Do you feel that you can’t stop thinking and that your mind is overstimulated? Do you ever feel like wanting to pause activities that seem unstoppable and sometimes you even feel that this doesn’t allow you to be at peace? Understanding how to calm the mind is important when it comes to the everyday well being of ourselves.
Whether it’s a simple activity or a change in behavior, there are many things you can do and try to do to calm your mind when you find you’re in a state of over stimulation and overthinking.
1. Write or talk it out
Your mind has the function of processing and interpreting all the information being received inside and outside your body. You currently have many stimuli. You’re being overstimulated and your mind wants to do many things at once. It wants to interpret, think, draw conclusions, get answers and solve everything in there. In addition, you also come up with new ideas, projects, pending goals that you want to achieve and it’s very common for you to feel that you can’t calm your mind.
My first favorite exercise is writing. By doing that, I tell my mind to empty. Empty of everything I have accumulated: pending stuff, worries, dreams, desires, frustrations, anger, courage, sadness. Everything I can bring inside me to the pencil and paper.
I literally imagine as if I have all these things in my head and that I’m able to empty it through writing. If you’re not much of a writer, I recommend that you start giving it a try because it does have therapeutic effects. Otherwise you can also talk it out. Talking and releasing all the mental content you bring helps a lot.
Either way, give your mind an outlet. It doesn’t need to be perfect or well formulated. Just get it out there, you can edit and improve the thoughts later. When you get into the habit of doing it, it will feel like a weight has been lifted. You know longer need to carry those thoughts with you as you have left them on the pad of paper.
2. Organize your thinking and draw conclusions
Once you release all that mental content, the idea would be to organize it and reach conclusions about what you want to do with this topic.
Do you want to take it or abandon it? Do you want to to ask for help or to carry it out?
Organizing your thoughts is something you should try to do at least once a week to calm your mind. My favorite day to organize my thinking is Saturday, after I’ve had a week full of it and a week full of writing about it.
Because there are many things that you’re thinking about and your mind loves to let you know about all the pending items that you still need to take care of, this ends up saturating and overstimulating your mind. But if you already emptied it, you already have it organized and by doing this you can also learn how to use an agenda or a calendar to tell your mind “you can now go and dedicate to observe reality, connect with the present, since the rest is already scheduled.”
Don’t allow things to hang or linger in your mind. If something is bothering you or there’s something you still need to do, write it down. It can be a to-do list or a “waiting for” list, where you make a list of all the things you’re waiting for, such as a package to arrive in the mail or a call back from someone. Don’t allow these thoughts to fester and distract you when there’s better places to leave them.
Sitting down to focus your attention on your breathing or on any other thing that you decide to pay attention to (it could be watching a candle, listening to the sounds of nature or feeling the sensations of your body) will make you able to give some space to your mind and body.
At that moment, while meditating, your mind can rest. In fact it has been proven that 20 minutes of mindfulness equals about 2 hours of deep sleep. Here’s where your mind rests and restores from its constant activity and chatter. Likewise, some other times that’s why you often feel tired and overwhelmed, because you spend a lot of time in your mind.
If this costs you a lot of effort, you can start with your senses: what you see, smell, touch, taste, hear. There are many studies that have shown that consciously “listening” to silence and being aware of it, will help you relax your mind. We’re just too saturated with so many sounds during the day and you barely have the opportunity to be alone and silent.
Meditation can be your place where you can get away from all the stimulation, and all the noise. Whether it’s the noise in your mind or the noise in the world around you. Take some time to practice mindfulness and allow the mind to relax.
4. Avoid Multitasking
Do one thing at a time to calm the mind. Put your attention on one thing at a time. It’s common that for example if you’re replying to an email and suddenly you see a new notification on another device, your mind is going to get stressed because it will try to pay attention to both things at the same time. That’s why I highly recommend you turn off notifications when doing something else.
If you’re going to do one thing, just do that thing, mute your cell phone and pay attention to just that thing. It’s also very normal that while you are doing it, your mind runs away to “oh, the dog’s food” but then you already remember “it’s already on the agenda, quiet!” and return to what you were previously doing.
It’s okay that your attention may go to other things, but it’s important for you to learn you can return it where it was. For that, it’s about practicing mindfulness and all techniques of focusing your attention towards one thing at a time.
If trying to focus your attention on only one thing at a time creates more stress and chatter in the mind, set a timer. Tell yourself “Okay, I’ll not check my phone for the next 20 minutes while I do this one thing”.
5. Physical exercise
I know sometimes it’s difficult and you say “I don’t have time for that or I don’t feel like it” but just go for a walk, on your street, walk around the block, connect with other things beyond what you’re thinking and move your body. This will give your mind a break. It’s not about stopping and going to sleep all the time; your mind is going to be able to rest when you do other things that have nothing to do with exercising your mind. There is the trick.
The most famous intellectuals loved going for walks from Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs. It was there time to calm their minds. Could you imagine just how much activity must have been going on in their minds at any given moment? A short walk must have been their escape from all the chatter in their heads.
Moving your body, feeling your body, performing some occupational therapy, is going to be a time where you’re not having to use your mind to carry things out and that’s where it can rest.
If you’re able or motivated, take it one step further. Hit the gym, lift some weights, do some yoga, go for an intense run. The physical body has an influence on the well being of the mind. Happy body, happy mind.
6. Manual activities
Manual activities are hobbies that exercise the brain. They’re very good at calming the mind and helping people relax at the end of the day.
These can include activities such as knitting, adult coloring books, drawing mandalas, painting, origami, cooking, sewing, and doing puzzles. In general, these tend to be crafts but don’t be fooled. These help calm the mind.
While doing your crafts, remember to breathe deeply if feeling anxious, this will allow you to reset your feeling and pay attention to your manual activity while at the same time processing the frustration of wanting to finish it fast.
It’s about finding activities that you enjoy doing, that inspire you, that excite you and that’s where your mind will be able to relax. We’re not trying to turn the craft into a career or allowing our competitive or perfectionist side create anxiety. Just enjoy yourself.
Another thing that helps a lot is getting in contact with the earth directly, it’s not worth putting on gloves. You have to get involved, fill your hands with dirt, make the hole, sow the plant, and place seeds. The contact involved with gardening helps to calm your mind, and it’s a feeling that has been a part of human history since the invention of agriculture.
Even the ancient Roman orator Cicero talked about the joys and calming benefits of an activity such as gardening.
You don’t need to have an entire garden either. Try to take care of a live plant and care for it daily. Use it as your time to clear your head.
How do you calm your mind? What are some of your favorite habits or hobbies that allow you to clear your head when you find it’s lost in thought? Share in the comments below.