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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

What Happens When You’re Not Present?

We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

How Do We Come Back to the Present?

Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

How to Clear Your Mind

Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

1. Take a Walk

Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

2. Box Breathing

As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

3. Add Meditation

how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

4. Write Your Thoughts

Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

Final Thoughts

With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

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