Many of us wake up in the morning with lots on our minds...plans for the day, tasks to follow up on, conversations from the previous day. Emotions are often connected to many of these thoughts as we anticipate our day - sometimes excited thoughts of what is to come but often also worry thoughts or angry thoughts that stick in our minds. We often jump into our routines without pause and proceed steadily through the day, busy with our work and our families and other activities and interests. We are unaware that our minds are on overload. We tell ourselves that we will slow down later: when we finish this class, when our children are out of diapers, when our children are off to college, when our work deadlines have been met, when we retire. In the process, we often barely pause to take a breath.
Our culture encourages this and we get positive recognition for our efforts, but we need to also consider the cost of this lifestyle. When we keep going without taking care of our minds, we function in a stressed manner, despite our efforts to accomplish more, we are actually less productive, less efficient, and less creative. Most of all, we are missing out on today, on these moments and what they have to offer.
Hopefully, you are a person who already prioritizes your vacations and take time off to vacation regularly. This can be a wonderful way to rebalance and refresh ourselves, but our vacations are spread out and often we are extremely busy getting ready for vacation, enjoying ourselves on vacation and getting on top of things after returning from vacation.
Perhaps you also make sure to take time off each week to slow down and allow yourself to decompress. And I do recommend finding a way to build meditation or yoga into your weekly routine. Many of us are aware of the benefits of meditation or yoga to unclutter the mind and decrease our stress. A half-hour once a week will do wonders in reminding you of the benefits of relaxing and uncluttering your mind. There are many resources which can help with meditation practices, and yoga can also be practiced at home or many other locations. This is very helpful and also helps us keep our balance. But I would suggests to you that it is not enough.
I encourage you to consider how to build short breaks into your day, every day, to breathe and clear your mind. To let go of all the thoughts swirling around. Despite the benefits you will feel from a weekly practice, it is extremely beneficial to develop daily habits where you can pause to unclutter the mind multiple times during your daily routine. A few minutes can make a huge difference!!!
The best way to remember to develop a new habit is to practice strategies daily that you pair with other activities. When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, take a couple minutes to take a few breaths. Breathe in through your nose slowly, feel the air enter your lungs. Put your hands on your belly and relax it. Allow the breath into your lungs and feel your belly expand. This is belly breathing. Focusing on the breathing instead of your thoughts. This is an excellent way to unclutter your mind. You can follow the same practice at night time right before or after you lie down for sleep. Take three to five minutes to breathe slow belly breaths as you relax and unclutter your mind. Don’t try to think of anything in particular. Recognize when thoughts come into your mind and let them drift away as you focus again on your breathing
Now, how to accomplish this during the day: if you stop for lunch or dinner, perhaps you can utilize a strategy to unclutter your mind either before or after these meals. You don’t have to close your eyes but you can if you want to. The only essential thing is to pause briefly (perhaps three to five minutes) and focus on something other than your swirling thoughts to unclutter your mind. The great thing about breathing is that you can do it anywhere and anytime. Others may not even realize that you are doing anything differently but you will feel a benefit.
Another strategy to unclutter your mind is to focus on something else. Nature can be soothing. Instead of focusing on your breathing, you can look out a window and focus on a tree or a garden or the stars or the horizon. Finding a way to do this during your work day can be especially relaxing if you have been doing lots of close up work or staring at a screen for hours. It is helpful to relax the eyes as well as unclutter the mind. You will be amazed to find that if you take a five minute break from work and look out the window for five minutes, you will return to your work able to be more productive, more creative and with less stress.