Get Out Of My Head!
September 27, 2013 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a la Cheryl Strayed in Wild, is a great example of a solitary experience that brings one out of one's head. Looking for other ideas.

I'm tired of being as self-absorbed and introspective as I've been lately, but want to continue to work on myself, if you get what I mean.

Cheryl Strayed's book Wild is an awesome account of her really tough (really, really tough) journey through which she bravely (almost subconsciously) confronted and worked through some personal issues.

Ruling out a similar (1ooo+ mile) hike for myself, there must be some experiences that Mefites can help me think of that might have a similar effect? That is, to get me out of my own head as I struggle against a type of challenge; and my issues, problems, concerns can sort of simmer on the back burner and hopefully, miraculously work themselves out.

Such a thing is possible. Heck, I have my own tried-and-tested ideas: Volunteer work. Travel to a place where you don't know the language. Travel in general. A physical pursuit like training for a race or challenge, or to meet a personal goal.

tl;dr: Aside from travel, volunteerism, and sport, can you name other somewhat-solitary activities that will get me out of my own head?
posted by little_dog_laughing to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Making physical objects.
posted by spindrifter at 9:50 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Meditation, yoga, and t'ai chi.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 10:08 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Writing a novel in 30 days. If you want to make it tougher, use a typewriter.
posted by JanetLand at 10:09 AM on September 27, 2013

Paint rooms in your house. Good for your back, good for your soul.
posted by mochapickle at 10:18 AM on September 27, 2013

Muir Woods does that to me.

Also, hiking out to the end of Cape Lookout.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:26 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you're describing that state one gets into where you don't have to think about what you're doing and can let your mind really wander.

Since your description of sport is actually training for something, I'd suggest some non-train-y things, like casual but long bike rides, really long walks (like plot a route that would take you 4-5 hours of walking), or a really chill day kayaking or canoeing.

I find yard work and housecleaning to work well.

Woodworking and metalworking are good for this too, although you have to pay enough attention to not maim yourself or make something totally wonky.

Chocolate Pickle is right-on about Cape Lookout. I have spent so many cold, wet, Oregon winter Sundays hiking out to the tip and back. Having to watch your step and getting muddy really frees the mind from practical thoughts.
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2013

Physical activities like cycling, yoga, and stand-up paddleboarding definitely do this for me, but since you said aside from sport, throwing myself into a big cleaning or organizing task also does this. If I'm diligent about avoiding the temptation to get distracted at the beginning, I'm able to focus on the task instead of the chatter in my head and all the external distractions, and I've found some very peaceful moments that way. Plus, at the end your physical space is a happier place!
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:42 AM on September 27, 2013

Learn to play an instrument, but not one of the easy ones. Practicing scales is second only to running on the list of things that cause my brain to miraculously figure things out on its own.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:47 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yoga and running do it for me (albeit only temporarily, of course). Maybe kayaking or canoeing if you have a lake or suitable body of water nearby?
posted by backwards guitar at 10:59 AM on September 27, 2013

Are you looking for the feeling of flow? Totally immersed in the activity, making a physical object, or being challenged juuust ahead of what your current skill set is. If you weren't set on solitary, I would suggest trying out for local theatre production or better yet try "playback theatre" which helps you connect flow and action, with others, in a way that can help you work on yourself (i.e. be more authentic) without "working on yourself" (i.e. getting lost in your head). I can recommend a good one in Toronto if you're in that area. Or yes volunteer, but with little ones who don't speak much yet, as this will teach you so much more about yourself than thinking ever could.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2013

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