mind scrolling

How to stop the mind scrolling

Your mind can be like Instagram, engaging in an endless stream of content. If you’re a yogi that loves social media, here’s how to stop the mindless scroll. By Bethany Platanella

My weak link is Instagram. I am hooked for so many reasons I’m sure you can relate to: yoga postures, self-practice inspiration, meditation tips, cute yoga clothes. Recently, I’ve added celebrities to the mix, wandering down time-consuming rabbit holes uncovering who in Hollywood ‘down dogs’ on the regular (FYI, Matthew McConaughey, David Beckham and Jennifer Aniston are all avid yoga practitioners. My life is forever changed!).

The truth is, I want to stop the scroll. I really do. I’ve set a time limit on my Instagram engagement (that I often ignore) and I carefully track my overall phone usage. Sometimes, though, I just can’t seem to get out of that darn app. I want to blame myself, but in a lot of ways, it’s Instagram’s fault too. Every time I like a photo, click on an ad, or watch a new reel, it throws me more and more of the content I like. More posture how-to’s, more exotic yoga retreat options, more local studios to check out. Suddenly, 20 minutes have passed when I originally only planned to spend 20 seconds checking my messages.

Here’s the catch: The Instagram algorithm is designed to keep the user endlessly engaged. The longer you scroll, the more money Instagram can potentially make. This is why you cannot stop.

But why am I talking about all this? Because this is exactly how your mind works.

Imagine, you’re sitting in front of your computer at work, trying to finish a task. Suddenly, you smell the intoxicating scent of coffee. The mind now goes to work….

”I’d like some coffee. Actually, what time is it? Maybe I’m hungry. Is it time for lunch? What do I want to eat today? Pasta? Wait, am I having pasta for dinner? Dinner! I have plans with the girls tonight. Oh no! I forgot and I signed up for yoga at 6:00pm! Is the studio close to the restaurant? Can I do both? Actually, the studio is near the pet shop. I need to pick up cat food. Food. Wait, I still don’t know the restaurant we are going to. I hope it’s the Italian one. Remember that Italian guy I dated in 2015? He was nuts!”

Your mind just went from coffee to your nutty Italian ex in a very roundabout fashion. At no point did you step away from the stream and complete the task at hand (work, remember?). But the thing is, you’re not completely to blame. Like Instagram, this is exactly what your mind is designed to do.

Instead of financial profit, your mind is seeking your attention for attention’s sake by forcing upon you an endless stream of content that it knows you like. All of these thoughts stir up feelings and emotions that keep you in a state of rumination, ultimately a comfort zone. Why would you ever leave your comfort zone?

Probably because that (uncomfortable) work task is still pending? So now that you know how it works, what do you do?

Top view at fit sporty healthy woman sitting on mat in Paschimottanasana pose, doing breathing exercises, watching online yoga class on laptop computer. Healthy people and self motivation concept.

In short — stop liking the photos! If your thoughts are like the photos, reels and videos in your feed, then it is up to you (and your soon-to-be-super-strong-willpower) to refrain from engagement. Don’t ‘double tap’ that thought. Here is how to do it.

Step 1: Set your timer for three minutes. Choose a mundane object, like a yoga block or a plant. Write it down. Now sit back, close your eyes, and to the very best of your ability, watch the thoughts that come. See how they connect (this is fun, I promise!). When the timer goes off, write down the last thought you had. See if you can remember the mental journey you just went on to bring you to that final thought. Soon, you will start recognising your tangents early on, and you’ll be prepared to redirect yourself.

Which takes us to:

 Step 2: As soon as you recognise that you’re on a mental trip around the world, do something that brings you back to the present. Examples include: Breathe. Touch the surface of your desk. Bring your hands to your heart and feel it beat. Stretch. Get up and walk around. Do this as many times as you need to. This will be hard! In the beginning, you might have to force yourself to present an obscene amount of times. It’s fine. Over time, it will become easier.

Eventually, it will become so easy that suddenly you will find yourself, well, here. Living life. Catching every present moment you possibly can. Noticing things on a different level, like that gentle shift in energy when moving from upward facing dog to downward facing dog. Or the softening of your heartbeat as you drift into Savasana.

Even though sometimes it’s a tough ride, life is better when you live it outside of your head. And outside of your phone.

Bethany Platanella is a yoga instructor, lifestyle writer and the founder of AE International, a luxury retreat company which hosts unforgettable adventures all over the world. Find out more at: activeescapesinternational.com

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.