Perhaps your day looks a lot like mine?
While getting ready for work, my mind automatically goes to the projects and meetings I have coming up that day. While drinking my morning tea or coffee, I’m thinking about the many personal to-dos I have for the day and how I’m already running a few minutes late.
Once I get to work, it’s like my mind and body go into autopilot. Jotting down my to-dos, going from one project to the other. Constantly thinking, “I’ll just finish this and then I’ll take a break”, but that break never seems to come.
After going through my emails, it’s like I can’t get them out of my mind as I’m trying to work on that day’s big projects.
Coming home, I’m thinking about what to cook for dinner, what needs to be done that night, who’s going to walk the dog. It’s non-stop until I go to bed, and even then the anxiety takes over, keeping me from falling asleep or waking me up in the middle of the night in a state of panic.
And it’s not just the daily thinking about what’s coming up, but the never-ending worries about the past and the future.
After somebody said something to me that bothered me, I find myself thinking it over and over again. I come home from work, but my mind keeps thinking about the project I’m working on, how I want it to be successful and what I can do to make sure it goes just as I want.
A big thing for me has been worrying about money. In times where money is too little, I find myself worrying about whether I’m going to have enough money. In times where money is flowing, I’m still worrying about how I’m going to get more money to have the house I want or go on the vacation I’ve been craving.
Often when we talk of calming the mind, we’re primarily focused on releasing the negative thoughts, making the worries fewer. But I find my mind racing about the good things as well. The dreams and desires I have for the future. The grandios plans I’m cooking up with my husband.
Even in my yoga practice, when I’m supposed to be letting go of my thoughts, I find my mind wandering all over the place.
It all became too much for me. I realized that I was not enjoying anything I had right now, because I was constantly stuck in my brain.
In fact, it started to affect my relationships negatively. I found myself not enjoying time with my husband, because it was mired in worries, to-dos, and figuring out how life could be better than I have it right now.
But how to calm my mind?
As a personal development junkie, I would constantly read articles about being in the moment, finding peace in meditation, and enjoying the world around you.
I would tell myself to stop worrying, to relax, to be calm, but it didn’t seem to help.
But I kept practicing. I kept practicing yoga, meditation, and the mind body connection and finally it clicked. To get out of my head, I needed to focus on something else. Something that would totally take me away from my mind and into something completely.
That’s when I found 3 surefire ways to help calm the mind:
Get into your body
I started practicing body scan meditation. In body scan meditation, you slowly bring your awareness to the different parts of your body.
You can simply notice the sensations in your body or consciously imagine softening and relaxing that part of your body.
At first it was difficult to stay focused even on my body. My thoughts often took me away.
But I was taught to gently notice I was thinking and bring my awareness back again to my body.
Slowly, with more and more practice, it became easy to remain focused on my body as I scanned through all my bodyparts. I started to feel more and more sensations and become more aware of my body as a result.
It even helped my yoga practice. If I ever felt my mind wandering in yoga, I would bring my awareness back to my body parts, gently scanning from my toes to my head. I started noticing where I was holding tension during difficult poses and where my alignment was off.
Get into your breath
This is where yoga really helped me. Practicing pranayama helped me become more aware and more in control of my breath.
I found that the simplest breathing technique was the best for me in calming my mind. The practice of using all three parts of your lungs in yogic breathing.
Simply, place your hands on your belly, then ribs, then upper chest and practice breathing into your hands. At the end, you place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart and breath into your belly up to your heart and back out again.
By placing my hands on my body, I could just set a certain number of breaths to count and focus on the physical sensation of my hands rising and falling.
Not only do you stop thinking while you’re doing this, but also you come back to your day feeling refreshed and full of energy.
Get into your senses
Another great way to stop your constant monkey mind is by getting into your senses.
This one can be a meditation exercise or a writing exercise.
Just going one by one, notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Spend 5 minutes and think it, say it out loud, or write it down.
This is a great practice to get you back into the present moment. You may even notice things that have been around you all along that you completely forgot. You may even find that you smile or laugh at something you never even noticed.
The great thing about all of these practices. You can do them anywhere.
You can do that sitting in your chair at the office or in bed for a quick 10 minute rest after a long day.
You can integrate them into your daily life. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to stop worrying, calm the mind and enjoy the present moment.
Now tell me in the comments…
Which one of these ways will you try first? Did it work for you?