Some days our brains seem to be against us. Every thought we have is brewed through a dark, dreary filter. Every positive idea gets quickly tethered to a thick knot of negativity and doubt to sink below the surface of a muddled brain.
Why do these dark days arise? They predictably follow times of great mental stress or physical exhaustion in our lives. A sleepless night or a mind-melting shift at work definitely tee them up. If you try to consider the future later that night or the next day, it won’t go well.
The available view is usually an overly bleak reality. But are things as bad as they seem or is something temporarily infecting our thoughts?
Forecasting Gloomy Days and Cloudy Brains
In learning to identify somber days ahead of time, it’s possible to prepare for them. If they are predictable, why not get ready for them? We can learn to spot the symptoms of an approaching bad day with our own homemade advanced-warning system. With early detection, maybe there’s something we can do to head off the storm.
With practice, it’s not hard to anticipate these thinking-averse days. They are probably more easily identified than you think.
You may already be a pro at mental hurricane-spotting, and yet not know how to take advantage.
These raging gloomies are sure to follow times when you are exhausted, when you are hungover, or when you’ve experienced trauma.
It’s a safe bet that anything you ponder in the aftermath or the next day will play through a cynical lens. The defeatist attitude will continue until the mind clears.
Shutting Down the Feed on Dispair
You’ve probably lamented about days you should have stayed in bed. Perhaps you have to press on through your duties for your day. But you don’t necessarily have to keep brooding over questions and queries that you know will result in negative answers and anxious projections.
Why not consider taking parts of the brain off-line until the storm clears? On a Monday, when defeatist notions are dominating your brain, turn off the streaming channel of negativity.
If the brain only wants to project nightmares, it’s time we stop accepting its errant data until the signal clears up and reasonable thought resumes.
Focus on the tasks at hand. Limit brain function to the bare necessities and resolve to fight the urge to stare at the dark horizon. It’s not easy at first, but with some practice, it’s a decision you can make.
Forecasting Storms in Your Neighborhood
I started training myself to turn off my brain’s probability generator when my thoughts turned darkest. Especially on Mondays when I would feel despair with no discernable cause. Things I would think about would seem dire and hopeless. Then, inevitably, the next day, I’d be in a much better mood, and every thought would have an equitable chance of getting fair consideration. I wouldn’t automatically assume the worse.
Your brain will churn out negative thoughts. You’ll play out a series of events years down the road in your head all leading to some imagined minor apocalypse. But what if we train ourselves to expect this cynical view on certain days. And what if we could derail a brain’s runaway train of despair.
When we experience trauma, sweat out a night of drinking, or are actually sick, it’s critical to stop answering the mental door to accept shipments of tainted data from an impaired brain.
Realizing You’re Dreaming and Taking Control
It’s a lot like being asleep and dreaming (or amidst a nightmare) and suddenly you become aware that you’re dreaming. With this new realization, a nightmare transforms. You realize those overcast skies aren’t necessarily real. And perhaps, like in a dream, you are able to seize control, and start shaping the narrative.
When you are trudging through a day when you know you’re more prone to nihilism, recognize your reality of the moment.
You might not be able to escape the nightmare, but at least you can recognize it for what it is and limit your reactions. Reassure yourself that the darkness will pass. Don’t trust your feelings.
The Storms You Can’t Circumnavigate
There will be tough stretches in your life when you won’t be able to pick and choose when you deal with an issue. You don’t have the luxury of waiting until you’re in a better place. That’s okay. When you shut down thoughts about fake problems, you’ll have more energy to deal with the actual issues.
An overcast brain linked to your sleeplessness, your physical exhaustion, or a stressful day. With this new recognition that you are stuck, at least for the moment, you can stop fighting the current.
Let those waves nudge you back and forth and realize you don’t have to fight back if you choose not to. Based on past experience, they won’t sink you. Once the low-pressure cell in your brain subsides, you’ll have a much easier time paddling yourself back on course.
Turn on Your Brain’s Spam Filter
Determine to refuse delivery on those little packets of infected data on gloomy days. The more you do it, the more reflexive it becomes.
Take control by determining to focus only on the day and the circumstances of the now. The dream will pass, the fog will dissipate, and then you’ll be able to think clearly, through an un-tainted viewpoint
Put off higher thinking until you’ve got a better venue. Until you get some sleep, work through a bad patch, or get a problem removed from your life.
I wrote about another strategy for battling the negative in life. It divides your problems into parts per million and parts per billion in order to get some perspective on your biggest setbacks. Check it out here.