“The problem is not the problem. The problem is the incredible amount of overthinking you are doing on the problem. Let go and be free.” — Marcandangel
Ever have one of those days where you just can’t get your mind to shut off? Your thoughts are coming in fast and going in a million directions, and each one is louder than the next. One of the most important skills I have learned on my spiritual path are techniques to clear my mind of unwanted thoughts.
When it comes to clearing your mind of unwanted thoughts, taking a multi-pronged approach that gives the situation what it needs has always worked best for me. Hear are list of 9 mental tricks that I learned to clear my mind of pain, negative thinking, anxiety, rumination, and self-sabotage. Further all of these methods can be done in 30 minutes or less.
Distraction. Recent research from Brown University confirmed that the key to “optimal inattention” lies in occupying your mind with something else through distraction. When you concentrate your attention on one thing, you inevitably engage the parallel act of purposefully ignoring other things. Sometimes the best way to get out of your own head is to do something mindless, such as: watch cute animal videos? A 2012 study found that a few minutes of cute animal videos or photos can elevate your mood and productivity at work. Other suggestions include: coloring, reading, watch a sunrise or sunset, cooking (real cooking not throwing something in the microwave),
Mindfulness generally described as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. I like the simpler meaning provided by Dan Harris from ABC News, “The skill of knowing what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”
Substitution. This is key, the mind believes what you tell it therefore to focus on the bright side of things, really does help. It is okay to express your bad feelings, but don’t wallow in that place. If you notice that a negative thought is trying to creep in, confront it with a positive one. If you keep practicing this, you will be able to conquer the effects of negative thinking. The next time you need to clear your mind, remember that you can forget unwanted memories by substituting them with more desirable memories. Use of affirmations at these times can be profound. I resort to my list of stand-by affirmations and repeat one, two or three of them to myself over and over.
Meditation is an effective way of clearing out all the distractions and allowing you to find your center. It allows you focus on one thing and, with practice, helps you to pull your thoughts back when they start to wander. The goal here is to meditate on nothing. Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out thinking only about how you are breathing for a few minutes Even 2 or 3 minutes of doing this can make a difference.
Get out in nature. It nourishes the body, mind, and spirit and it feels good. What you end up with is time well spent.
Take a deep breath. Sometimes you just need or all you have may be a minute to clear your head. First head to a place you can be alone, the bathroom can be ideal. Sit down and take to or three deep breathes. With each breath you think about bring calmness and peace into your body and mind. For 60 seconds, focus on slow breathing as you bring yourself back to awareness. You will find that just the act of deep breathing will slow things down. For the rest of the day, if you find things edging out of control, you can simply go to a quiet space and repeat this one-minute breathing exercise, which should settle things down again. If it doesn’t seem to work, just find another 15 minutes and go back to the top.
Write it down and throw it out. A 2012 study published in the journal of Psychological Science found that physically writing out negative thoughts and throwing them away can help clear your mind. When study participants physically discarded a representation of their thoughts—the note, they mentally discarded them as well. A final study revealed that these effects were stronger when the action was performed physically rather than merely imagined.
Shower. Yes, you can really wash your troubles away. Whether or not you know it, you come into contact with various people and environments, all of which have their own energy vibrations. Not all of these frequencies are high and positive; because your energy field is constantly taking in and putting out vibrations you can become overwhelmed. Taking a shower cleanses you from physical grime and negative spiritual grime, thus purifying both your body and your aura. As you immerse yourself in the shower visualize the water washing away all bad and negative energies as well as all potential and existing diseases, illnesses and health problems. All this stuff is being washed away to the universe to be recycled into good and positive things and energies.
Walking is a proven prescription for improved health and well-being. It nourishes the body, mind, and spirit. As you walk notice every detail of your surroundings: the colors, the plants, any animals you pass, the rhythm and pace of your movements, feel the air on your skin and so on. Heading outside and fast walking around the building will give you a break from the immediate chaos. Separation from the action will help your mind let go of the immediacy of issues. The release of endorphins will lift your mood and begin to break the stress.
Now that your body is a little looser, and your thoughts have started to clear, it is a good time to remember why you are doing all of this to begin with. Use these minutes to contemplate how grateful you are for the things and people around you who support you and add value to your life.
Reprinted from my October 2016 Art of Life column in the Capital City Hues newspaper.