I like to look at thoughts as the flies of the mind. Each thought is a fly that is buzzing around in my ear trying to get my attention. As I go through the day I accumulate these thoughts, which then become the flies that circle around in my head.
Scientifically this is known as “cognitive load”. I always use the analogy that it’s like the number of browser tabs you have open in your browser. It’s literally the amount of information you have on your mind. What your brain is trying to hold in place and remember for you.
By the time I get to the end of the day everyday it feels almost as if I have all of these flies buzzing around in my head. Things that happened throughout the day that I am now “thinking” about. Tangents and topics and decisions and situations that have occurred throughout the day.
I like to think that these flies are trying to help me. Thoughts drive actions. They are trying to get me to remember something or do something or change something. They are there to help me move in the right direction. I don’t want to ignore them, but rather I can use an extraction process to drive direction and implementation. Otherwise they are just a bunch of thoughts floating around that I never act on and get relief from.
If you think about anxiety, it’s like you have a ton of thoughts all at the same time and you don’t know what to do. The flies swarm around and you sit there frozen. Attack the flies!!! Getting them out of your head will help you to figure out what your path forward looks like. The anxiety is rooted in trying to move you forwards, to take action – listen to the flies and move.
For many years I tried to meditate. I would sit for 20-30 mins watching my breath and eventually the buzzing would calm. It’s an effective means of getting the flies to fall by the wayside, or at least learn how to not react to them.
Exercise too really helps to clear the mind, helps to get the flies to calm down or go away. That’s often something I go to when I need clarity. In this I’d mention breathing exercises as well.
However with all of these methods it feels like the flies never truly go away. The thoughts maybe aren’t as frequent or with as much weight, but still there’s this sense that I need to remember, that there’s some action I need to take. These flies are trying to get me to do something important.
And in that, I turn to journaling. Pen to paper. It’s an extraction process where I am literally taking the thought out of my head and putting it onto the page. Once it’s there on paper, it no longer tortures me. It’s gone. On the page for me to see. Chau Chau.
It’s a cathartic experience as well. Feels like I am letting go of emotions I didn’t know I was feeling. An ability to emotionally cleanse myself as well as cognitively.
Helps me to understand the flies too. What are their nature? Where do they come from? What flavour? Am I thinking about work? Health? Habits I need to change? Beating myself up about something? Worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet?
Equally it helps me to notice the positive as well. Not all flies are negative, as pesky as they may seem. Sometimes even the positive ones are MORE pesky! I get more excited about them. They are more prone to distract me. Fantasies and dreams realised and ideas and business opportunities galore – it’s hard not to get distracted by those!
Getting these positive flies out of my system help me to notice what I’m grateful for. Helps me to notice all of the small wins throughout the day. The moments that make me smile. The positives that I can be happy about. The ideas I can execute on and curiosities to explore.
Equally they tell me a lot about my motivations. Where I want to be going and what I want to accomplish. Transcending my previous self and becoming a better me.
As pleasant as they are – I’d rather have a mind free of flies. I’d rather have them down on the page than floating around inside my head trying to get me to do something.
At the end of the day I can see all of the flies I’ve accumulated. All of the things on my mind. Good bad ugly and in-between. It’s like a work of art. A day expressed in writing. Equally a feeling of relief. Of letting go. Of releasing the previous day and accepting entry into the next. A sense of finality to cap it all off.
I encourage you to try the same. Sit down with a journal and remove the flies of the mind, and then come back to me and tell me what you learned – or more importantly how you FEEL afterwards.
That’s my random philosophical tangent for the day. Very similar to what I’ve written about in the past – the brain dump, but with a slightly different spin. I hope you enjoyed 🙂