Five proven methods to calm a busy mind
Do you find it hard to relax? Is your mind often racing, or dwelling on thoughts you can’t shake? If so, here are five proven methods to calm your busy mind.
There are so many thoughts swimming around in our heads all day long. In fact, we receive a staggering 50,000-70,0000 a day, which equates to between 35-48 thoughts per minute per person.
Is it any wonder then that sometimes our heads feel like they are going to explode? On top of this we receive information from our phones, social media, radios, and the buzz from people around us.
So, with this information overload, how can we achieve a calm mind?
Five proven methods to calm a busy mind
As hard as it may feel sometimes when we just can’t switch off, it’s easy to tune out thoughts and relax when you know how. And to help you, here are five proven methods that you can use to calm your mind.
1) Watch your internal dialogue in your head
Do you lie awake sometimes going over all your worries? Does your inner critic get the better of you? Those negative thoughts of “I’m not good enough”, or “I hope this presentation goes okay, I’m rubbish at doing at presentations!”
One way to calm your mind is simply to observe your thoughts without engaging in them. This can have the positive effect of calming your mind and is known as mindfulness.
To practice mindfulness, find a comfortable position sitting upright. Next, breathe deeply and become aware of the sensation of breath entering your body and exhale slowly feeling your breath leaving your body. Feel your breath go in and out of your nose or mouth, and the rise and fall of your chest.
When your mind wanders, release any judgements you have with your exhale. Finally, slowly come back to focus.
2) Shift yourself out of a negative frame of mind
Our brains are often weighted towards the negative. So if you find yourself in a negative mind-set, stop and ask yourself – are these negative thoughts helping me?
To get yourself out of this negative loop, ask yourself the following two questions:
- How would I like to be feeling instead?
- What small step can I take towards achieving that goal?
An example of this could be wanting to feel relaxed. To get this feeling, you could schedule some time for yourself and have a relaxing bath in the evening using your favourite bath salts, or do whatever else makes you feel good.
3) Slow down your breathing
Another good calming technique is to slow down your breathing. When we are stressed we often use shallow quick breathing, and to overcome this, you need to slow it down.
So, with your next inhalation breathe in gently and slowly. Then breathe our slowly and deeply. Keep doing this and become aware of how your chest rises and falls. (The 7-11 breathing technique we explain here works brilliantly for this, and can even stop panic attacks.)
This can trick the amygdala (the area of your brain that is responsible for activating the fight or flight response) into thinking there is no danger, helping it to calm down the brain. The result is that you feel calmer and can think more clearly.
It also helps you take your mind off whatever is worrying you, and focus it instead on the rhythmic, hypnotic act of breathing.
4) Read something that you enjoy
If you want to find your way out of mind gridlock, then reading can be one of your most powerful getaway tools.
Research has shown that reading is one the best ways to relax; even just six minutes can be enough to reduce your stress levels by 68%. This research was carried out by Mindlab International for the University of Sussex. It discovered that reading was more effective than listening to music or having a cuppa.
As we need to focus and concentrate on reading this has the positive effect of distraction and eases the heart and relaxes the muscles in our body. It only takes six minutes to slow down the heart and calm you, which isn’t bad considering there are 1,440 minutes in a day!
5) Engage in aerobic exercise
My final tip is to exercise. It is a fantastic way to calm down your body, get you to focus on the present and stomp away your worries.
When we are stressed we produce the hormone cortisol, and exercise is proven to reduce this hormone and allow us to feel calmer. It also helps you to sleep better.
Exercising with a skipping rope or running on the spot is effective even after just a few minutes. It is well documented that physical activity releases mood-boosting hormones like endorphins but it will also calm down the fight or flight response in our bodies when you are on alert and feeling stressed. (You can find some exercises to help you manage depression and anxiety here.)
Use these methods to calm your mind
So, the next time you find you have endless chatter going on inside your brain that is preventing you from relaxing, try using any of these five methods to calm your brain.
Need more advice to help you unwind?
If you struggle with stress and anxiety, you may find these articles helpful:
- The seven biggest mistakes stressed women make
- Eight apps to help you manage anxiety and stress
- How to beat anxiety by changing the way you think
- Seven simple tactics to tame your negative inner voices
Judith Ward is an award winning clinical hypnotherapist and practises Solution Focused Hypnotherapy in Northern Ireland and via Skype worldwide. She helps women overcome life stresses and anxieties to enable them to become happier versions of themselves.