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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 May 21, 2019

Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know

Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know

People who have low self esteem are always hard on themselves. Sometimes they even cannot truly accept compliments because they would second guess people’s intentions.

    In this article, we’ll look into the symptoms of a low esteem person and what you can do if you find yourself having self-esteem issues.

    Symptoms of a Low Self-Esteem Person

    Common Symptoms

    • Unable to trust your own opinion
    • Always overthinking
    • Afraid to take challenges, being worried you wouldn’t overcome them
    • Hard on yourself but lenient with others
    • Frequent anxiety and emotional turmoil

    Lesser-Known Symptoms

    Being a workaholic

    At work expectations are set clearly. Even if there’s pressure in the workplace, compared to relationships or the social world where so much is unknown and uncontrollable, work is more straightforward.

    It’s easier to meet the expectations and perform well at work. Therefore, some people with low self-esteem would shift their focus to work and put all their energies there.

    Overachieving or underachieving

    Many of us have already heard that people with low self-esteem tend to be under-achievers as they’re too afraid to take new challenges and not confident enough to fully utilize their talents.

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    However, there’s another extreme. Some of them are too anxious of failure and being rejected, so they will try their very best to be outstanding to prove their worth.

    Causes of Low Self-Esteem

    Most of the time it stems from our childhood. Here’re some negative early experiences that lead to low self-esteem:[1]

    • Frequent punishment
    • Frequent neglect
    • Chronic abuse
    • Harsh parental standards
    • Being bullied/boycotted
    • Being on the receiving end of someone else’s stress or despair
    • Lack of praise, warmth and affection
    • Staying in a family or group where other members are prejudiced towards

    Childhood is when we form our “Bottom Line” and “Rules for Living” which affects the way we think, that’s why all the negative early experiences can have a very long-lasting effect on our adulthood.

    How “Bottom Line” Affects Your Self-Esteem

    “Bottom Line” is how you usually feel about something, based on your early experience. For example, “how you felt when you first left home becomes the emotional bottom line for when you leave other things in your life.”, according to therapist Robert Taibbi [2].

    When we talk about self-esteem, the bottom line is about how people around you treat you, as we grow up taking the voices of people who are significant to us. Did they say you’re adorable, or you’re always not good enough? Did they neglect you that made you feel worthless?

    That largely affects the way you view yourself and hence affect your self-esteem.

    How “Bottom Line” Determines Your “Rules for Living

    Based on the “Bottom Line”, we would form our “Rules for Living”, which are the strategies for dealing with life. For example, if you have the belief that you are always inferior to others, your Rules for Living would be “better not to speak up and to keep a low profile”.

    How Low Self-Esteem Affects Every Aspect of Your Life

    So what are the consequences of having low self-esteem?

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    It Makes You Confuse Love with Low Self-Esteem

    Having a low self-esteem, you expect people to treat you badly.

    When people are being just quite nice to you, you feel overjoyed and have unrealistically good feelings for them. This can be easily mistaken as love and also scare people away who might be just interested in being friends with you (at first).

    It Makes You Have a Lower Hand in the Relationship

    As you think your partner is too good for you, you bear things that you shouldn’t stand for.

    Sometimes you even confuse love with self-esteem. Are you giving in really because you love him/her so much or you just dare not to speak up and bargain?

    It Makes Your Employers Feel That You’re Not Talented

    People with low esteem sometimes are actually gifted. But they don’t know how to show it and “sell” themselves.

    During meeting, they keep quiet, during presentation they speak weakly, during daily conversation they say “sorry” and “maybe” too often…As a result, employers and other colleagues perceive people with low esteem as people without much talents.

    It Can Lead to Depression

    Over time, low self-esteem can lead to depression according to a study done by University of Basel researchers.[3] Psychologist Dr. Lars Madsen added that low self-esteem is “a key factor in both the development and maintenance of depression”.

    How to Improve Self-Esteem

    As we can see, low self-esteem is a deeply rooted issue and leads to lots of consequences. To solve it, it’s not an easy task, but it’s possible. The key is, to use the right ways.

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    1. Ignore All Those “Positivity” Advice

    Very often, we hear people say “Stay positive”, “Hey cheer up!”. People with depression know all these do not help. It just makes them feel worse.

    Same for low self-esteem, simply telling people “To me you’re wonderful!”, “You’re actually awesome”, “Why don’t you appreciate yourself more?”, or even worse “Hey you should be more confident” does not improve their self-esteem. Instead, they would feel inadequate or even guilty of their behavior.

    2. Focus Elsewhere

    “Healthy self esteem needs to emerge subtly.”[4]

    Same as happiness, you don’t immediately feel happier when you tell yourself to be happier. You need some concrete ways to do so like pursuing a goal that truly matters to you, like spending quality time with your loved ones.

    When you want to improve your self-esteem, don’t try too hard on thinking of ways to do so. There’s no direct way to improve it. It should be a by-product of our overall life’s satisfaction.

    According to psychologist Abraham Maslow,[5] to live a fulfilling life, you should take care the 5 levels of human basic needs. To help you understand more about this psychological model we made a video to explain it:

    Or you can refer to the graph below:

    5 Levels of Human Basic Needs

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      To focus elsewhere, we’ve summarized the above items and put them into this list for you:

      • Deep connection with loved ones
      • A healthy body
      • Sense of control
      • A meaningful life purpose
      • Recognition and respect from others
      • Sense of security
      • Creativity

      As you gradually equip yourself with the skills to fulfil the above needs, you’ll forget about self-esteem and suddenly you’ll find that you just feel proud of yourself when you know so much that others don’t.

      Resources to Help Increase Your Self Esteem

      To help you gradually build your self-esteem, here’s a list of the best self-help books that can help you fulfil the goals:

      1. How to Win Friends & Influence People
      2. Outliers: The Story of Success By Malcolm Gladwell
      3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
      4. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
      5. The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health
      6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Busines
      7. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
      8. Thinking, Fast and Slow
      9. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
      10. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

      The Bottom Line

      If you find yourself having low self-esteem, don’t be hopeless. Have faith in yourself that you can regain self-esteem and become a confident and successful person.

      How?

      Understand the root causes of your low self-esteem and overcome these causes with the advice in this article.

      Featured photo credit: Joe Gardner via unsplash.com

      Reference

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