Ever feel like your mind is as cluttered as a messy desk? Multiple tasks and responsibilities clamor for your attention, such as caring for children or elderly parents, worry over relationships or financial issues, coupled with the latest news from always-on technology. It can leave your mind feeling like a scrambled egg.
When your mind gets cluttered like this, you are not just momentarily distracted. Your thoughts jump everywhere, and it can be hard to focus on any one thing for more than a few seconds. Productivity suffers, as well as the ability to make good decisions, and you may be tempted to indulge in unhealthy foods or drinks in an attempt to get some short-term relief.
Consider these 10 easy-to-implement, effective, healthful ways to help declutter, calm, and soothe your mind instead.
- Practice meditation.
- The benefits of meditation and mindfulness are well documented.1 The practice is simple: Sit in a comfortable position, then focus on your breathing. When your mind drifts (and it will!), gently bring it back to the present moment and refocus on your breathing. That’s all there is to it. With practice, anyone can easily fit in 20 minutes a day, even with the busiest schedule.
- Listen to binaural beats.
- In binaural beat technology, two slightly different tones are played into each of your ears using headphones.2 Make sure to listen to these “beats” at a healthy volume that is not too loud. Your brain constructs a “third tone,” which is the difference in frequency between the two tones. These third tones are programmed to replicate brainwave frequencies, such as alpha waves (at a frequency of 8–13 Hz), and facilitate a state of relaxation.2 You can find plenty of binaural beat tracks, free and paid, for both iPhone and Android.
- Try HRV biofeedback.
- Heart rate variability (HRV) is an important but little-known measure of heart health. Your heart is not meant to beat in a completely rigid way. The healthy heart actually has quite a bit of flexibility in the time from one beat to the next. Learning to increase your heart rate variability by doing breathing exercises with a simple HRV biofeedback monitor is not only good for your heart’s health, but it can lower your stress level as well.3
- Go forest bathing.
- No, not taking a shower in the woods! The Japanese concept of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, means immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the forest, but not for exercise or even going for a walk.4 Forest bathing is a way to reconnect with nature and take in the forest through your senses. Simply find a spot, perhaps in a wooded park near your home, and just wander. Follow your heart as to where to go next and take in the fragrance of the woods. Feel the breeze on your skin. Leave your camera at home. Research on forest bathing shows the practice is helpful to those experiencing chronic stress.4
- Take a nap.
- Taking a midafternoon snooze won’t make up for chronically poor sleep at night, but it can go a long way in improving your performance, mood, and alertness.5 You can avoid the postnap stupor by limiting naps to 20 to 30 minutes at a time, providing the benefits without hampering nighttime sleep.
- Cut the caffeine.
- You may have a love affair with coffee, which stimulates the central nervous system and supports mental focus, but at high levels, caffeine is unlikely to be your best friend when it comes to your health. Caffeine is a psychoactive drug, which probably explains why it’s one of the most popular substances in the world. Caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure and signal the body to release more stress hormones. Any one of these effects is enough to provoke anxiety. Practice moderation with caffeine sources or take a break altogether; in order to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, cut back on coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks gradually and substitute decaf for your normal amount of regular coffee.
- Restore with yoga.
- Restorative yoga is decidedly different from the usual routine. Based on the work and teachings of the legendary B.K.S. Iyengar, the goal of this type of yoga is deep relaxation and rest. A typical restorative yoga sequence is usually made up of only about a half dozen poses. Props are used, which allow you to completely relax and let go. A review of 25 research studies suggest that a regular yoga practice can help you to regulate your sympathetic nervous system, which controls your stress response, as well as help to decrease symptoms of anxiety.7
- Get grateful.
- Cultivating the attitude of gratitude has been shown not only to be good for your physical health, but can also boost your mood, improve your sleep, and enhance your feelings of wellbeing.8 Keeping a daily gratitude journal or simply thinking of three things you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep can increase your sense of wellbeing as well as happiness.
- Clean up your act.
- Physical clutter, whether it’s a messy house or a disorganized office, can negatively affect your mood, your ability to focus, and your energy. But for many people, the thought of clearing away clutter can itself be a source of stress. Start by reflecting on why you have accumulated so much stuff. Then mindfully assign a place for each item in your environment. Make your new-found organization a part of your routine by setting time aside daily or weekly to tidy up. You’ll be amazed at what an uncluttered work and living area can do for your emotional health.
- Try hunger.
- Intermittent fasting, the practice of going without food for a specified time each day or week, is gaining in popularity. When people eat multiple times a day, the pancreas secretes insulin constantly to help manage blood sugar levels, leading the body to store a lot of those extra calories as fat. If you want to try intermittent fasting, start small, by eating an early dinner (e.g. 5 PM) then stop eating for the day. Next day, have breakfast at 8 AM. This gives you about 15 hours without any food. You may be surprised at the effects of giving your body prolonged rest from the work of digestion. Consult with your healthcare practitioner before you begin.
- Practice meditation.
So start decluttering your mind. Pick one of these tips and incorporate it into your life. Then add others as desired. You will love your newfound sense of calm!
- Madhav G et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357-368.
- Wahbeh H et al. Binaural beat technology in humans: a pilot study to assess psychologic and physiologic effects. J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13(1):25-32.
- Prinsloo GE et al. The effect of short duration heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback on cognitive performance during laboratory induced cognitive stress. Appl Cognit Psychol. 2010;25(5):792-801.
- Morita E et al. Psychological effects of forest environments on healthy adults: shinrin-yoku (forest-air bathing, walking) as a possible method of stress reduction. Public Health. 2007;121(1):54-63.
- Kaida K et al. Short nap and natural bright light exposure improve positive mood status. Industrial Health. 2007;45(2):301-308.
- Lovallo WR et al. Caffeine stimulation of cortisol secretion across the waking hours in relation to caffeine intake levels. Psychosom Med. 2008;67(5):734-739.
- Pascoe MC et al. A systematic review of randomized control trials on the effects of yoga on stress measures and mood. J Psychiatr Res. 2015;68:270-282.
- Wood AM et al. Gratitude predicts psychological well-being above the Big Five facets. Pers Individ Dif. 2009;46(4):443-447.
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team