Let me tell you a secret about how to calm your mind. Have you ever noticed that once you focus on one of your senses, you begin to feel better? This is the secret, because our minds stop feeding our anxiety while becoming more aware of what is going on in our bodies. This could be a welcome diversion, such as using our sense of touch, vision and hearing to focus more on these things. This sort of mindfulness comes from the Indian word “Sati” which means paying more attention and being more aware of what is happening in our minds and bodies. It simply means living in the present.
“You are what you think about all day.”
Time to change tactics. Follow these 7 ways to calm your mind.
1. Stop the vicious cycle of worry and learn to breathe.
Did you know that we breathe incorrectly most of the time? We actually do it 25,920 times a day, so it is about time we learned to do it properly. This shallow breathing can lead to hyperventilation and can exacerbate anxiety conditions and panic attacks. We are not getting enough oxygen and we are not using our lungs to their full capacity. It also helps to feed the constant chattering in our heads:
- What if….
- Why didn’t I…..
- If I don’t……..then……
- If only I hadn’t……..
- It’s all going pear shaped….
Now, when you start to breathe correctly, you are going to feel beneficial effects in the long term such as less worry and stress, improved posture, easier digestion and better balance.
Try this method. Exhale a long breath. Keep your mouth open and inhale the same amount of breath right down to your stomach. You should be able to feel your stomach swelling up. The release it again, tightening the stomach muscles as you do so. Your supply of oxygen will help to regulate brain function and reduce your levels of anxiety.
“Health comes from inner peace.”
2. Observe 5 objects near you.
These can be anything that you see on your way to work. It could be a cherry tree in blossom, a newly decorated house, white clouds, how the sun glints on a surface, or how the wind blows through the trees. Notice details of color, movement and the interplay between light and shadow. This is a great exercise when you realize, as you arrive at work, you cannot remember any details of your journey. But I bet your stress and anxiety got an overdose from you!
“Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that—thoughts.”
3. Use your sense of smell.
Have you ever wondered what your apartment or house really smells like? The next time you arrive home, make an effort to smell the air of your home. Try smelling fruit, flowers, trees and food.
As with all the other exercises, when you use your senses to increase mindfulness, the past regrets and the future worries are pushed to the back of your mind. Regular practice of these techniques will pay handsome dividends over time.
Read about how two major London hospitals are strongly advocating their patients to use these tactics. Look at the impressive results. It improves mental clarity and productivity at work and at school. It is not surprising that Apple and Google both use mindfulness training to help their employees.
4. Reflect on your mindfulness exercises.
If you are to get any benefit from these exercises, you have to reflect on how you felt while doing them. Did you notice any physical changes? What emotions did you feel? Did you feel better in any way? Do it in a non-judgemental way because that is the key to experiencing the beauty of the universe. As you do this over a period of time, you will be able to assess whether you feel less angry, stressed or depressed.
5. Try mindful walking.
When you do mindful walking, you are becoming much more tuned into:
- The environment, the sounds, sights and smells
- The air around you, the weather and the changing sky
- How your body moves
- Your breathing
Invariably, as you reflect on this new way of walking, you will find that your mind is calmer and you feel more refreshed. There are also some physical benefits in that blood pressure is lowered, joints feel better, and you have more flexibility.
6. Listen to five sounds.
We are surrounded by noise and it is rare that we actually listen to the sounds. Try listening to these :
- Birds chirping
- People laughing
- Doors opening and closing
- Cars passing by
7. Practice more positivity and gratitude.
Often, negativity can take over. Think about what is good in your life, your job and in your relationships. You have a lot to be grateful for. Make a list of these things and keep it near your bed so that you can reflect on this before you sleep.
Now, the last question you will ask is, “Does this work?” You will have to try it and experiment. Look at it this way: this is a great way to get in touch with reality. Think of the last vacation you took. You saw new places and you did loads of new things. You were not tired at all and you enjoyed the extra energy boost. You came back from the vacation refreshed and certainly much calmer.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
Use the mindfulness techniques to get engaged again with the present. Mindfulness apps are now easily available, so you have no excuse!
Featured photo credit: Ripple/Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho via Flickr