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6 Mental Exercises For Busy People To Calm the Hectic Mind

6 Mental Exercises For Busy People To Calm the Hectic Mind

The cold hard truth is that we’ve become big, clumsy animals.

We eat too much, carry way too much weight on our torsos. We sit in unnatural positions all day, which makes our steps awkward. But worst of all, we’ve isolated ourselves from nature and now our mental and emotional wellbeing is taking the hit; despite the fact that there’s overwhelming scientific evidence that the more in harmony with nature we are, the better we feel.[1]

One recent study found that walking among trees improved participants’ short-term memory better than walks in urban settings. Another showed that soaking up natural beauty can cure brain fatigue and improve mental health. Elsewhere, researchers found that spending time in forests lowered participants cortisol levels (a hormone used to mark stress), reduced inflammation, boosted immunity, and even reduced the risk of early death.

In other words, the benefits of connecting with nature are undeniable.

There are lots of little ways to re-integrate nature into your daily routine—even if you live in a city. As someone who has traveled the world, studied as a monk, lived the life of a fast-paced entrepreneur, and then settled into a healthy work-life balance, here are a few techniques I’ve found work best:

1. Get out in the Wild and Test Yourself

Can you build a fire? Probably not. But you’re in good company.

Most of us have forgotten how to do really basic things to help us survive in nature. We’re not out there living off the land, and we’ve turned our backs on nature at every turn. It’s also why so many of us feel unmoored in modern society. What kind of animal forgets how to survive in the very environment it evolved in?

That said, it’s not too late to learn new (old) things. Wilderness training is not only useful, but it’s also fun. The core lessons you need to learn are fire, water, food, shelter. Once you have those four, you’re alive.

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And an immense sense of comfort comes when we learn how to survive on our own in the wild.

Once a quarter, I like to hike into the wilderness with my backpack and a couple days’ worth of food, sans phone or email. Unplugging increases my concentration and presence of mind, and helps me more fully invest in the experience. Just a quick reset can go a long way when you are immersed in nature.

It helps us calibrate back to our essential selves.

2. Root Down

One of the most powerful ways to tap into the earth’s energy is to practice qigong, the Chinese exercise system that translates to “energy work.”

My personal favorite is the Tree exercise, which increases leg strength, concentration, deep breathing, and energy flow. It’s designed to connect our energy field up with the earth under our feet and to keep us drawing from this abundant source at all times, just like an actual tree.

A plus is that you can do it anywhere, anytime.

Here’s how:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
  • Gently breathe through your nose, pointed toward your navel.
  • On the exhale, visualize tree roots that extend into the earth.
  • On the inhale, visualize white light coming from the roots and through your body, all the way to the top of your head.
  • Repeat for several breaths, with the roots going deeper each time until you imagine them reaching the planet’s core.

The more often you do this, the better your connection will be and the more rooted you’ll feel in your daily life.

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3. Take a Silent Walk Through the Woods

In my practice with a Taoist monk, I’ve learned a powerful silent-walking exercise that yields serious physical and emotional benefits.

Here’s how it works:

Go outside and begin walking very slowly and methodically. Inhale as you raise one knee up, then slowly exhale as your foot rolls from heel to toe on the ground. Now repeat on the other side.

The goal is to slow your gait and develop balance in your step. In fact, you shouldn’t be able to hear your footsteps at all.

At first, you’ll feel shaky and awkward—that’s just your office chair talking. But once your hips start to fire up again, you’ll gain core strength, which will improve your breath. As you get better, you can try it in different areas and on different surfaces.

And when you can walk on dry foliage and not hear anything, you’ll know you’ve arrived.

Once you’ve honed the skill, apply the same dilation to observing the patterns of nature around you. Slowing down helps us all feel better and learn from the greatest teacher of all—Mother Nature.

4. Listen to What the Plants Have to Say

Plants are a renewable source of positive energy and wisdom, and they have a lot to teach us.

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It may sound strange at first, but you can communicate with them and learn a great deal—as long you approach the practice with grace and intention.

Sit in a natural place with no distractions, other than a book or an app to help you identify the plants’ medicinal qualities. Pick a plant you have an affinity toward and sit or stand across from it. Start breathing into your belly few breaths and keep your gaze soft and unfocused on the plant, and reach out to connect with it.

You’ll quickly find that each plant has a distinct personality, so introduce yourself softly and respectfully. State your intentions and ask if you can learn from it. Most plants are very helpful and kind.

It may take a while to get the hang of it, but once you realize there is a symphony of life and wisdom surrounding you at all times, you’ll never be alone again.

5. Spend Some Time at Your Local Park

The primo nature experience is actually being out in the wild.

But sometimes it’s tough to get away from our daily demands, especially if you live in a city. We’ve all got jobs and other obligations and can’t just spend all our time in the woods. Everyone knows how hard it is to leave the city on Fridays after work—traffic can be hellish.

Odds are, though, that you can get to a park relatively easily. So do it.

I walk my dogs at the local park every day. It’s not Yosemite, but it’s just enough to anchor the qi and connect with some trees and grass. And it sure beats walking them on the concrete sidewalk.

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Find a place to tap into the energy of nature, wherever you are, and make it a habit to go there often. Maybe bring a blanket and a book. Bring friends, your kids, or your pets.

It’s free, it’s healthy, and it’s where you come from.

6. If Nothing Else, Bring the Outdoors In

Even when you can’t manage to get outside at all, you can enjoy the peace that comes from the natural world by bringing it into your home.

Aside from being visually calming, house plants are also great for your health. They release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, cleaning the air you breathe. In fact, NASA research showed that houseplants can remove up to 87% of air toxins in just 24 hours.[2] Beyond that, studies have shown that indoor plants can improve concentration and productivity by up to 15%[3] — making them perfect for your home and office alike. Certain plants, like snake plants and orchids, emit oxygen at night, making them perfect for sleep.

The Bottom Line

Surrounding ourselves with nature and purity invigorates us.

Instead of isolating ourselves from nature, we can honor her and bring her with us everywhere. From cultivating household plants to vegetable gardens to taking strolls in the park to backpacking in Yellowstone, there are numerous ways to reconnect with the earth.

When you achieve that sense of harmony and balance, it will be well worth it.

More Resources to Enhance Mental Health

Featured photo credit: Max van den Oetelaar via unsplash.com

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Pedram Shojai

An author, filmmaker, and founder of a health and wellness platform at the cross section of health, environmentalism, and conscious capitalism.

34 Ways To Live in the Moment And Grow in the Moment 6 Mental Exercises For Busy People To Calm the Hectic Mind

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis (The Complete Guide)

How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis (The Complete Guide)

Is there such a thing as a quarter life crisis and could it be the cause of you experiencing a lack of happiness and fulfilment in your life or career right now?

According to popular psychology, a quarter life crisis is a crisis “involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life” which is most commonly experienced in a period ranging from a person’s twenties up to their mid-thirties.[1] It tends to occur after we have finished our schooling and study, when we have settled into everyday life, often at major points or life changing events when we feel we are at a crossroads. We know something must change but we don’t know what or how to begin. It can feel confusing and lonely.

The good news is this is quite a normal experience. With some insight and small steps, you can gain clarity and direction on a way forward.

Firstly, it’s important to realize you are not alone. LinkedIn surveyed thousands of 25 to 33 years olds; the data showed that 75% had experienced a quarter life crisis with the average age being 27.[2]

Our twenties and thirties are nothing like they used to be. There are so many pressures now for people in this age group including having a well-qualified career, a secure relationship and possibly a family. The prospect of owning a home of your own becomes important, yet each year seems to be getting further out of reach, putting further pressure on your income earning capacity and career choice.

Personally, I have experienced both a quarter life crisis and a mid life one and there are similarities between both. Change was instigated for me both times by a difficult life-changing event, because I didn’t understand what I was experiencing or how to change it. Hindsight is a great thing and I sometimes wish I’d had the insights back then that I have now.

When you become aware of what you are experiencing and acknowledge your feelings as perfectly normal, change and transformation flows with more ease as you begin to take the steps to find new direction, happiness and fulfilment.

Here you will find what I consider to be the complete guide. It contains the essential steps I have identified to get clear on your way forward and move through this period of your life with more certainty.

1. Stop Comparing Your Own Quarter Life Crisis to Your Friend’s

Comparing yourself with your friends and peers, noticing their life choices and achievements can lead you to feel inferior and this increases those feelings of pressure and anxiety. You only have to jump online for five minutes and scroll through your newsfeed to see images of couples with children, career and life announcements and they all seem much more satisfied than you.

The truth is that often what you see is not real and they could be experiencing their own crisis too behind the facade. This means you could be comparing yourself with something that doesn’t even exist. What is the point in that?

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If you want to make this easier for yourself, stop accessing social media platforms. You can remove apps from your phone so you have to physically log in. If you need to access certain platforms for work or business, stay away from your newsfeed, even unfollow connections until you have worked through this period of your life.

When you stop comparing, you will notice that the pressure decreases and you will feel more comfort in your current situation. This allows change to unfold at its own pace.

2. Let Go of All the Should’s

If you hear yourself say, “I should be” or “I have to”, you are attempting to live your life by other people’s standards. And now you are aware of this, you will be amazed at how often you use this language.

The thing is, trying to live to others’ standards will never bring you true happiness or fulfilment. Even the use of this language brings a feeling of self-judgement and stress without even taking the actions associated with it. And over time, continually living this way, you will start to feel like your life isn’t your own; and you will lead yourself deeper into crisis as your self-esteem suffers.

If you hear yourself using this language, stop in your tracks. Explore where the thought actually came from and who said you should be doing things that way. Let go of the need to judge yourself according to someone else’s standards and start to think about what you really want instead.

When you let go of all the “I should’s” and start to replace them with your “I wants,” you will notice the feeling of lightness as your self-esteems rises again.

3. Get Clear on What Is Important to You

As you begin to let go of what you thought should be important, you create space to get clear on what is important to you.

Most of the time, like the majority of people, you are living your life unconsciously and unaware of what is really important to you. This means you will find it difficult to make choices that will light you up from the inside.

Dr John Demartini, a long time educator and international expert in human behavior states in his book The Values Factor, that true motivation is inspiration and is present when we are fulfilling our values. And, when we are living according to our truest and most important values is when we are our most fulfilled.

This means it’s important to get ultra clear on your most important values. You can do this simply by looking at what you put most of your time and energy into currently, and the moments in your life when you have felt your most fulfilled. Those moments may have been at any point in your life and may even mean going right back to memories of childhood.

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As you get clearer on what is important to you, you will gain even more clarity on what you truly want for you.

4. Change Your Environment

Feeling stuck can often be exacerbated when we stay in the same place, because our environment can have a huge impact on our state of mind. And, when you are in a stuck state of mind, it can be difficult to see past what you have in your life right now.

This doesn’t mean you need to sell all your belongings and go to live in an ashram for a year, although this may be the thing that feels right for you, and if it is that is okay.

You can gain the same benefits by going on a holiday, going away for a long weekend or even just going for a few day trips into nature, the forest or the beach where you can feel a real connection with self.

When you change your environment, you can change your state and your mindset. You shift yourself out of focusing on feeling dissatisfied with your life right now and shift yourself into thinking about how your life could be.

5. Enter the Dream Room and Ask Yourself “What If?”

There have been many great stories created in The Dream Room.

Walt Disney has been named one of the most remarkably creative, and as you may know one of the most successful individuals of the 20th century. The methods he used for all his creations are still being used today. Each of his creations began in the place called The Dream Room, the place where anything is possible; where there is nothing too absurd, there are no limits and no judgement. This was a place for brainstorming or dream storming as it was called.[3]

I always like to call it the “What if” room, which is a place where you ask yourself the “What if?” questions. This is the place where you can create your own outrageous wish list of what you really want. It doesn’t have to be a physical room; it’s a room you go to in your mind’s eye. This dream space is expansive and the expansion can be increased when you also change your physical environment by going to a place outdoors where you can see the horizon.

Find your space, arm yourself with a journal and pen, and ask yourself these questions:

  • What if anything were possible, what would I do and what would I create for my life?
  • What if life was exactly as I wanted it to be, what would that look like and how would I feel experiencing that?
  • What if I were without fear, what would I aim for?
  • What if I couldn’t possibly fail, how can I see myself doing this?

Dream as you did when you were a child, when you knew without a doubt that anything is possible.

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When you embrace this and allow yourself to dream, you will begin to create the most exciting picture of your next chapter in life.

6. Be Patient and Let Go of Control

Human beings waste so much time trying to control how their lives evolve and if you attempt to rush this dream process, you will find it difficult to gain the clarity you are looking for.

Learn patience, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and you are creating your own private empire of what you want for you.

This means that your dream room vision may be created in one day, two weeks or even a year. However long it takes, make it okay for you.

Many of the answers you are searching for are locked in your unconscious mind, things you have forgotten over time while you have possibly been focusing on living the way you thought you should live.

As you start asking the right questions, your answers will begin to come little by little and, will often come when you least expect them.

Carry a small notebook with you or voice record on an app on your phone. Even keep a notebook by your bed for when you first wake up in the morning.

7. Ditch Your Perception of Life Always Being Perfect

Even if we create an exciting vision, we can often get in our own way by our fear of things not working out perfectly.

We see failure before we have even started and hesitate on something that powerfully lights us up on the inside because it’s not the perfect time. Before we know it, years have passed and we are still in the same place. This can cause an even bigger crisis in later years.

Life is always happening perfectly for us; the problem is our perception of perfection is imperfect.

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Over the years, we have made perfection mean everything it really doesn’t. As a society, we have chosen to see perfection as things always lining up perfectly, no mistakes, a flawlessness, always getting the right result and the outcomes we want.

Here’s the thing: the opposite of this is absolutely true.

Life happens perfectly for you all the time. This means all the mistakes you make, all the outcomes you don’t want and not getting things right first time, is absolutely perfect for you at the time. As you make these mistakes, the lessons and growth you receive are vital to you living the life you truly want in the long term.

If at any point, you feel your need for perfection is possibly holding you back, comfort yourself with knowing that whatever the outcome, it’s happening perfectly. You will be exactly where you are meant to be to enable you to eventually live the life of your dreams

8. Make a Stand for You

Often when we make a decision on our future, we can find those closest to us object to our plans, because they want what is best for us; they want us to be happy.

The thing is what they think will make us happy isn’t necessarily what will really make us happy, because their dreams and values are different to ours. This can often make us apprehensive and delay actioning our plans since we don’t want to disappoint them.

This brings to mind something an amazing mentor once said to me, he said, “dogs only bark at what they don’t understand”. To me, this means that if a dog barks, they are not quite sure what is happening and in that uncertainty, they sense danger.

Your loved ones are exactly the same. They don’t understand where you are heading because it’s possibly something they are not familiar with themselves. Or maybe it reminds them of past experiences of their own where things didn’t quite work out the way they wanted them to. They won’t be disappointed in you when you make a stand for what you want. They just love you and want to protect you.

Proudly make a stand for you and your dream. Reassure them that you love them and you will be okay with whatever happens, because life is always happening for you and you are grateful for their support in the life you are choosing.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, no one else’s life, desires or dreams can bring you happiness and fulfilment; only what is important to you and what you really want can do that.

By being patient and kind with yourself as you move through what can be your most exciting life-changing period, you will feel this crisis point end and find clarity on exactly what will light up your life.

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Featured photo credit: ZACHARY STAINES via unsplash.com

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