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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.

6 Mental Exercises For Busy People To Calm the Hectic Mind

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Last Updated on January 9, 2019

7 Signs You’re Ready to Change Your Life (And What to Do Next)

7 Signs You’re Ready to Change Your Life (And What to Do Next)

Changing your life can be both scary and exciting, but more than anything it’s necessary to grow. Most people come to a point one day where they have to make a change in their life to either grow personally or professionally, but it’s hard to figure out when you’re ready to make that change.

So how do you know when it’s time that you’re ready to change your life?

The truth is there is at least one sign in front of you that you have been ignoring or not even noticing. This article will take you through 7 signs that shows you that you’re ready to take that next step.

1. Your Motivation Is Gone

Humans all have something that makes them tick. A goal that makes them wake up at 5am even though they would love to sleep in late. A drive that makes them decline social events, because their jobs need them to stay all night, or maybe it’s the opposite and you attend social events to please the ones close to you.

It comes from your motivation to succeed either professionally or personally, but once the drive is missing, then you can’t keep going and you will lose your motivation.

If you suddenly can’t find that drive inside you once had, then it can be a sign. It can be your needs or wants that have changed. The important thing is that if you don’t feel the same motivation any longer, then it’s time to do something about it.

We’ve been taught to keep going even when it gets tough, but it’s okay to change and redefine yourself. It’s not about giving up. It’s about stopping up and revaluate whether you still want the same things in life.

Sometimes you may find out you still want the same time, but the way you’re going about it isn’t working for you.

Chris Sacca, an American venture investor, and entrepreneur, bought a cabin in Tahoe’s less-expensive neighbour and moved to the prime skiing and hiking country when he felt his motivation sliding away. He still had the same goals, but described a need for a change in his life to get back the right mind-set:[1]

”I wanted to have the time to focus, to learn the things I wanted to learn, to build what I wanted to build, and to really invest in relationships that I wanted to grow, rather than just doing a day of coffee after coffee after coffee.”

If you still want the same things, then do what Chris Sacca did and change your daily routine. If you want new things, then maybe it’s time to quit your job, or make a change in your personal life.

It doesn’t mean that you have failed. It simply means you are ready to focus on what matters: You.

Find your passion and motivation back to live a better life with these tips:

Want to Know What Truly Motivates You, and How to Always Stay Motivated?

2. You’re Unhappy at Least Once a Day Every Day

We tend to ignore unhappiness because it’s normal to get upset or feel a bit down. It’s true. It is normal, but if you feel unhappy every day and usually without even knowing exactly why – it’s a sign.

A task, a job or a relationship can be both giving and draining — most often both. While we have to accept a certain struggle, we don’t have to accept being unhappy.

Here’s a little test you can do easily:

Take a look at what you do every day, and take a look at the things you have assigned yourself. How many of these things do you do for yourself? And how many do you do to please someone else?

Once and a while, we need to take a step back and look at our to-do list. Are you dealing with a to-do list of others, or your own to-do list? There is a difference.

This can easily be misunderstood, but you need to remember it’s not about being selfish or lazy. If you’re unhappy on a daily basis, then you can’t make other people happy in the long run either.

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If you’re unhappy every day, then it’s time to recognize it as a sign that you’re doing something wrong in your life when it comes to your own happiness. It might have seemed right before, but it’s clearly not doing you any good anymore. You’re ready for a change.

You can learn how to be happy again from this article:

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

3. The People Around You Are Changing

The grass is far from always greener on the other side of the street (at least most of the time), and while we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the people around us on a daily basis, it’s okay to take a look once a while.

The people you surround yourself with often reflect back on yourself. If you’re going through a phase where most of your friends have been going out all the time, and then they suddenly start to focus on work and family, it might be a sign.

This by no means imply you should change your life if you’re still feeling fulfilled and good about it. But if you turn your head and start noticing a change around you and it makes you rethink things, it’s probably a sign of you being ready to change as well.

4. You’re Bored

A healthy life shouldn’t be all fun and games, but if you’re starting to feel bored on a daily basis, then it could be a sign. There’s a difference between waking up on a Sunday and not knowing what to do, and waking up every day and feel bored.

Maybe you don’t feel challenged in your job any longer, or your normal idea of fun is no longer giving you the enjoyment it once did before.

Take the time to check with yourself. Are you just bored? Or do you need something more in your life?

Humans are run by habits and routines, which makes it tough to change them. It also makes us stay in bad situations much longer than needed.

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It’s always hard in the beginning but you can do it! Take a leap of faith and change your life.

5. You’re Stressed

Stress is probably one of the most common signs that you’re in need of a change, but it can also be one of the signs that can be the hardest to react upon. Because when you’re stressed, you automatically feel anxious about making a change.

It can be hard to deal with stress, but luckily there are many different types of solutions to deal with it. It often comes down to trying different ways and figuring out what works for you.

Tim Ferriss notices that:[2]

“More than 80% of the world-class performers I’ve interviewed have some form of daily mediation or mindfulness practice.”

Take a look at this to find what’s best for you to relieve stress:

The Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress

But sometimes all you need to do is to figure out what is stressing you out and whether it’s worth it. If the stress comes down to being a sign, then you need to accept it and create a change in your life, because you’re clearly ready.

6. You’re Scared

Everybody lives with fears. They’re afraid of losing someone. They’re afraid of losing their job. They’re afraid of making the wrong decisions. They’re afraid of a lot of things because life is pretty scary.

The trick is to recognize whether the fear drives you or brings you down. It’s okay to be scared, but it’s not okay to live in constant fear.

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If you’re scared about a specific thing or just feel anxious on a daily basis, it’s time to get a better understanding of where it comes from and also see it as a sign.

When you’re already scared, it can be tough to consider making a change in your life, but look past the fear and know that you can choose to stay in this state of mind or work through it.

Try to visualize a future where the fear is no longer present and use it as a tool to make the hard decision now and change your life for the better.

This guide written by the author of Fight the Fear – How to Beat Your Negative Mindset and Win in Life will help you conquer your fears:

How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

7. There’s No Stimulation in Your Life

Humans need stimulation in their daily lives because we will feel scared, stressed and unhappy at times. If you can tell that you no longer have that stimulation in your life, then it’s a sign that you’re ready for a change.

What drove you in the past or got your heart pounding faster once might not do the same for you anymore. Before you get to the previous mentioned state of minds, you can get ahead of things and recognize this lack of stimulation as soon as possible as a sign.

The Bottom Line

All changes are hard and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but we need to start seeing change as a positive rather than (as we often do at first) a negative. Changing your life can be tough, but it’s worth it.

Once you decided to change your life it won’t be easy in the beginning. Try to use a phrase Chris Sacca used when he was going through the same:[3]

”I had a phrase I kept repeating in my head over and over again, which was, ‘Tonight, I will be in by bed…”

This will help you remember whatever you’re feeling right now is temporary. But if you don’t find the courage to make a change, then the negative feelings and emotions you’re dealing with won’t be.

Featured photo credit: Joshua Ness via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, page 165
[2]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, page 149
[3]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, Page 167

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