how anyone might watch that display for so long and do nothing else, whilst the other part of me was utterly envious. Try as I might, achieving that level of calm would always evade me. I was too ‘in my head’ to let go of the illusion of self-control. It wasn’t until I went through a series of life-changing events (which you’ve likely read about before in my blog so I won’t bore you with the details again) that I learned the necessity of slowing my mind in order to manage my depression and anxiety.
Working with my therapist, I tried many different mindfulness techniques and practices yet found many of them required me to remember a lengthy set of instructions which I then found took me out of what I was doing. In the end, I stumbled across two incredibly simple ways to achieve mindfulness by doing very, very little and, as a strong proponent of the ‘Keep It Simple, Sweetheart’ school of thought, achieving maximum value from minimum input was a dream come true.
So, here are my two personal favourite activities for zoning out and being at one with your thoughts:
- Stare at the sky: We all used to do this as kids however it appears to be something we do less and less of as adults. It’s incredibly easy to do; just go outside, lay down, look up, let mind drift. Feel free to use a hammock if you have one (highly recommended, actually)
- Turn your TV into a viewing portal: Have you tried any of those free apps/videos for your television which show scenes such as live aquariums, fireplaces, beaches etc? If you have Netflix there are a heap of them (including the fantastic ‘Moving Art’ series of videos) or if you have a smart TV you can even watch live HD views of our incredibly beautiful little blue planet live from the International Space Station (my personal favourite). Find something that speaks to you, put it on and let your mind wander. (And for cold weather – like we have now here in Australia, in the depths of winter – there’s nothing like the joy of watching a roaring fireplace for half an hour, secure in the knowledge that there will be no clean-up required and zero fire hazard)
There are plenty of other options – you could spend an afternoon out in nature, partake in some of those delightful ‘colouring for adults’ colouring-in books (BYO crayons) or simply watch a beloved pet sleep (I could watch my cat for hours because she has an adorable way of posing whilst she sleeps which I cannot even begin to describe here yet which renders me utterly ‘awwwww!’-struck when I see her do it). The list is endless.
Whatever you do, it’s up to you. All I will say is: the less effort, the better. Enjoy!