3 Ways to Quieten Your Mind
For many of us, overthinking and worrying is our constant companion. We overthink everything. We worry about how we’re going to pay the bills each month. We go over everything that happened during the day as soon as our head hits the pillow. We worry about deadlines we have to meet. We worry about how much sleep we’re getting. We worry about whether we’re doing or achieving enough. We analyse that conversation we had at work or with our partner, and whether that decision we just made was the right one or not.
We overthink and overanalyse so much that we suddenly find ourselves in a whirlpool of thoughts, plunging deep into dark and murky waters where our head feels like it could explode. And this of course causes us to worry even more. We check the clock and realise that we’ve been lying in bed thinking for well over 3 hours, making us even more anxious. Why can’t we just switch off our brains as easily as we can switch them on?
Essentially, most of the stuff we overthink and worry about is never really as bad as we had predicted it would be. That awkward conversation we ran through in our minds for hours only lasted 5 minutes in reality. That huge looming task that kept us awake for hours at night only really needed a bit of thought and a quick plan to make it more manageable. Those bills that kept rearing their ugly heads in the back of our minds only really needed acknowledging and a bit of financial organisation.
Yes, worrying and overthinking = exhausting. Plus, it prevents us from being in the here and now and instead keeps us in an unhealthy fixation with the past or the future. It’s crazy, just how much time we can waste if we let our minds run wild. Let’s face it, life is way too precious to spend most of it inside out heads creating problems for ourselves.
So how do we fix this? How do we become masters of our minds, rather than its slave? Here are some methods that have personally helped me.
List it Down: One way to help quieten the mind is to write down what you’re worried about. The very act of jotting down what’s troubling you helps to clear the thoughts from our minds, and on paper they can also seem much less daunting when they’re actually spelled out. Writing or journaling also forces us to take action, rather than feeling paralysed by worry, so it helps us to get round to tasks we might be putting off or burying our head in the sand about.
Switch Things Up: Sometimes, just getting out for some exercise can be enough to completely change our mind set and curb the overthinking. Exercise is a natural mood enhancer and is extremely distracting. Just having to concentrate on the activity forces your brain to focus on something else other than those repetitive thoughts. It also releases endorphins into our blood stream – so take yourself out for a jog around the park, a walk with a friend, a yoga class or a fun dance class. Whatever you fancy. Whenever my brain is tired from overthinking, I love to step on to my yoga mat or head to a class with my favourite teacher and just let everything go for an hour. I always come back feeling so refreshed, so much more present and my perspective has shifted and I’m able to see things more clearly. Another thing that helps is to meet up with a friend and just vent. Talk your worries out. Let them out into the open – whatever it takes to just get out of your own head. Plus, seeing friends always results in laughter, which is another positive mood booster, so grab your friends and do something spontaneous and fun.
Step Outside Your Mind: Just stepping outside of your mind can really help you to shift your perspective. Try sitting down somewhere comfortable, closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing in a simple meditation practice. See if you can become an observer of your mind, rather than a slave to it. I find that visualising myself stepping outside of my body and watching over myself and my thoughts really helps me to shift my perspective. Labelling helps too, so when you notice the thoughts or worries creeping back in, just say “thinking” in your head. The very act of giving it a label and acknowledging what you’re doing helps to stop the thought in its tracks. You can keep a notebook and pen nearby too, so that when an important thought comes in, you can jot it down. This way, you can start to pick and choose the thoughts you give attention to, separating the important ones from the ones that aren’t doing you any good. Deep breathing exercises can also improve our memory and help us to make better decisions where our emotions are a central part of evaluation. Neuroscientists have discovered that there are major changes in brain activity when you inhale, increasing our memory and its accuracy. So, that yoga stuff really does work wonders.
This post was brought to you by a girl very much in need of a long lie in and a silence retreat for her brain.