Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking

Jon Acuff writes in this 2021 book:

* Roy F. Baumeister, Rozin’s collaborator, explained why in his book The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It : “There is no opposite of trauma, because no single good event has such a lasting impact. You can consciously recall happy moments from your past, but the ones that suddenly pop into your head uninvited—the involuntary memories, as psychologists call them—tend to be unhappy.” 4
Your brain builds on overthinking’s habit of negativity by doing three additional things:
1 Lying about your memories
2 Confusing fake trauma with real trauma
3 Believing what it already believes

* There are three actions to change your thoughts from a super problem into a superpower:
1 Retire your broken soundtracks.
2 Replace them with new ones.
3 Repeat them until they’re as automatic as the old ones.

* The Three Questions You Should Ask Your Soundtracks

Question 1: Is it true?
Question 2: Is it helpful?
Question 3: Is it kind?

Would You Say This to a Friend?

* 50 Turn-Down Techniques You Can Use Today When Your Broken Soundtracks Get Loud
1 Go for a short drive down one of your favorite roads with the windows down and the music up. (I just wrote a Bruce Springsteen song.)
2 Drink a cup of coffee. Caffeine is the nectar of the gods.
3 Clean a drawer—or a whole closet if you’ve got the time.
4 Google “Steven Seagal” and “Russia” and see what he’s been up to lately. You will not be disappointed.
5 Put something back where it belongs. The shoes in my house always seem to be on adventures far from their home in the garage.
6 Take your dog for a walk or even to the dog park. I’ve been told it’s creepy to go to the dog park to pet all the dogs if you don’t own one. Noted.
7 Watch fifteen minutes of a British baking show where the judges encourage contestants instead of shaming them on a deeply personal level for their icing choices.
8 Knit a few rows on your turn-down scarf.
9 Take a nap. Remember those things you raged against in childhood? Now we love them.
10 Write a thank-you note to someone using actual paper and actual stamps and your actual hand.
11 Text something encouraging to a friend if that last one felt altogether too exhausting.
12 Add a few pieces to a puzzle.
13 Read a bit of fiction. Don’t force yourself through the classics if you despise them. Grab a beach book, where every single chapter has a climax and the main character’s name is something dramatic like Jackson Steelsmith or Savannah Orion.
14 Use a meditation app like Headspace or Calm for ten minutes.
kidding. Why would you do that to yourself? Buy a pair of Crocs for them and then call it a day. Nobody has time for laces.
16 Go to the gym. If you’re not motivated, sign up for a class that costs you money so you’ve got some skin in the game.
17 If you don’t have access to the gym, do ten jumping jacks, ten push-ups, or ten sit-ups.
18 If those are your three least-favorite things to do, go for a short walk.
19 Swing on a playground for ten minutes. Somewhere along the way to adulthood most of us lost touch with that simple joy.
20 Pretend to be your favorite professor and hold class outside for yourself today. Find a bench at work or a chair in your backyard and get some fresh air.
21 Watch ten minutes of your favorite comedian.
22 Take a bath or shower. Try real shampoo, not just a spritz of dry shampoo, a deception I caught my wife using after fifteen years of marriage. Just when you think you know someone.
23 Take a few deep breaths. The nice thing about this one is you were probably already planning to breathe today, so you might as well make a few of them deep.
24 Listen to your favorite music, even if it’s the wrong season. You want to bust out the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack in July? Go for it.
25 Call your mom.
26 Or, equally helpful, depending on your relationship with your mom, give yourself a week off from talking to your mom.
27 Dress up. I know the American dream is to work from home in your pajamas, but tired sweatpants are the uniform of broken soundtracks. Flannel feels like failure after a few hours. A robe is clothes melatonin. That’s one of the things we all learned working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Put on a belt and you’ll already feel like you have a little bit of momentum.
28 Catch up on the latest episode of a podcast you love.
29 Look through your camera roll at the photos of your last vacation. David Thomas said that once you’ve got a few physical turn-down techniques, it’s great to add some digital ones too.
30 Plan your next vacation. Pick a place, pick a time of year, and pick one activity you’ll do when you go there.
31 Watch one of your favorite movies from the 1980s or 1990s. Start with Aspen Extreme , which the Seattle Times rightfully called “ Top Gun on the Ski Slopes.”
32 Light a candle or diffuse essential oils if you’re at home and won’t have to talk to HR about all the fires.
33 Start a new hobby. Learn to play guitar (start with “Wonderwall” by Oasis, obviously). Try watercolor painting. Sign up for a pottery class.
34 Balance your personal budget. This one would give me a panic attack, but for a lot of people, dealing with numbers is a great way to quiet down all the emotions broken soundtracks add to situations.
35 Build a “bliss box” with a few of your favorite items that always put you in a good mood.

Which Soundtracks Should You Borrow?
All of them.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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