Do You want to unwind? Keep your mind busy!

Written by Sanne Gruijters

Shouldn’t we clear our mind to unwind? “Just stop the negative thoughts” or “Just think positive”. Please tell me if this does the trick. I am not saying positive thinking does not work, however, it is JUST.not.that.simple.

What does work is knowing a little bit more about our working memory. It is the part of our brain that connects the briefly stored new information (from your short-term memory) and will connect it to old information (stored in your long-term memory) plus the best thing is, it will come up with a solution. Unfortunately, sometimes it gets stuck in negative thought circles. To understand how to get out of these negative spins, let’s dive into theory a tiny bit more.

Now, our working memory has a max capacity that differs between people. The more complex a situation is, the more capacity it will need to figure out how to solve it. An example: if I ask you: ‘What is 2+2?’, you will briefly store the information in this question in your short-term memory, and super fast (probably unconsciously) you collect knowledge about how to do calculations from your long-term memory and you will come up with the answer in your working memory. Good job! If I would ask you to do a million calculations within one minute, your working memory will be completely overwhelmed because the capacity can’t handle it, unless you are Mister Einstein himself (not sure if he could though..).

Why is this information helpful to learn to unwind? Well, if your working memory is completely overbooked with negative thoughts, it will keep circling negativity unless you decide to occupy it with something else. If you replace it with a positive thought, it might help for a bit if the negativity is not very convincing. Important to know is also that negative thoughts take more capacity than positive thoughts, scientists have discovered. They say it actually takes three positive experiences to offset one negative experience. According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, positivity researcher at the University of North Carolina, for every heart-wrenching negative emotional experience you endure, you need to experience at least three heartfelt positive emotional experiences that uplift you: the 3-to-1 ratio. If the negative thought is very strong, your mind will keep trying to push aside the positive alternative thought(s), blurring the mind with negative distractions as a response to the positive thought with a lot of ‘Buts’ and ‘What if’s. And that is where the more neutral distraction of ‘keeping your mind busy’ comes in. Tasks like writing down your grocery list, making puzzles, playing a card game, or for example counting stitches while crocheting! Tasks that require concentration and your full attention work the best.

It will help your mind to unwind for a moment. Not clearing your mind from thoughts, because believe me you need to count to follow a pattern and finish it with a positive result. When you unwind your mind, it results in clarity of mind. And that is exactly what you need to look at your challenging situation from a fresh perspective rather than the negative circle you got stuck in. That is what crochet does for me, among some other skills ;). Keep an eye out for new posts on our Social Media if you want to learn crochet as your new skill to unwind your mind.

Besides this, when you feel that these (and or similar) examples are not sufficient for you in daily life, reach out to a professional. As psychologists, we have more techniques in our toolbox to teach you in a coaching session. For some among us, it is not just about learning a new skill but more about processing the past. If that is the case reach out to your family doctor who can refer you to a private practice that offers (psycho)therapy. Are you interested to read about the difference between coaching and therapy, check out


Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 Ration That will Change Your Life. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Slow down time.

Do you know how to slow down time? 

Reflecting on 2019 people often say: ‘it went by so fast as if it was nothing’. As a child time seemed endless. The count down to every big event took ages. The anticipation was half the fun.

But nowadays we tend to look past that, thinking about future in the long term, since we have more responsibilities than blowing candles on our birthday cake and opening up presents. Our thoughts can be everywhere. Most of the time, in the past or the future. Contemplating on what happened last week, worrying about our ‘to do’-list or major decisions to make for the future.

And then on such days as birthdays, holidays, get-together’s, they are done before we even had a taste of the cake. With a bit of luck, we took a picture, so we can enjoy that later. That is, if we take the time for that and not something else comes up.

So how do we slow down time? We can learn, from our own childhood experiences and by observing children around us. Ever noticed how much more time it takes to get somewhere when you are accompanied by a child? They are not focused on getting where ever you want to go, especially not in time… They are focused on whatever attracts their attention. A blue car on the street, a bee, or simply their own body. They don’t want to go to school because they feel a tummy ache, or they don’t want to leave the house because they are so excited about a game they are playing.

What we, adults, can learn from children is to become more aware of the present. Of course children are still learning as well, like giving words to how they feel, finding solutions and fulfill responsibilities. But in learning all of that, the trick is not to lose that awareness of the present.
By becoming more aware of the present, you can really experience the present, feel the present, remember the present. Using all of your senses. No need to take that picture to bring back memories. This way you prevent ‘it went by like it was nothing’, because you made it ‘something’ to remember. And not only that, we can also become more aware of how we really feel, the good and the bad. Enabling us to enjoy the good even more, and take care of the bad even better.

Paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present, non-judgmentally.
Jon Kabat Zinn

This is a skill you can learn! It is called Mindfulness.

Do you want to learn more? Contact us!

Team Inspired.