Buddhism calls it the ‘monkey mind’. You may know it as the sensation of your mind being filled with a jumble of thoughts, worries, and concerns – flitting from one to the next like a bee searching for nectar and coming up empty.
Trying to calm your mind can feel like the hardest thing you’ll ever try to do. Yet there are some simple methods you can use to quieten your mind and calm yourself down if you are feeling anxious or on edge. It will probably take time to perfect these, and you may find one or two will work for you better than others. But do try them – you will be surprised and pleased by the results you achieve with perseverance.
SHOW YOURSELF COMPASSION
It’s oh so easy to be critical of ourselves, isn’t it? But the next time you catch yourself doing this, try being compassionate, just as you would if someone else was doing the same thing. Silence that inner critic and speak positively towards yourself instead. Be calm, be positive, and be happy. Simply practising compassion like this can make an enormous difference when trying to calm your mind.
Instead of berating yourself for getting something wrong, or telling yourself you are silly, stupid, or anything else, stop those thoughts and replace them with positive ones instead. It’s not about denying your faults, but acknowledging the need for compassion.
STEP OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND VIEW YOUR THOUGHTS FROM AFAR
I know, this one sounds a bit strange. But stay with me for a moment. We tend to think of our thoughts as our own – as part of us. That’s true to an extent, but it doesn’t mean every thought we have is true.
For example, let’s suppose your mind is filled with negative thoughts and worries about a job interview you’ve got coming up. That’s understandable – we all get nervous in situations like this. It’s also quite common to experience negative thoughts and feelings. “I’m going to be late, I just know it.” “I’m not going to be able to answer any of their questions.” “I’m going to look silly.” “I’m going to embarrass myself…”
If your mind goes in this direction, stop whatever you are doing and step back (metaphorically and mentally, rather than physically!). Look at the thoughts you’re experiencing in an objective manner, as if they were the thoughts of another person. Chances are, most of those thoughts will obviously be fuelled by nerves. Consciously choose to discard those thoughts and replace them with positive ones. “I’ll plan to get there early so I can make a good impression.” “I’ll do my research and take a moment to think before answering each question.” “I will make a positive impression.” “I will do my best and be proud of my effort, whatever happens.”
By stepping back from your thoughts, you’ll find it far easier to replace negative ones with positive ones.
GET SOME EXERCISE
Yes, you can do something physical to help your mental state. Exercise is known to help people suffering from anxiety, depression, and stress. It is much easier to let your mind empty of all thoughts when you are exercising. It doesn’t matter whether you go for a swim, take the dog for a walk, or get on the exercise bike. Simply focus your thoughts on the physical actions of exercising, and let your mind clear. You’ll feel better long after you stop, too.
The best way to persevere with this is to choose an exercise you genuinely love. Don’t hit the gym if you hate it. Don’t start running if you dislike it and would much prefer to take a slow walk through a local park. Choose whatever appeals to your soul. If it makes it sing, you’ve found the right thing.
USE MINDFULNESS TO REMAIN IN THE MOMENT
I am a huge fan of mindfulness. It has helped me in so many different situations. It takes time to learn how to practice it properly, but it is time well spent. Oftentimes, our minds are filled with worries about the future, and concerns about the way we behaved in the past, or our reactions to things that have already happened.
Mindfulness helps us remain in the moment, which is the only moment we can ever rely on. Every time you feel your thoughts wandering into the future, pull them back. “What ifs” can fuel anxiety and worry, while mindfulness teaches us to stay in the present. This is a wonderful way to calm the mind and focus it on something positive. Even if we are going through a tough time at present, we can learn to be mindful and to separate out-of-control negativity in our thoughts from a more logical approach.
AUTHOR: LEANNA DOOLIN
Co – Founder of holistic skincare brand, Pure Thoughts and advocate for women finding pause in their day to breathe deeply, give thanks and reconnect to what matters. Loves early mornings, dogs and books that you can’t put down.