It can be difficult to unwind when your mind is racing and you are stressed out. The good news is that there are many ways to calm your mind, even if you don't have a lot of time on your hands.
In this post, we will discuss 5 simple yet effective methods for helping you unwind and de-stress no matter what life throws at you.
Our breathing is a powerful way to regulate our emotions, and yet it's something we take for granted. Through your breath, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system—the calming response in your body.
Using your breath, you can change how you feel. In one study, researchers observed people as they were feeling different emotions and they found that there was a different pattern of breath for each one. Then, they gave another set of people the different breathing patterns to perform and asked them, “How do you feel?”. It turned out that doing those breathing exercises actually evoked the same emotions that had been observed in the first group. In other words, our emotions influence our breathing AND our breathing influences our emotions.
One of the most effective breathing exercises you can do to relax is slow, deep breathing. Breathe in to your belly to a count of four, hold, and then breathe out for up to twice as long (e.g., to a count of six or eight). You can play with increasing the count if your body feels ready to slow down even more. You can gently constrict your throat, making a sound like the ocean, which is used in deep relaxation breathing. As you’re doing this, especially thanks to those long exhales, you’re activating the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure.
If stress, has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying meditation. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace.
Meditation is the practice of focusing on a single point for an extended period. There are many different meditation practices, and you can find one that suits your lifestyle best.
Anyone can practice meditation. It's simple and inexpensive, and it doesn't require any special equipment.
One simple form of meditation is through simply observing your breath. Sitting in a comfortable position, with your back straight, head centered and eyes closed, bring your full attention to your breathing. Without controlling your inhales and exhales, simply observe them and note their qualities: is the beath deep or shallow, fast or slow, long or short?
You can also practice counting your breaths. On an inhale, count each time you reach the top of your inhale until you reach 10 breaths. Then, start counting again from 1 but this time counting at the bottom each exhale. This is a simple yet effective way to bring your attention fully to the breath. Don't worry if you lose count or if your mind starts wandering elsewhere – simply notice that your attention has drifted, and gently bring it back to the breath.
Imagining yourself in a calm place can help release stress. This method may not be as effective if there's something specific bothering you, so make sure to take care of those things first before using this technique.
When visualizing your calming scene, think about what you are experiencing through all of your senses. Notice what you hear, smell, taste and how your body feels. When you feel ready to leave your relaxation scene, take your time and gradually return your mind to the present.
- Mindful Walking
Mindfulness means being present with the thoughts and feelings we have without judgment or attachment. It’s about making space for ourselves amidst all the demands life throws at us—whether it's our own expectations or someone else’s needs/expectations.
As you walk, feel the weight of your body on the bottom of your feet. Feel your arms swinging with each stride. If you find thoughts coming into your mind, gently acknowledge that they are there and then let them go and redirect your focus to the sensations you're feeling as you walk. Stay focused on the now.
- Take time out first thing in the morning
The morning offers a great opportunity to kickstart your mindfulness. The day is just beginning, it is nice and quiet, and you may have a few moments to yourself. Instead of getting out of bed and rushing through a morning routine, sit for a few minutes. Think about being grateful for the day and just let yourself be in the present.
You might just choose to sit on the couch and concentrate on controlled breathing, or can also take up meditation. Doing so will help you start each day off with the right frame of mind.
Being calm helps you connect more to both your mind, heart, body and soul. Try a few of these methods out and see the difference that mindfulness can make.