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Published on December 28, 2018

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

Reference

More by this author

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 July 17, 2019

How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You

How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You

Let’s start with the problem:

You get back from work. You’re tired. It was a long day. You know there’s things you could do, to get out of the rut you’re in.

But, let’s be honest. You really would rather relax, sit down and chill for a bit. Grab a snack. Watch your favourite show.

By the time you’ve done that, the day’s over. There’s just not enough time. To make this worse – you don’t have the energy or willpower to make changes in your life today.

So where do you go from there?

What you need are some easy to apply actions that are proven to work.

This article is going to give you 4 steps on how to make changes in life so you can follow today and get closer to success – even when you are feeling tired and lazy.

These steps have proven to work for me, and many of the coaching clients I work with privately.

1. Squash Inconsistency by Giving up Motivation

Now most people, when they want to make changes to their lives, focus on making lengthy to-do lists and plans. They think over and over again about what is going wrong, what is going well and what they want, etc.

All in a bid to push themselves to getting more motivated.

Guess what? This isn’t going to work.

Willpower and motivation are feelings. Feelings are vague and unreliable.

Instead, what you should do is focus on putting your flawed unpredictable self in the best possible environments.

If you do one thing first from this list, it’s THIS:

Find and go to the best possible environment for the area of your life you want to change.

For example:

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  • If you want to get fit, make your first goal to show up at the gym three times a week.
  • If you want to find a new relationship, show up to a meet up in your city for single people.
  • If you want to be productive and make your business idea work, don’t work at home, go to a co working space nearby.

The reason people fail to become the best version of themselves is because they underestimate the power of environments to influence behavior.

Accept that you are flawed, prone to distractions and your motivation and willpower will fail you.

The best hack at your disposal? Show up to “change inducing” environments and get out of your comfort zone (physically)!

OK. Next step.

2. Recruit an Elite Team to Help You (For Free)

Open up any social media platform you’re active on that contains some positive connections you have.

Send this message to one person you already know and trust ton help you make changes to your life:

“Hey [first name]. Can I be really frank and honest with you? I’m having one of those – ‘OMG I NEED TO MAKE CHANGES TO MY LIFE!’ moments.

And I was browsing the internet, looking for tips and this article I came across suggested accountability. So here I am, messaging you to be part of my accountability system.

My ask is simple.

Can we sit together once a week at [x place] but do absolutely no socializing? I’ll buy the [coffee/food] and it will be a space to force me to do [x thing]. You literally have to do nothing other than eat the free coffee/food I pay for lol. But it will keep my accountability high, which is what I need.

What you reckon? Can you help? Thanks!”

Now obviously, change the language to suit you but you get the idea.

Not only are you going to environments that will help you make changes, but by bringing a friend (or two), you make it even likelier that you will succeed. It doesn’t even have to be in person, it could be a video call.

People fail to make changes to their lives because they try to do it all themselves.

It doesn’t really work in long term, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

You can recruit and “enlist” people to help you. By doing this, you’re taking care of the up and down motivation you have.

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Not only are people happy to help, when they see this type of behavior, they’re also inspired and motivated to change their lives. Pretty soon, you end up creating change in not just your life, but other people’s too.

So when the next dip in willpower comes?

You have a friend sitting right next to you, watching your every move, making sure you get things done anyway.

3. Build Good Habits Effortlessly

Changing your life means changing your day to day habits.

Habits are automated behaviors you do everyday, like how a clock works, without thinking or motivating yourself to do them.

Some habits help you to change, others can stop you. One of the best ways to replace your ‘bad’ habits with good ones is to treat them like old clothes. What happens when your t-shirt gets old, faded and out of fashion? You replace it with something new and improved.

Do the same thing with your habits – upgrade and replace them with something better. Start small, then slowly graduate to higher levels of difficulty.

Let me give you a clear example of what I mean:

A few years ago (before it became mainstream), I was trying to start my own habit of meditating every single day to help boost my productivity and mindfulness. I’d done a mind blowing course called Vipassana. It involved 10 days of deeply powerful meditation combined with noble silence in a remote part of the UK.

Now it was easy to do when I was there (#1 – environment!) with all those other meditators (#2 – people helping me). All I could do was meditate. There were ZERO distractions. I had NO CHOICE.

When I got home however, after a few days of sticking with it, I quickly caved.

Those extra 30 minutes of sleep were just so much easier than waking up everyday at 4am for a long one hour meditation.

So what did I do to build this really important habit?

Like with most things, I wanted to make changes to my life. I wanted to become my best self.

I knew how important it was. I just couldn’t follow through consistently and kept failing over and over.

Then, it hit me.

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I needed to start small. I made a tiny change, that made all the difference.

I made a tiny change, that I could stick to – without fail – that has me meditating daily every single day now.

What was it?

Instead of trying to do something BIG inconsistently (1 hour of 4am morning meditation) and failing again and again. I decided to do something small consistently.

Building any good habit really just comes down to repetition. The way the brain is built works in favour of this.

My new habit became:

When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will sit cross legged for 30 seconds with my eyes closed.

Eventually, once I did this consistently for a few months. I increased difficulty.

When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will meditate for 10 minutes.

Why does this work?

What’s important here is that the behavior you want (meditating) is tied to another consistent habit (folding your bedding).

I attached my new habit to one that already is consistent.

Making it more likely to happen.

Secondly, I aimed for consistency, not perfection. This is where a lot of people fail. They have an idea of the change they want, but things become all or nothing.

When you do this, you fail to realize the power of consistency. The brain you have loves patterns. In this case, I trained my brain to repeat a set pattern every morning when I fold my bed.

There was no motivation or willpower required.

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This training has gone so far now that if I miss a day of meditating, I really feel uncomfortable. I’m just as conditioned to meditate as most people are to checking their phones in the morning.

If you want to learn more about quitting bad habits, Lifehack’s CEO also has a guide on it: How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

4. Create More Time by Quitting Social Media

You know the best thing I’ve ever done for my productivity and it took me 30 seconds to do?

I deleted all social media apps from my phone and blocked them on my laptop.

Then, to reinforce it, I told all my friends and followers on Facebook (my most used platform) I wasn’t using it for a while.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with my social media. Social media is a tool. Tools are neutral. It’s how we use them that is “productive” or “distracting”.

We each have to judge how healthy our usage is, especially when weighed against unlocking our best self. That said, for most people reading this, including me, I think limiting our usage is a very favorable advantage.

One of the best ways to make changes in our lives is not to add new tools or tricks. But simply remove things that distract us.

Social media is something I use heavily for my businesses. Technically I’m a “social media influencer” and “YouTuber”. I need to be posting constantly, right?

Our situations are unique, so I came up with a unique solution for this. After deleting and blocking these apps from my devices, I installed a social media management software that still allows me to post my updates.

The big difference, however, is I cannot spend any time scrolling and being distracted.

Final Thoughts

Change is not always about more. Sometimes it’s about doing less and getting rid of what distracts or blocks you.

Trying to do things by yourself is a good way to fail. Share your goals and pitfalls with people, no one helps until you ask.

Start with small changes consistently instead of big changes failed at consistently. The momentum will give you results over time.

So what to do next to make changes in your life?

  1. Write down where you are going to GO to create the changes you want.
  2. Message 3 to 4 people on social media and ask them to help you using the message template I gave you.
  3. Choose one small habit to get started with immediately and upgrade it over time.
  4. Delete all, or at least most social media apps on your devices, and notify people you are leaving to make it stick.

More About Making Changes in Life

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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