A calm mind promotes peace, confidence, and ultimately happiness. This is what could be termed as having good mental health or wellbeing.
What does a calm mind mean to you? This week I’ll be sharing three techniques that you can use to harness a calm mind.
Consider this; how often in your day do you find your mind racing; what’s to be done now?; what needs to be done later?; What shall I cook for tea?; I need to make an appointment here, sort out a bill there, visit parents, make plans with friends, get to the gym, take the dog out for a walk, cut the grass; call that man back about the plumbing; follow up that email around a table booking…. and a gazillion other things that busy our minds throughout the day, and sometimes in the middle of the night too. It’s impossible to find peace amongst that constant chatter, nonetheless, most of us live each and every day just like that, without giving it much thought.
Now consider this; think back to those moments of pure joy, where you felt totally relaxed. Your whole physiology soft, your mind at ease, you felt light, perhaps with a smile on your face and warmth in your body. Simply put, you were at peace my friend.
So if it’s possible to experience it once, it’s possible to recreate that experience. In fact it’s possible to encourage it, seek it out, harness it, until it becomes second nature. If you read my blog you’ll know my life has had it’s fair share of ups and downs (and very downs). My mum was a worrier, I’m a worrier. I like to plan and have everything organised, and when I can’t, when I’m not in control, I can find my self going off into orbit. I haven’t perfected this, I’m human, I’m a work in progress. I have though, improved massively. I can now bring myself back from said orbit, whereas before I’d get lost up there with a whirling mind. I now have techniques and methods I use to support my mind to be altogether calmer, and get back there much quicker when I need it to. Here I”m going to share three of my favourite ways to harness a calm mind…
Stick it to stuff
When my mum and dad married, sometime in the 1940’s, their possessions were few. The bedside tables were made out of old crates with a cloth laid over them; other items, such as pots and pans, were made up of offerings from family members, and I have no doubt that all of their combined clothes and shoes would have fit into a single wardrobe. They had a radio, but no TV or telephone. Did this lack of possessions mean they were unhappy, no, not in the least. I know they were very happy. For their honeymoon my dad made my mum two dresses to take away with her. How amazing would that be? I’ve often thought about the love, care and intent that went into that act, and how my mum would have felt when she received them. They weren’t just possessions at all, but demonstrations of love and kindness. In our modern day, we have multiple dresses and some hang in our wardrobes still with the labels on from when we bought them. Possessions consume our modern society, they can create competition and jealousy. People want more, bigger, shinier. Possessions trap us and tie us down. We work long hours, often under pressure, to pay for more and more possessions, but still it’s not enough. Searching out that something that will give us more than a short term buzz, we buy more and more. When you really think about it, it’s utterly bonkers. We are in fact feeding a monster of unhappiness.
Buddhist monks often live in modest, plain abodes. Their possessions are practical rather than fanciful or whimsical. In Daniel Goleman’s book ‘The Science of Meditation’ he talks about his trip to India and the buddhist monk he met, Khunu Lama, he reflects on how Khunu Lama, and his fellow monks, always seemed at peace and offered an abundance of kindness and compassion. What would it look like if you gave your possessions away to someone who might need a helping hand?
What if you decided to live differently in order to find an altogether more peaceful and calm way of life?
- Set your stall out to live more simply. Write, draw or paint a vision so you will know what it will look, feel and sound like.
- Consider what benefits to your wellbeing this would have and write them down.
- Make a list of all of the things that are you willing to give up, give away, stop buying?
Retrain your Brain
As the saying goes, ‘you get what you focus on’. This is more than just one of those ‘inspirational’ quotes though, it reflects how our brains work. Our conscious mind tries to help us out in life, and rather unhelpfully at times, will go about the business of deleting and distorting what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel. If we focus on the negative, then that’s predominantly what we see and hear. If we believe something is going to taste bad, it probably will. If we feel self conscious, we’ll probably think everyone is staring at us. If we think the car park is going to be full because ‘it always is..’, you probably won’t see the two spaces you’ve just driven by or the one that’s about to come up. Our brains can be silly, adolescent, at times so we have to keep them in check.
Brain plasticity has been proven scientifically. We know that we can change the way our brains function, we can also change existing behavioural brain patterns (or habits), and it’s actually not that difficult if you know how.
You will need to be:
- Determined to change your behaviour for a calmer mind
Recognise: The first stage is to recognise, in the moment, when you are shifting from calm to a negative emotion, e.g. annoyed or frustrated. Shifts in our mood can be quick and often not thought about, they happen at a very subconscious level. Consciously raising your self awareness in this way is an important stage in changing behaviour. The next time you catch yourself getting annoyed or frustrated at your partner, recognise it consciously, say to yourself something like ‘I’m getting annoyed’. Then say to yourself, I have a choice not to let this upset my calmness, I have a choice about how I feel.
Reframe: Every time you catch yourself shifting from calm to a negative emotion, do this.
Whilst tapping gently on your chin, say to yourself ‘I have a choice about how I feel and I choose to be calm’. Stop tapping and take a deep, slow, breath (in through the nose, out through the mouth), then smile and keep that smile on your face until you feel a shift in your mood. This is what you’ve just done; the chin tapping is the end point of your central meridian, and is the point that is used in hypnosis and for self suggestion. The smiling sends a signal to your brain and releases your feel good chemicals so what started out as a fake smile, is now the real deal. The set up statement you used will help to anchor the choice you’ve made not to get annoyed about what just happened.
Note: It’s important to use a positive based phrase about what you will do, rather than what you won’t do.
Repeat this activity every single time you catch yourself getting annoyed (or whatever emotion it is you feel).
Yes, that again. I’m not making any apologies for including meditation again, it’s a staple and if you haven’t given it a go or have found it difficult to get into, I’d urge you to keep going, don’t give up it’s worth it. You don’t have to meditate all day, or even for an hour to feel the benefits. With the development in neuroscience technology it has been proven that regular meditation changes the patterns in your brain. The mind becomes calmer, anxiety and negative emotions are reduced.
If you’re new to this a guided meditation is a good option and 10 to 15 minutes is a good duration. If you want to talk about 1:1 or small private group guided meditation sessions or group events get in touch with me. When I first started meditating regularly I subscribed to Headspace, you can access sample meditations for free and then if you want full access, it’s around £70 for an annual subscription. I really loved this app and there’s lots of meditation packs to choose from (no affiliation).
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