Do you find it hard to calm your mind and become mindful of your internal thoughts/feelings and external environment? Most of our best decisions and deepest insights come to us when we’re calm and clear-headed. Unfortunately, we are plagued by incessant mental noise. Our minds are filled with a never-ending commentary of complaining, comparing, judging, commenting, speculating, voicing likes and dislikes…it’s no wonder we find it hard to focus! In this article, we’ll explain the concept of mindfulness, and introduce 4 powerful mindfulness practices to help you calm your mind.
The Power of Mindfulness
Mindfulness practice is like building an “off” switch for your mind. It helps to break negative thought patterns, reduce stress and anxiety, sharpen your focus, and awaken you to what’s happening around (and inside) you.
It’s no wonder that it’s a key daily practice for big names like Ray Dalio (billionaire founder of the world’s largest hedge fund firm), Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post Media Group), Ed Catmull (of Pixar & Disney Animation) Oprah Winfrey, Ellon Musk, the late Steve Jobs, and many other successful people.
We’ll now dive into 4 simple but powerful practices that you can apply immediately to cultivate mindfulness and tap into your inner wisdom. You can combine any of these techniques and use them as part of your daily practice, clear your head and calm your mind.
Calm your Mind with 4 Mindfulness Practices
“Catch” your thoughts
This is a great exercise if you find it hard to quieten your mind. Just close your eyes and say to yourself, “I wonder what my next thought is going to be”. Then, just wait for the next thought to emerge, like a cat watching a mouse hole with full alertness. Hold it for as long as you can, to train your mind for silence.
Conscious breathing & smiling
These are 2 important building blocks of mindfulness. Focus fully on your in-breath and out-breath, to bring yourself back to the present moment, smiling to relax yourself and bring calm and peace. You can apply these 2 building blocks to any of your daily activities, e.g. do “walking meditation” by enjoying each step (rather than simply get to your destination). Coordinate your steps with your breathing (e.g. taking 4 slow steps with each in-breath and 4 steps with each out-breath); notice how your feet make contact with the earth, smile and enjoy the feeling of peace and contentment.
Observe space & silence
To develop stillness and greater awareness, try to listen for the silence between and underneath the words and sounds, rather than the sounds themselves. Focus on the space or “nothingness” between things around you, rather than the items themselves.
Stream of consciousness writing
It’s powerful to think on paper. Choose a question or subject, set a timer for 10 minutes, and write down every thought that comes to you on that subject. Don’t stop to censor or edit; just keep writing whatever comes to mind. You’ll probably find yourself producing both gibberish and profound insights. Allow the thoughts to flow uninterrupted for 10 minutes. Then, take a break and review what you’ve written, circling out key themes, and repeating the exercise or asking more questions to look deeper into an issue.
Each of these practices are easy to apply, and take no more than a few minutes. The key is to consciously apply them. Set aside 10-15 minutes daily to apply at least one of these techniques, or the next time you find yourself feeling anxious or having a mental block.
Don’t forget to try out these power techniques today!