On rainy days when I wake up tired, lacking sleep that teased me all night but flew away like small birds at the slightest noise, on such days when I’m achy and sand-eyed and need more than an alarm for motivation, on mornings when responsibilities awake before I do and wait, looming impatiently by my bedside ready to climb on my back as soon as I’m upright, on such days my mind works in reverse.
Rather than tempt me with pleasant carrot-like visions of the pleasant day to come or prod me with the stick of responsibility to those I love, instead my mind collects reasons to burrow back under the covers and builds a case for postponing what will no doubt be a terrible day full of awful things. Using the fresh-picked worries of my restless night and exhuming the worst moments of my worst days and exploring my body for every minor ache and un-stretched muscle, my creative mind builds a convincing argument for the sleep it denied me all the long night.
No such day is coming. Thankfully, actual doom and gloom is far more rare than visions and predictions of doom and gloom.
What will happen is that my puppy will shuffle restlessly, waiting to be taken out for her morning walk. I will stretch the kinks out and find the rain cold but tolerable, possibly even invigorating. A friendly neighbor will wave a greeting.
Coffee will be made and a cinnamon-dusted bagel toasted. There will be delicious smells. Caffeine will seep into cells one by one. Eyes will focus. Pains will slink away. My wife will love me in spite of myself. My dog will curl up at our feet. In fact, that’s exactly what happened.
What’s the deal, brain?
So, my brain was lying to me, or at least painting a gloomy picture, or at the very least being creatively lazy. Why?
It could be any number of smaller things: late night nachos, afternoon nap, looming deadlines, not enough exercise due to the rain, the book I read before bed. Things happen beyond our control. The important thing is to not beat myself up and take back control.
The File of Forgetfulness
The brain never forgets. Everything of any significance that I experience is stored there. At night my brain takes all of the things that happened to me that day and tries to sort them out, to file them away in the subconscious so I can get on with a new brain full of thoughts tomorrow. It’s a real neat-nik.
Things that interrupt my sleep, disturbing thoughts, stress and too many nachos all cause trouble in my head. Brain files don’t get put away because I’m not done with them. Thoughts pile up on my mental desk like they do on my real one and I have one cranky, frustrated, neat-nik brain.
Reign of the Un-done!
This collection of unfinished thoughts turn into Brain Zombies, wandering through my head, clogging the works and eating brain resources. Since a brain can only consciously think of one thing at a time, I get stuck in Zombie mode. The night of the living dead thoughts!
Thank goodness there’s a solution.
I have one secret superpower over brain zombies. I get to choose my thoughts. It takes a little effort but when I change my thoughts, brain zombies die.
All I have to do is focus my one-track mind on good things of my choosing. Then keep my focus. This is, by the way, much easier during the day.
This is more than counting your blessings. For me, counting blessings brings out a mental spreadsheet with positive and negative columns. If I have more blessings than problems then I’m okay. If not, too few blessings or no new blessings can get depressing.
This is not a math equation or account to balance. I can actually eliminate the brain zombies and wipe them from my mind while I get some good things done.
How’s it work?
I remind myself who I am and why I’m here. I remind myself God created me and loves me. I ask for forgiveness and install some new and trustworthy thoughts to replace the old ones, usually by reading my Bible.
I remind myself that I have a purpose, a reason for being here and work to do.
I remind myself that I am loved by my family and friends. I recall that I’ve always, always been loved and that many others don’t have that support. I recall that I can help love some of these people.
I get myself out of bed and into nature. I exercise and lay off the late-night nachos. I remind myself that this physical action rewires my brain and changes my brain chemistry, lowering stress hormones and creating more peace.
I take my dog on walks, hug her and play with her. I call a friend to hear about someone else’s life for a change. Getting myself out of my own brain and focusing on others is a great brain zombie killer.
I actively think the one thought that my brain can think at a time. I work hard to change the channel on circular doom-and-gloom thinking that freezes me in place. I read thoughts of encouraging, positive people and make them my own.
Do it again!
I make a habit out of doing this because late nights and nachos will happen again. Bad news and bad habits will show back up. Rather than beat myself up and feed the zombies, I repeat the process of climbing back to higher ground.
Winston Churchill famously said,”If you’re going through hell, keep going.” There’s no point in picking out a camping site.
With God, with family, with friends, with discipline, I am stronger than the thoughts that want to imprison me where I don’t want to be.
Keep going. Never give up. Re-mind your mind.
Die brain zombies, die!