Shhh..... How to Calm Your Mind
Does the word anxiety give you anxiety? You’re not alone. Having trouble quieting the chatter of our thoughts is really not all that surprising if you think about it. Our society values the rush, being productive, being on the go, etc. This often can even lead to some guilt experienced if someone asks what you’re up to and you respond with, “nothing”. It’s actually okay to just be, to rest, to chill…. ok, ok, let me stop myself here and resist the urge to jump onto my soap box. I’ll practice impulsivity control right here and now, refraining from including my entire How To Manual for Mindfulness, and instead give you some direct tips that you can try out immediately.
There are a plethora of techniques to calm or quiet your mind (perhaps I’ll write a series on it one day!), so let’s start with one of the more common ones… one that will take 1 second and handful of self-control to accomplish……
resisting the urge of checking your phone.
When was the last time you checked your phone? Honestly? Are you on it right now (no judgment)? How do you feel about those reports that recently began popping up shaming you of how much time you have spent on your phone? I don’t blame you,
I promise, I have been on a personal mission to break up with my phone as well.
We already had enough to keep our minds busy before smart phones, but now, now we have an endless supply of things to keep our minds on the move. If you are like many others and feel that you are missing out on some quality time, perhaps some beneficial self-reflection, and some mental peace and quiet then you might want to give this a try. We can’t solve all of your life stressors in one article so let’s at least work on giving your mind a break and prevent it from getting sucked into all of the thoughts or wasted time that often follows looking at that screen.
I recommend that you pick at least 2 of the following situations where you will make the conscious effort to fight the muscle memory and not pick up your phone:
Waiting for the Elevator– It’s just 30 seconds, you can do it. Take advantage of this moment to just be. Let your mind blank out for a sec, just look around, check out a painting perhaps. I bet if you take 3 long deep breaths the elevator will show up and you just got to breathe out some stress in no time.
During commercials-They’re not great I know, the urge will be strong, but just try it out, you may end up being more attentive to your spouse, your kids, or even yourself if you just have an extra minute to process a thought rather than avoiding it.
While in bed –You can have a mental category that if you’re in bed then it’s not time for work, for mindless browsing, for comparing your life to others, or anything else… there is plenty of time for that later.
15 min before bed time-Practice self- care and give your mind a mental break before you sleep. Looking at your phone will likely only add thoughts to cloud your mind when you’re trying to do just the opposite as you attempt to doze off into dreamland.
The first 15 minutes upon waking up-Give your mind a chance to transition to the day without flooding it with your to do list and starting the anxiety rush, don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get there, just put it off for a few minutes.
At the dinner table –Increase the quality time with your family or reflect on your day. Try a ‘Question of the Day’ book to improve conversation at the dinner table and send the message to your family that they are the priority, not the ping from your phone.
In the bathroom –Side benefit- it keeps your phone clean. Turn on some music if you must. You complain that there is not enough time in the day to take a minute for yourself… found one.
During the majority of lunch-You may actually eat less and digest more – while your brain is multitasking, it doesn’t digest as efficiently and it takes longer for your brain to realize that you’re actually full so you get that signal a little too late, this may even save you a calorie or two while increasing the appreciation and taste of what you’re eating.
In the waiting room for an appointment– Try picking up a magazine or simply looking around.
*tip- put something on your phone to help you remember (like a sticker on the case that you’d notice touching it or a stop sign as the photo for your lock screen.)
It may feel unusual or awkward at first which can lead to breaking of the rules so have a plan in mind, something else you can do instead.
Things you can do instead:
Be grateful-Think of a reason why you are grateful to be where you are right now.
Breathe.Nothing fancy, just breathe.
Release tension-Notice where your body is tense and relax those areas (notice your jaw, face, shoulders, hands, etc.)
Give yourself kudos-Mentally (or physically if you can reach) pat yourself on the back for something you did well recently. We often write off things that we’ve accomplished, ‘oh, anyone could have done that’ and give unbalanced weight to the mistakes we made. It’s not a fair representation so take a moment to just give yourself a bit of credit for something, no matter how small.
Smile at someone walking by- It’s possible not to look creepy doing this, don’t let it deter you. Try a small smile and a little nod that sends the message of, “have a good day”.
Look around for nature- just notice what nature you see around you right now.
Make eye contact with people- with the cashier, the receptionist, your family, etc. As humans we need connection, feed that need even in the smallest doses.
Mindfully drink a beverage- just focus all of your attention on that drink- the smell, the temperature, the taste, how it feels…. Block out all else in your mind and just focus on that.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes!