Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 5, 2019

9 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Calm Your Mind

9 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Calm Your Mind

People don’t realize the power of mindfulness. First, because very few understand how to correctly apply it. And also because it involves us. And the moment we get involved it becomes personal…

We start thinking that maybe we won’t know if we’re doing it right or not; if it will work; if it will be difficult; or if we fail at doing it.

But relax and trust these exercises. They are a proven method of calming your mind, and in the case of my clients, of completely eradicating anxiety too.

This is because the Applied Mindfulness Exercises that I created are specific and very effective. The exercises I am about to teach you today are not the typical misconception about what mindfulness is. I won’t give you a pep-talk, I won’t tell you to just “calm down” or to imagine yourself in a field of flowers.

These mindfulness exercises are completely applicable, practical, and yield definite results in your life — bringing your mind under your control.

Today we will go down the rabbit hole of calming an anxious mind. You will see that these mindfulness exercises are correlated, and some may even overlap a little bit.

Mindfulness will help you create strong foundations upon which you can build a strong mind, completely free from anxiety and unwanted emotions. And this is useful even if you don’t have anxiety, because anxiety is not only a mental illness but also that common moment of of fear or despair, powerlessness and so on. And it is in those moments when you most need to calm your mind.

So let’s get right into action with the first mindfulness exercise, the one that has the quickest effects — the powerful breathing exercise.

1. The 5-2-5 Breathing Exercise

People swear by this mindfulness exercise, and many of my clients have told me it’s like taking a pill, but better because it’s natural. You do the breathing exercise and your mind starts feeling more calm. It is extremely easy to do.

I call it the 5-2-5 exercise because you have to take 5 full seconds to fill your lungs completely.

Without straining, of course. But you have to go from empty lungs to full lungs in 5 seconds.

We usually breathe much faster, and shallower, but this is what does the trick: Forcing yourself to breathe slowly.

You take 5 seconds to breathe in, then hold your breath for 2 seconds and lastly, release air in 5 seconds too. This, obviously, takes 12 seconds in total, and you do this mindfulness exercise for at least 5 minutes. All while you pay attention to the way, air moves in and out of your lungs.

After you are done, you will noticeably feel more calm, your mind will be in a different, more centered state.

Don’t take my word for it. Go ahead and try it.

Now let’s move on to the other exercises.

2. If It’s Cold, Close the Windows

This one addresses the rational fears of your subconscious mind. Let me explain, you use these mindfulness exercises when your mind is agitated, right? When you don’t see a logical way out of the problematic situation, and you are at the mercy of your fears…

So, for this exercise, we will think of your agitated mind as a person inside a house; and the problematic situations, the ones provoking your turmoil, are like cold gusts of wind.

I use this simile to explain that we are often affected by situations that although perceived as very complex, are solvable.

Emotions cloud our judgment. But if we actually dare to divide, go problem by problem, and address each one of them, we will actually feel much, much better.

Let’s face it, life can be stressful… Get groceries, pick up medication, turn in that report, buy the gifts, cancel that subscription, car servicing, meet the deadline, have that difficult conversation, attend that meeting…

It’s all too much, but still things need to be done.

So, what do you do?

In the middle of the damn blizzard, we dare to take action, we painstakingly walk towards every window and we shut it close. Every single one of them. And only then we can be warm. Only then will our agitated minds find peace.

This mindfulness exercise consists in taking the time to separate all the issues we are facing. Making a list if that’s necessary. And we go one by one, determining a solution for each one.

If you have too much on your plate, determine what will happen with each situation and that alone will give your mind the peace it’s so desperately looking for.

Once again, don’t take my word for it, go ahead and do it.

Advertising

Set times for everything. Delegate. Make a plan.

This is not yet the solution, of course. But in your mind, all those undetermined situations are like open doors and windows.

And on a subconscious level, your mind just detects them as danger. And your mind just feels like a threat can cross the threshold at any minute.

You live in uncertainty, feeling threats from all places, and you are just too busy and too agitated to shut the doors.

But I know it’s not always that simple.

I know it can be more irrational sometimes, and that’s why I will talk about what to do when your fears are not quite as rational, such as anxiety… but sometimes your mind needs this.

Sometimes, it’s just your mind asking you to take care of things. So do it. Try this, and you will see it does work.

And if it’s too much, if your mind is having different problems, try the next one…

This is where we start going into True Mindfulness.

3. Recognize That Emotions Distort Your View of Reality

Sounds a little too deep, huh?

I told you, we are going down the rabbit hole.

So, what is this mindfulness exercise all about?

It’s about you realizing a big, big truth right now so that you can calm your mind more easily when you most need it.

Emotions distort the way you see things, the way you see people and situations. So, whether it is anger, fear, or sadness that is invading you, you can be sure its influence is making you see things bigger than they are.

Fear, as anxiety, will make you believe things are very dangerous.

Don’t go out, it can kill you. Don’t talk to them, they will think you’re a weirdo. She will leave you. And so on, and so on…

In anger, it’s exaggerated: They are mocking me. He must learn a lesson. He’s an idiot for not understanding what I’m saying…

And in sadness, it goes like: I won’t ever find anybody like him. I will never stop failing. I won’t recover from this one.

You know this… and you have been through this before. And yet, we love to forget about this fact of life.

We take a mistaken approach. Instead of keeping a centered view, we just accept the distorted version and, what’s worse, we decide to act upon that.

That cannot be you.

This mindfulness exercise is very simple, and all you have to do is to remember this when you are emotiona, and then correct your view. Observe events and situation as they are, nothing more. Don’t allow emotions to interfere with your judgment.

It’s a simple lesson, but the real challenge will be remembering this when you are agitated, and then to actually do the exercise.

But with lessons this simple and this powerful, I am sure you will remember and apply them.

So let’s go to the next one, which is intimately connected to this one.

4. Recognize Emotions as Temporary States

Now it’s time to turn deep mindfulness into applied mindfulness.

You know emotions distort your view, and you must also keep in mind that they are just temporary states of mind.

Advertising

There is no emotion that can last forever. And yet, through our mindlessness, we allow emotions to guide our behavior, to determine who we are, and to determine how we will live life.

This mindfulness exercise is very simple and very powerful. If you dare to look at your situation from this standpoint, things will be very different.

Instead of thinking that this is going to be your normal, you will understand that emotions are like waves; and even if it feels like crap, you will learn to “ride the wave”.

You won’t see your agitation as who you are, or how you have to react. Instead, this mindfulness exercise will give you the chance to step back and wait for it to go away.

You will learn to live life with true maturity., from a position of authority over your emotions.

It really sucks when emotions are the boss and we cannot calm ourselves. So next time you are feeling angry, sad or fearful, remember you cannot keep obeying the emotion. Remember it’s a temporary state and that it will pass. I am sure you’ve heard this before.

It is true, but now you are armed with more powerful wisdom: Emotions are just temporary states.

This mindfulness exercise is just that: To remind yourself of this when you most need it, and ride the emotional wave.

5. Refuse to Live the Dualism of Emotions

Whoa! Sounds too deep, right? Well, we are going deep into true mindfulness — lessons that will allow you to have greater control over your mind and emotions.

In order to properly apply this mindfulness exercise, you must first understand what I am teaching you:

Emotions, as many other things in life, are dualistic. There is hot and cold, day and night, peace and conflict… Emotions are the same. They can be either positive or negative. And we live in a constant, emotional ebb and flow.

One day you’re at the top of the world. The next one you feel like you won’t ever recover from this. Even if it doesn’t happen as drastically, I want you to see the truth in this.

Do you see now how you ride the emotional rollercoaster?

If there is sadness in you, you get quiet, stay at home and act all gloomy.

We all do! It’s natural.

The same goes for anger and fear, of course.

And the problem here is: We cannot be the rag-doll of our emotions.

If you are going to follow your emotions wherever they take you, you will have a hard time calming your mind when you most need it.

So the answer is simple.

For this mindfulness exercise, you must refuse to ride the emotional rollercoaster.

Understand, as we said before, that emotions are temporary states of mind. And since they are a dualistic concoction, you may as well decide not to go as low as they want you to go.

What do I mean?

You must stand above your emotions. You must recognize that going down will always end up bringing you back up anyways.

When you realize somebody is not listening to you, save the frustration. Don’t go there. Don’t ride the dualistic rollercoaster. You will be back at “neutral” later anyways.

Why bother behaving frustrated? If the store ran out of that product you wanted, let it slip. You will go back to normal anyways.

What I am saying here is, save the ups and downs and stay in the middle. Learn to take the good as it comes, and learn too to let it go whenever it must go.

And the bad? Learn to let it come without putting so much resistance.

Advertising

Living in dualistic emotions will have you agitated, affected by the times you go down.

Recognize instead that you will always eventually end up in the middle, in the “baseline” so to speak.

Remember this when you are feeling agitated: Don’t bother taking the emotion too seriously.

6. Embrace Chaos, and Operate Within It

Your mind is agitated. You find yourself in a situation you don’t like, and you feel bad.

What do you do?

You lean into the chaos, into the things you are not liking. And you attempt to change them.

Now, I understand that this may sound a bit contradicting. I have been telling you that you shouldn’t act out your emotions and now I tell you to attempt to do something surrounded by the chaos?

Well, it’s different.

Because the key in this mindfulness exercise is to recognize the true solution to the conflicts you are going through. Embracing the chaos when very angry doesn’t mean to go ahead and punch somebody in the face; instead, it means to look at what the true solution might be, for example, being understood.

You see?

If you are very angry because somebody is not listening to you, you dare to change the situation, but not from anger; instead, you switch your language and body language and state things clearly: “I think you do not understand me, and I need you to listen to me.”

Two different things.

The same goes for sadness.

If you are sad because you lost someone, you cannot even change it. So what do you do?

You analyze what the true solution might be: To find solace through resignation.

The key here is to look at what the true solution might be, beyond emotions.

So it becomes more simple if you see it this way: The goal is to return to a state where you are not influenced by your emotions.

Therefore, you must find ways to not be angry. The enemy becomes sadness, not the situation. The enemy is fear itself, not the conflict. And the key is to ask yourself: What can I do to bring down my emotions? Right there, you will find the answer.

I know, very deep, right? And also philosophical.

In the end, this is what mindfulness is, a liberating perspective.

On with the next one.

7. Take a Long Walk

Let’s take a break from the deep and complex ones and talk about a very simple mindfulness exercise. Steve Jobs used to do this one.

We are so caught up with tasks, conflicts and everyday drama that our minds don’t have a single moment of peace. Taking a walk changes this.

Leave your phone behind, take your keys and nothing more. This gives you time to mentally shut the windows we talked about above.

But that’s not all. I specifically said a long walk. This is because, for the first minutes, your mind will circle the conflicts we just talked about; precisely the ones we are trying to put an end to.

So, the first minutes, when your mind is still agitated and busy with these matters, the exercise won’t even count.

The real mindfulness exercise begins when your mind can get off those matters and then you are “free” from all that.

Advertising

Long walks are 30-minute long at least, so don’t try to rush it. Take your time. Don’t try to force yourself into anything.

Allow your mind to wander as you go. And always explore new places.

If you are expecting more specific instructions here, I am sorry to disappoint you: This is all you must do.

Just walk, and see the results for yourself.

8. Get Busy

This mindfulness exercise is also very simple. All it takes is to engage with full attention with something important enough.

As humans, we also have a tendency of dwelling on things that don’t deserve that much mental space. When this happens, it’s time to move on.

The best way to do this is to truly engage in what you are doing. First, because it’s obviously a distraction, and you need it to move on. And secondly because you will also be applying yourself, meaning, you will be actively changing your situation and your state of mind.

In other words: You will go from passive, to active.

Which takes me to the last mindfulness exercise…

9. Start from a Perspective of Power and Capability, Instead of One of Powerlessness

Think about it, when our minds are agitated, we cannot help but think we are at a disadvantage. Can you see this in a recent situation in your life?

We feel discomfort and negative emotions because of two things:

  • We don’t like where we are, and…
  • We don’t see a clear and definite way of getting to where we want to.

Because of this, we feel at a loss.

We feel the disadvantage of not knowing what to do, and we are at the mercy of our emotions and the situation.

But what if we did it the other way around?

That’s the hack that allows this mindfulness exercise to work — to shift your mind.

If, instead of starting from a position of disadvantage, you shift to a position of power, you will effectively use your capacities better.

Instead of not knowing what to say, you will tap into your creativity.

Instead of caving in to despair, you will remind yourself of your capabilities.

Instead of fear, you will be willing to put up a fight.

Think about how much this brings to the table. You are automatically going from a position of disadvantage, to one of power, one that will actually help you overcome the conflict you are facing.

In short, whenever you feel your mind in turmoil, shift from the emotion-led behavior, to counting the advantages you have over the situation.

Go from victim to protagonist. This is an immediate game-changer, with no learning curve. I am sure you will see results from the very first time you use this mindfulness exercise.

In fact, all of these have a significant result in helping you calm your mind, and so the true challenge here becomes remembering the lessons in this article.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, I want to say that I understand if your emotions are more stubborn than this.

Anxiety is particularly stubborn and if none of this seems to work, feel free to head to my website and there you will find the first step to bring down your levels of anxiety. If you are looking for a cure for anxiety, that’s the place where you should start. I help people defeat anxiety, cure depression, overcome OCD, Pure-O, PTSD, trauma and loss with the sole use of mindfulness techniques.

All this is possible for you if you create a strong mind, and that’s exactly what I can teach you. So, be sure to take a look at my profile and send me your questions if you have any.

May you find the strength necessary to attain a perfect mind.

More About Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

More by this author

George Alonso

Mental Health Expert, creator of the Transcendental Mindfulness Therapy.

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional? Having an Emotional Breakdown? 15 Ways to Re-Center Yourself 9 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Calm Your Mind How to Handle Relationship Fights to Connect Deeper with Your Partner Why You Keep Getting Into Toxic Relationships (And How to Stop)

Trending in Mental Strength

1 How to Move Forward When You’re Stuck in a Rut 2 What’s the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Live with Meaning 3 10 Secrets to Living a Happy Life No Matter How Old You Are 4 3 Reminders to Help You Enjoy Life Even When Life Is Tough 5 7 Powerful Ways To Overcome Obstacles And Win In Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 28, 2020

14 Low GI Foods for a Healthier Diet

14 Low GI Foods for a Healthier Diet

Diet trends may come and go, but a low-GI diet remains one of the few that has been shown to include benefits based on science. Low GI foods provide substantial health benefits over those with a high index, and they are key to maintaining a healthy weight.

What is GI? Glycemic index (GI) is the rate at which the carbohydrate content of a food is broken down into glucose and absorbed from the gut into the blood. When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, which is then absorbed into your bloodstream.[1]

The higher the GI of a food, the faster it will be broken down and cause your blood glucose (sugar) to rise. Foods with a high GI rating are digested very quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike. This is why it’s advisable to stick to low GI foods as much as possible, as the carbohydrate content of low GI foods will be digested slowly, allowing a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels.

Foods with a GI scale rating of 70 or more are considered to be high GI. Foods with a rating of 55 or below are considered low GI foods.

It’s important to note that the glycemic index of a food doesn’t factor in the quantity that you eat. For example, although watermelon has a high glycemic index, the water and fiber content of a standard serving of water means it won’t have a significant impact on your blood sugar.

Like watermelon, some high GI foods (such as baked potatoes) are high in nutrients. And some low GI foods (such as corn chips) contain high amounts of trans fats.

In most cases, however, the GI is an important means of gauging the right foods for a healthy diet.

Eating mainly low GI foods every day helps to provide your body with a slow, continuous supply of energy. The carbohydrates in low GI foods is digested slowly, so you feel satisfied for longer. This means you’ll be less likely to suffer from fluctuating sugar levels that can lead to cravings and snacking.

Advertising

Let’s continue with some of the best examples of low GI foods.

1. Quinoa

GI: 53

Quinoa has a slightly higher GI than rice or barley, but it contains a much higher proportion of protein. If you don’t get enough protein from the rest of your diet, quinoa could help. It’s technically a seed, so it’s also high in fiber–again, more than most grains. It’s also gluten-free, which makes it excellent for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

2. Brown Rice (Steamed)

GI: 50

Versatile and satisfying, brown rice is one of the best low GI foods and is a staple for many dishes around the world. It’s whole rice from which only the husk (the outermost layer) is removed, so it’s a great source of fiber. In fact, brown rice has been shown to help lower cholesterol, improve digestive function, promote fullness, and may even help prevent the formation of blood clots. Just remember to always choose brown over white!

3. Corn on the Cob

GI: 48

Although it tastes sweet, corn on the cob is a good source of slow-burning energy (and one of the tastiest low GI foods). It’s also a good plant source of Vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron, all of which are required for the healthy production of red blood cells in the body. It’s healthiest when eaten without butter and salt!

4. Bananas

GI: 47

Advertising

Bananas are a superfood in many ways. They’re rich in potassium and manganese and contain a good amount of vitamin C. Their low GI rating means they’re great for replenishing your fuel stores after a workout.

They are easy to add to smoothies, cereal, or kept on your desk for a quick snack. The less ripe they are, the lower the sugar content is! As one of the best low GI foods, it’s a great addition to any daily diet.

5. Bran Cereal

GI: 43

Bran is famous for being one of the highest cereal sources of fiber. It’s also rich in a huge range of nutrients: calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and a host of B vitamins. Although bran may not be to everyone’s tastes, it can easily be added to other cereals to boost the fiber content and lower the overall GI rating.

6. Natural Muesli

GI: 40

Muesli–when made with unsweetened rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, and other sugar-free ingredients–is one of the healthiest ways to start the day. It’s also very easy to make at home with a variety of other low GI foods. Add yogurt and fresh fruit for a nourishing, energy-packed breakfast.

7. Apples

GI: 40

Apple skin is a great source of pectin, an important prebiotic that helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Apples are also high in polyphenols, which function as antioxidants, and contain a good amount of vitamin C. They are best eaten raw with the skin on! Apples are one of a number of fruits[2] that have a low glycemic index. Be careful which fruits you choose, as many have a large amount of natural sugars[3].

Advertising

8. Apricots

GI: 30

Apricots provide both fiber and potassium, which make them an ideal snack for both athletes and anyone trying to keep sugar cravings at bay. They’re also a source of antioxidants and a range of minerals.

Apricots can be added to salads, cereals, or eaten as part of a healthy mix with nuts at any time of the day.

9. Kidney Beans

GI: 29

Kidney beans and other legumes provide a substantial serving of plant-based protein, so they can be used in lots of vegetarian dishes if you’re looking to adopt a plant-based diet[4]. They’re also packed with fiber and a variety of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds. They are great in soups, stews, or with (whole grain) tacos.

10. Barley

GI: 22

Barley is a cereal grain that can be eaten in lots of ways. It’s an excellent source of B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), fiber, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium. It also contains beta-glucans, a type of fiber that can support gut health and has been shown to reduce appetite and food intake.

Please note that barley does contain gluten, which makes it unsuitable for anyone who is Celiac[5] or who follows a gluten-free diet. In this case, gluten-free alternatives might include quinoa, buckwheat, or millet.

Advertising

11. Raw Nuts

GI: 20

Most nuts have a low GI of between 0 and 20, with cashews slightly higher at around 22. Nuts, as one of the best low GI foods, are a crucial part of the Mediterranean diet[6] and are really the perfect snack: they’re a source of plant-based protein, high in fiber, and contain healthy fats. Add them to smoothies and salads to boost the nutritional content. Try to avoid roasted and salted nuts, as these are made with large amounts of added salt and (usually) trans fats.

12. Carrots

GI: 16

Raw carrots are not only a delicious low GI vegetable, but they really do help your vision! They contain vitamin A (beta carotene) and a host of antioxidants. They’re also low-calorie and high in fiber, and they contain good amounts of vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants. Carrots are great for those monitoring their weight as they’ve been linked to lower cholesterol levels.

13. Greek Yogurt

GI: 12

Unsweetened Greek yogurt is not only low GI, but it’s an excellent source of calcium and probiotics, as well. Probiotics help to keep your gut microbiome in balance and support your overall digestive health and immune function. Greek yogurt makes a healthy breakfast, snack, dessert, or a replacement for dip. The most common probiotic strains found in yogurt are Streptococcus thermophilus[7] (found naturally in yogurt) and Lactobacillus acidophilus[8] (which is often added by the manufacturer). You can also look into probiotic supplements for improving your gut health.

14. Hummus

GI: 6

When made the traditional way from chickpeas and tahini, hummus is a fantastic, low-GI dish. It’s a staple in many Middle Eastern countries and can be eaten with almost any savory meal. Full of fiber to maintain satiety and feed your good gut bacteria, hummus is great paired with freshly-chopped vegetables, such as carrots and celery.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to eat healthier or simply cut down on snacking throughout the day, eating low GI foods is a great way to get started. Choose any of the above foods for a healthy addition to your daily diet and start feeling better for longer.

More Tips on Eating Healthy

Featured photo credit: Alexander Mils via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next