How to let go of the need for control

let go of the need for control, behoefte aan controle loslaten
Leestijd: 3 minuten |

A couple of years ago, I noticed that when I was very stressed, I became a total control freak. During times in my life where I was confronted with professional uncertainty or financial worries, I had a tendency to get obsessive with eating healthy and exercising. Looking back, it seemed that the lack of control I had over specific aspects, needed to be ‘compensated’ with excessive control over aspects that I COULD control. Unsurprisingly, this did absolutely nothing to solve the problems I had in other areas. In fact, it only caused more stress. Being a control freak is absolutely exhausting. And it often takes a full breakdown or burnout to turn things around. While I still sometimes struggle to ‘let go’, I have learned to identify my triggers. Do you ever feel like you’re a bit of a control freak or a perfectionist, or wish you weren’t as uptight? Read on to find out how you can use mindfulness to let go of that constant need for control.

Why you need to deal with an unhealthy need for control

Have you ever thought: “If only I could fix my [diet/relationship/work situation/finances/mental health/looks/car], everything in my life would be so much better”? It’s very common, especially in a modern society where there are so much expectations. You’re supposed to be educated, get a job, pay your bills, save money, feed yourself, take care of your personal hygiene, run a household, exercise, look representable, stay up-to-date on current events, spend time with your family, have a social life, and create time to relax. This can be extremely overwhelming, especially when something happens that makes you realize you don’t have as much as control over your life as you’d like. That is a part of being human. But it can trigger a sense of powerlessness, causing you to start over-managing things. Sooner or later, both your physical and mental health will suffer.

Tips for control freaks: how to let go, step by step

If you suspect you have an unhealthy need for control, it is very important to deal with this. Below, we’ve listed a few suggestions to help you find back a healthy balance:

#1. Ask yourself where that need for control is coming from

An unhealthy need for control is often rooted in unresolved issues. It could be a childhood where abuse, neglect or a highly critical caregiver were an issue, or PTSD due to trauma that occurred later in life. These kinds of issues are often buried in our subconscious, and you may have to dig deep to find out where your control issues are coming from.

#2. Be aware of your own thoughts and feelings

Often times, we don’t notice an increased need for control until we are already in full control-freak mode. In order to prevent yourself from going there, you need to become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings. This is something you can practice. It helps to keep a journal (even if it is just a line a day) and write down the feelings (anxiety, joy, worry, compassion, anger, gratitude, sadness, etc.) you experienced that day.

#3. Identify your triggers

Try to identify what situations or events trigger your excessive need for control. Make sure you also pay attention to physical responses, like when and where you hold tension in your body. Write down your triggers. It may not be realistic to avoid all triggering situations and events, but simply knowing when you need to be alert makes a big difference.

#4. Use visualisation to let go of negative emotions

Once you have identified your triggers, you can recognize them and change the way you respond to them. Whenever you feel that you start to spiral, try to shift your mindset. Visualisation is a powerful tool to help you do this. If you’re triggered by anxiety in anticipation to an event, for example, try to visualize putting that anxiety into a balloon and letting it float away. Breathing exercises also help; they calm both your mind and your body.

#5. Don’t rush your transition

Despite your best efforts, you may still occasionally find yourself going down the rabbit hole of unhealthy control. When that happens, pause and take a breath. Don’t beat yourself up for not recognizing your triggers – be kind to yourself. Old habits can be hard to shake, but with patience and practice you can learn to let go of the things that no longer serve you.

Exercising mindfully: How to bring more mindfulness into your workouts

Exercising mindfully, mindful sporten
Leestijd: 3 minuten |

Whether you’re a die-hard gym bunny or someone that has not yet found the motivation to do regular workouts, exercising mindfully is for everyone. In this blogpost, we’ll explore the benefits of exercising mindfully and give you some tips on how to get started. 

The benefits of exercising mindfully

Let’s get one thing straight: there is absolutely nothing wrong with listening to that playlist you’ve been obsessing about and going for a run. There is also nothing wrong with letting your thoughts wander while you’re working up a sweat on the exercise bike. However, not all your workouts should be on autopilot. When you’re constantly letting yourself get distracted during training, you will lose the connection with your body and your movements.Consequents: less effective workouts, hitting a plateau, not the progress you were hoping for. So I’d like to propose a challenge. Why not switch up those mindless workouts with exercising mindfully?

Exercising mindfully can help to perform better, improve technique/form, prevent injuries, get more in tune with your body and stick to your workout plan (okay, so maybe this blogpost is a little bit about sticking to your new year’s resolutions!). Furthermore, mindful exercise also strengthens a part of your body that you don’t really use when you’re zoning out – the part that’s between your ears.

How to bring more mindfulness into your workouts

Below, we’ve listed five tips to help you bring more mindfulness into your workouts:

#1. Set an intention before every training

Before you start a training, take a minute or two to set an intention for the workout you’re about to do. I’m not going to tell you what kind of intention it should be, because that’s totally personal, but try to narrow it down to a single sentence. If you think you’re going to forget about the intention because you are so used to training on autopilot, write your intention on your hand or on a piece of paper that you stick in a place where you can see it.

#2. Concentrate on your breath

Good breathing is crucial for cardio, but you should also pay attention to your breath during other forms of exercise, like weight training. Are you breathing correctly? Are you moving with the breath? How long does it take for your breath to go back to normal once you’re done with a set?

#3. Bring more awareness to your body

When you notice you’re losing focus, bring your attention back to your body. It’s very normal for your mind to wander – you may be thinking about the things you have planned after your training, or the next day. It’s a matter of learning to identify when it happens, and then simply steer your thoughts back to what your body is doing.

#4. Create some space for limited-distraction workouts

Like I mentioned before, there is really nothing wrong with doing a workout and letting your thoughts go where they want to go. But I’d recommend trying to alternate your regular workouts with ‘limited-distraction workouts’. If you’re easily distracted, start with a quiet home workout or go for a run very early in the morning, when the rest of the world is still asleep. From there, you can gradually expand to other environments.

#5. When you’re done, check in with yourself

What do you usually do when you finish training? Do you have a habit of rushing all the time, causing you to get straight back to the daily grind in order to tackle the tasks on your never ending to-do list? A lot of people do this! But if you want to get all the benefits of exercising mindfully, you should try to take at least a couple of minutes after your training to check in with yourself. How does your body feel now compared to before your training? Where you as focused as you wanted to be? Did you stick with that intention that you wrote down? A quick check-in also serves as a transition moment between your workout and the rest of your day.

Even if you are unable to work out or simply don’t want to, you can still benefit from exercising mindfully. Try these 7 steps toward a mindful walk!

Meditation tips for perfectionists

Meditation tips for perfectionists, Meditatie tips voor perfectionisten
Leestijd: 2 minuten |

Meditation tips for perfectionists

#1. Approach meditation in a structured way

Many forms of meditation are about surrendering, also described as ‘the art of letting go’. This may be part of the reason why meditating can feel so difficult; perfectionism is often caused by a need for control, so surrendering goes against your very nature. To help yourself get past the first hurdles, I’d recommend to approach your first sessions in a very structured way. You can listen to a guided meditation recording, for example. You may not be able to control what happens during meditation (that’s not the point!), but the idea that you do control the way you approach it, will comfort you.

#2. Recognize your thoughts as what they are

Perfectionists often have a tendency to fix the things that they consider imperfect – or to rate, judge or correct them. So when you’re meditating and a certain thought arises, it’s natural to want to ‘do something’ with that thought. This is when you want to take a step back and let go of your compulsion to respond. You have become aware of that thought. Now you just need to recognize that thought as what it is: a thought. And simply accept that it is there. Nothing more.

#3. Be kind to yourself

As a perfectionist, you are most likely very hard on yourself. You have high standards and are unwilling to drop the ball, let alone accept that you may fail every now and then. This attitude may benefit you in various aspects of life, but you really don’t need to bring it into a meditation. In fact, I’d encourage you to mentally wrap up all your self-discipline, dedication and ambition into a ball, stuck any negative self-talk in there, and leave that ball outside of the room. For as long as you are in a meditative mindset, don’t be hard on yourself. Be kind. Self-compassion is soft. You are enough.

Final thoughts

Meditation is not always organized, structured, neat and pretty. Honestly, it can get pretty messy. If you hear that familiar voice in your head that starts to criticize whatever you’re doing, stay calm and accept that it is there. Practising meditation can be quite a challenge for a perfectionist; it can feel like it’s outside your comfort zone. All the more reason to embrace it, don’t you think?

Using mindfulness to manifest abundance

manifest abundance
Leestijd: 2 minuten |

Using mindfulness to manifest abundance: change your perspective

If you’ve read our blogpost about what mindfulness does to your brain, you know that mindfulness can be a great tool to change your own perspective. This also applies to negative thoughts about your own finances. Practicing mindfulness means increasing your conscious awareness. No matter how deep your negative convictions about money lie, you can train your mind to stop thinking about money in a negative way, and start thinking about it in a positive way. As I mentioned before, your perceptions substantiate your reality. So once you start thinking about money in a positive way, you will start to see your life as a source of financial gain. And that results in manifesting abundance.

The law of attraction

Changing your negative mindset about money into a positive one is the first step. The second step is actually manifesting abundance. If you don’t really believe that using mindfulness to manifest abundance is possible, just take a look at everything that has been written about the law of attraction. This pseudoscience is based on the idea that humans, as well as their thoughts, are all made up of pure energy. While existing negative energy will attract more negative energy, existing positive energy will attract more positive energy – positive energy in the form of abundance, for example.

As the American writer, philosopher and business man Charles Haanel wrote in 1912:

“The law of attraction will certainly and unerringly bring to you the conditions, environment, and experiences in life, corresponding with your habitual, characteristic, predominant mental attitude.”

A common misconception surrounding the law of attraction is the idea that it would supposedly diminish the value of self-discipline, determination and hard work. Don’t be mistaken: you still need to be disciplined and determined, and yes, you most likely still need to work hard! If it would be as simple as thinking positive thoughts, there wouldn’t be so much poverty in the world. But when you combine your self-discipline, determination and hard work with mindfulness to manifest abundance, you may very well succeed.

The importance of clarity and precision

When you decide you want to use mindfulness to manifest abundance, there is one extremely crucial thing to keep in mind: the importance of clarity and precision. You’re basically going to ask the universe for what you want. But you need to be very, very clear about what EXACTLY it is that you want, why you want it, and why you deserve it. Crude example: “I want to be rich” is way too vague. A better way to formulate it would be something like: “I am good at what I do and I work very hard. I am thankful for what I already have and I allow myself to have more. When I have more, I have enough to not have to worry about my monthly expenses and I can invest more time to support those around me.” Of course, the way you formulate your ‘question to the universe’ is very personal and will be different for everyone. The important thing is to make sure you are clear and precise about what you want.

Final thoughts

Using mindfulness to manifest abundance means you first need to rewire your brain to change your negative thoughts about money into positive ones. Then, you need to direct your focus on actually attracting abundance. If you constantly focus on how little money you have, you will not generate more. But if you focus on receiving money, you can actually attract it.

Why you should try meditating with other people

meditating with other people, samen mediteren
Leestijd: < 1 minuut |

Reasons to try meditating with other people

When you meditate alone, this usually creates feelings of increased awareness, deep relaxation, enhanced focus and peace of mind. Once you try meditating with other people, you will not only notice that all those effects intensify, but also that they expand to your surroundings. The benefits of meditating in group settings, are therefore individual as well as collective.

Meditating with other people will also enable you to take advantage of the raised vibrations of those around you. You basically get to ‘hold on’ to the vibes of the others and pull yourself towards the headspace where you want to be. This is especially beneficial for beginners as well as those who have a little more trouble to quiet their thoughts or get in the zone.

Like I mentioned before, meditating was always very personal and intimate to me – and I’m sure I am not the only one who feels that way. And this is exactly why you should try meditating with other people! During the pandemic, many of us realized the need for deep, meaningful connections. Whatever happens on a biological or chemical level when we’re meditating together, it results in an incredible interconnectedness. The experience can truly strengthen bonds. Even with people you only just met.

Final thoughts

All we are is energy. Meditating with other people will enhance that energy and help everyone involved to open themselves up, relax in each other’s company and experience interconnected feelings. You can do it with your best friend, sibling or partner or in a group setting. Either way, it is a great way to start a new practice or to help you find your way back to a regular practice.  

3 reasons why EVERYONE should try meditating

Leestijd: 2 minuten |

Whenever I tell people that I meditate on a regular basis, I am often met with responses like “I don’t think that would be something for me,” “I wouldn’t be able to sit still,” or “I’m not into that woolly kind of stuff.” While there is definitely a shift in how open people are to the idea of meditation, there is also still a lot of scepticism surrounding it. But I think everyone should try meditating. Below, I’ve listed 3 reasons why.

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Have you ever experienced flow state?

flow state
Leestijd: 2 minuten |

Anyone dipping their toes in the waters of mindfulness and meditation has probably heard about the term ‘flow state’. But what is that, exactly? What happens when you get into a flow state? And how can you get there?

What is a flow state?

Flow state can be described as a sense of fluidity between mind and body. It is the feeling you get when, in optimal circumstances, you are deeply focused on what you are doing at that moment – to the point where you are completely absorbed by it. Your senses become heightened and you may lose your awareness of time. This hyper focus is often accompanied by a sense of euphoria. Any distractions (external ones, but also internal ones like stress, fatigue, hunger and aches) melt away. It is more than just being really focused; you could say it is an active meditation. Some describe this as being ‘in the zone’.

What do you feel during flow state?

While the experience may be different for everyone, flow state is generally recognized by the following:

  • A deep focus. You’re able to fully concentrate on whatever it is that you’re doing, without getting distracted.
  • A sense of clarity. Your mind and body seem to know exactly what they need to do.
  • The elimination of obstacles. While being in the zone, any thoughts, feelings and sensations that would normally limit or distract you, seem to temporarily fade away.
  • Euphoria. The hyper focus is accompanied by a temporary high and feelings of euphoria, contentment and happiness.

How do you get into a state of flow?

To get into a state of flow, you need to create the ideal conditions. It usually happens when you’re doing something that you’re really passionate about. Depending on your personality and your interests, this could be anything; working, writing, creating art, making music, dancing or exercising.

Also, this mental state is more common during engaging activities; your physical or mental abilities need to be challenged to a certain extent, resulting in a willing effort to accomplish something. At the same time, it shouldn’t be so difficult that you get frustrated because you can’t pull it off. It is more likely to occur when you’re single tasking, which makes sense because multitasking requires you to constantly shift your focus. Furthermore, your circumstances and surroundings need to enable you to focus on your task or activity.

Final thoughts

Anyone can achieve flow state, provided that you create the ideal circumstances. If you don’t know where to start, try these easy breathing techniques for beginners to practice focus. Chances are that once you have your focus, the rest will follow.

Observation meditation: Separating the experience into different parts

Observation meditation, observatie meditatie
Leestijd: 2 minuten |

There are many ways to meditate. In most of our blogposts, we’re focusing on concentration meditation; usually concentrating on the breath. But concentration meditation is just one way to meditate. And while for many people it is the form of meditating that they start with (check out these 5 meditation techniques for beginners), it doesn’t hurt to try and explore some different forms. There is also observation meditation, for example. Recently, I was talking to a guy who has been meditating for years and he offered some very valuable insights about this form of meditation.

Observation meditation and separating the experience

I have massive ADD so concentrating is always a challenge for me. My friend explained how the ability to focus is like training a muscle; the more often you do it, the better you get at it. And the easier it becomes. There are various ways to practice this, and concentration meditation is just one way. When we started talking about other forms of meditation, he mentioned something that really struck me. 

He suggested to focus on the moment, and then try to separate the experience into different parts.

Let’s say you’re taking a walk through the woods. Once you feel relaxed, simply observe the present moment. While you’re observing, you’re basically going to ‘organize’ what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling and thinking. A moment of living in the present consists of a wide range of elements that come together in your personal experience; by separating them you may get a better sense of all the different aspects of that moment. Start with what you see. The forest floor, the trees, the leaves, the sky. Then observe the auditory stimuli. Your own footsteps, the birds, the wind, the rustling leaves. Now, what do you smell? And what do you taste? After observing the sensory stimuli, check in on your physical state. How do you feel? And finally, there is your emotional/mental state. What are you thinking? If there any thoughts arising that have nothing to do with your present moment, that’s totally okay. Simply observe the fact that those thoughts are there, and then come back to the present. It can help to mentally ‘point out’ everything you’re observing.

If it feels overwhelming, you can try and remove the visual stimuli by simply closing your eyes (only recommended when you’re sitting). If you have some noise cancelling headphones, you can even eliminate auditory stimuli and see how that feels. If you like a challenge, try doing this when you’re in the company of other people. 

Final thoughts

You know how they say that goals are easier to achieve when you break them up into multiple smaller goals? I think it’s the same with observation meditation. There can be so many stimuli in a single moment – separating them may help to stay in the present longer, and make the experience as a whole easier to process.