A friend recently posted as her Facebook status: “(Name) would like to know how to stop thinking so much…”
Well, after reading this, I got to thinking (ironic, I know): How DO you switch off that annoying little voice that buzzes away so much in so many of our modern, stressed-out heads; never seeming to give us a break and allowing us to experience some SILENCE??
Like my friend, I also have a tendency to over-think, and I have definitely discovered a link between ‘fast thoughts’ and feeling stressed out. It’s taken me a while, but I have finally begun learning to notice when my thoughts seem to be taking over, and gently allowing them to slow down again. I find that as soon as I consciously slow my mind down, my stress levels almost instantly decrease.
I’ve explored a few different techniques over the years to achieve this feeling of more peacefulness, quiet and calm – and would like to share a couple:
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Now before you hastily navigate away from this blog, for fear that I am some new-age hippy about to advise you to hug some trees and transcend the boundaries between your mind and that of Mother Nature – Transcendental Meditation is not as complicated or as (for want of a better word) ‘wanky’ as it sounds. Based on certain techniques practised in yoga, TM is not based within any particular religion or school of thought; and unlike some other well-known forms of meditation, you are not required to “empty your mind” completely of any thoughts for say, 4 hours solid (if you have ever managed to do that successfully, then tell me how!).
Simply put, you spend 20 minutes twice a day sitting in a comfortable chair, gently repeating a short ‘mantra’ in your head, and allowing your mind to relax. If you think lots of random thoughts, then that does not mean you have failed – in fact, it is wholeheartedly encouraged at first. You then spend 10 more minutes simply relaxing in the chair. Sounds simple? It is! The benefits of TM have been widely documented, and the practice is popular with many celebrities including Hugh Jackman, Clint Eastwood, and even Russell Brand! There have been a huge array of scientific studies into this form of meditation, monitoring measurable changes in the body, such as brain function, IQ, and biological ageing – finding that not only does TM reduce stress, increase energy and concentration and improve sleep; it also slows down the ageing process, aids with weight loss, and can even increase your IQ!
There is a lot more to say about TM, but I’ll save that for another blog post. All I’ll say for now is this: I tried it in 2009 and found it made a huge difference to my stress levels and ‘busy mind’. However, since then I have fallen out of the routine, and now only meditate maybe once per week. I am now setting myself a challenge: to gradually increase my meditations over the next month, until I am once again practising TM twice per day. As my instructor said when I first learned the discipline: “If you’re too busy to spare 20 minutes, twice a day, you’re too busy!!”
Google it – it’s definitely worth a try if you’re looking to try some simple meditation to inject some calm into your life. I’ll let you know how I get on….
The Sedona Method
This is something I began learning at the end of 2010 – again, finding it very beneficial, and very simple to put into practice. The Sedona Method focuses on ‘releasing’ negative thoughts and emotions from your mind, ‘letting go’ of them effortlessly and allowing yourself to move forward without anything blocking you. It is available as an audio course, or a live seminar (I took the audio course), and focuses on the areas of ‘wealth and success’, ‘health and wellbeing’ and ‘relationships’.
Once you’ve learned the basic technique, you’re encouraged to put it into practice regularly, whether that be sitting down and setting goals for the future, letting go of fear that may be holding you back; or simply letting go of a negative reaction you may have towards someone during the course of your day. Have a boss or spouse who get on your nerves?? The Sedona Method attempts to help you in dealing with the anger and frustration with ease…. 🙂
Again, this is something that I consciously practise intermittently, but something that I endeavour to utilise more and more. I initially decided to learn the technique to attempt to control my emotions more effectively when communicating with my boyfriend and (I hope he’d agree!) it worked pretty well.
Lately, after learning these techniques (and perhaps still subconsciously living life using the principles I’ve discovered), I’ve found that the thing that works for me is simply being more aware of my thoughts: noticing when they have begun to speed up, take over my mind, spiral out of control or become negative, and taking a second to just stop! I take a deep breath, try to think rationally about whatever is on my mind and put it into perspective, then bring myself back into the present moment somehow… Listen to some music, notice something pretty or interesting in whatever surroundings I am in, or simply smile and relax. Sounds cheesy, I know, but I find that it works for me and really stops my spiralling thoughts in their tracks before they begin to take over.
Write it Down
If you really can’t stop thinking, and have tasks swirling around in your mind, or goals and desires fighting for space in your brain, then I also find that simply writing things down can be a good way to get them off your chest and achieve some clarity. A simple ‘to-do list’ or a list of goals that you’d like to explore further are good ways to get started.
Talk to Someone
Often having a chat with a friend or even a life coach can help you to a) get yourself back into the present moment and just have a good old chat and a break from your thoughts(!), and b) help you to discuss any thoughts that you are particularly struggling with or failing to get rid of – hopefully leading to a different perspective on the topic and a greater feeling of ease and calm.
Take the focus from your mind to your body, and get out there and get moving – making sure you’re doing something you really enjoy!!
Hope a few of these tips have helped, or at least given some food for thought. Here’s to a calm day ahead, with a nice calm mind!
To your long and healthy lives,