If there was ever a time when the ability to quiet our minds was critical to our health, it would be now.
Even under “normal” circumstances, being able to consciously decide what to focus on, and what to let go, is critical to help us avoid the stress associated with so many health problems.
But given what’s going on in the world right now, if we don’t have a way to calm the mind and “tune out” the world when we need to, to take time to replenish our emotional and mental resources, we could become seriously ill.
Hypertension, asthma, heart disease and depression, as well as digestive and sleep problems, are all connected to living in a continuous state of stress, something that’s all too easy to do these days.
To help, here are 10 things you can try, and keep them in your bag of tricks when you need to find a place of stillness in your racing mind.
10 ways to quiet your mind
1. Hatha Yoga is a mix of challenging poses and controlled breathing. It has multiple benefits:
- It helps turn your awareness to the present moment, rather than worrying about what’s going to happen next.
- It takes the edge off your natural stress response
- It builds strength and flexibility
During the pandemic, many local yoga studios are offering online classes. I’d also recommend Yoga With Adriene and other free videos on YouTube.
2. Breathe. You don’t have to do yoga to calm your mind with your breath. Just start paying conscious attention to your breathing for short periods. If you tend to take short, quick breaths, try to move toward slower, deeper ones.
You should feel it rise and expand as you draw air in and fall as you let it out.
3. Get a fish tank. Studies dating back to the 1980s show that watching fish in an aquarium is as effective as meditation at lowering blood pressure.
Watching fish and listening to the trickling water causes the production of serotonin, which stimulates the brain to increase endorphins, the body’s “feel-good” hormone.
4. Exercise. For some people, disciplines like yoga and Pilates and the concentration they require help to re-focus the mind away from its internal chatter. For others, more vigorous exercise (running, walking or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) works better. The whole point is to get out of your mind and into your body. Find what works for you.
5. Listening to music literally calms the activity in your brain. Fewer neurons fire in your amygdala (the part of your brain that responds to fear). If you’re distracted by pain, focusing on music is a perfect way to calm your brain.
6. Progressive muscle relaxation. Pick a part of the body to start with – foot, arm, mouth, eyes – and tense it for a few seconds. Then release and relax for about ten seconds. Notice how relaxing feels different. Keep going until you’ve done your whole body. By that time, your racing thoughts will have been derailed.
7. Pet a dog. Whether it’s your own or someone else’s, hanging out with a dog releases oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in bonding and trust. It can also help you feel less anxious, confused and restless.
8. Get creative. Simple, mindless activities can help you tune out the chatter in your head and can be truly enjoyable! Kneading dough is a great one. My favorites: selecting and snipping pictures to paste in a collage, and coloring in a coloring book (yes, they make them for adults too!)
9. Gardening. Even as winter approaches in many areas, you can take your gardening indoors with house plants. In one study, a bacterium found in garden soil increased the production of serotonin in the brains of mice.
10. Biofeedback. If all else fails, try biofeedback It’s a technique that teaches you to control your reactions to stress. A computer monitors your brain waves and tracks your heart rate, skin temperature and breathing. In time, you learn to control these responses and thus control your response to a stressful situation.
How to quiet your mind — Web MD
Aquarium Therapy: How Fish Tanks Can Reduce Your Stress — Pet Central