The challenging, heartbreaking, and unpredictable events of the past months have demanded much. And while we cannot stop all the stresses that come our way or shut-off to life changes and life-altering information, we can put the brakes on ruminating worrisome and excessive thoughts. Some call it “rest for the weary” or “quieting our mind” to build a cadence of calmness and strength.
Engaging in quieting your mind exercises— or what is known as mindfulness-based techniques—can help you to build strength and calm even in the face of uncertainty and change. And that stillness is precious–it will refresh and renew you in very healthy ways.
Humans experience roughly 50,000 thoughts per day. And while the mind is simply doing what it does best, which is thinking, understanding how to calm your mind is essential when it comes to building inner strength and calm, everyday well-being, and overall health. Here are some scientifically-backed methods:
- For starters, find time to address your thoughts: Perhaps you’re processing things going on today, concerned how it will impact tomorrow, or ruminating past events. Finding quiet time can help soothe racing thoughts while giving each thought space to breathe, percolate and settle. The goal is to organize and reach conclusions about what you want to do (actions, if any) regarding topics or thoughts. Take actions that don’t allow thoughts to linger and fester in your mind. If something is bothering you or there’s something you still need to do, write it down and create a plan.
- Breathe, deeply. You can harness your breathing to bring a relaxation response for your body and mind–anytime, anyplace. When you breathe deeply, a number of things happen. Your brain receives a message to calm down and relax, thus lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Try it now. Focus on the movement of air entering into your mouth or nose and fully filling your lungs. And, too, this action helps you to focus on the present…away from other thoughts running through your head. Even a minute of deep breathing can yield great benefit!
- Watch the sunset, glow of a fire, or fish swim. Our home has a fish tank and along with the beauty and charms they offer, there’s an added benefit–dubbed “aquarium therapy.” Research shows that aquarium-watching helps reduce both stress and anxiety, thereby decreasing muscle tension and heart rate, with a resultant feeling of relaxation. The same is true with meditation, focusing on one thing at a time and being fully present in the moment. People who meditate report learning to quieting their minds and experiencing calm, serenity, and peace. Meditating can be your place where you can get away from over stimulation, and all the noise.
- Exercise. Exercising your body is a great way to stop exercising your mind. When we move our bodies, we rely less on our mind to carry things out—providing it with much needed, healthy rest. In addition, being active decreases stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, while boosting “feel good” molecules (aka endorphins) and the body’s natural painkillers. This creates a great combo when facing life’s demands.
- Listen to Music. The power of sound is profound on your mind, body and soul and can be an effective tool for single focus, relaxation and stress management, in particular, classical music.
- Break from multi–tasking. Doing one thing at a time helps to calm the mind.
Turn off phones to take a break from the inundation of dings, beeps, and notifications, thereby giving yourself time and focus on one thing. Practice staying in the moment. If your mind drifts to another thing, draw it back and file the intruding thought to be dealt with later.
- Spend time outdoors. Study after study underscores that connecting with nature — even in short bursts — not only clears the mind but also soothes, dissipates, and neutralizes perceptions of stressful situations. It also brings about a “grand scheme of things” concept, where we are better able to put things in perspective and take everything into account.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. When your output is ongoing or demanding, your body responds by tensing up our muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple and effective technique that can help combat it. You can work from head-to-toe, toe-to-head, left-to-right, or right-to-left and slowly tense or tighten one muscle group at a time followed by relaxation. There are a number of online resources to help master this technique.
When it comes to finding ways to calm your mind, it’s all about testing methods. What works best for one person may not work for you. Find the ways that best offer you renewed strength and peace – when you need it most!
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.