How to calm the racing mind?
These days we hardly ever give our minds a break. Whether it is our private life or work we are constantly engaged, always-on. If we are not socialising, we are on our phone or skype. When we are not talking to other people, we are glued to whats app or scrolling through social media channels. Every day we are trying to get through our emails, we are checking news updates, listening to podcasts, watching youtube tutorials or the list of top 10 holiday destinations of the year, while checking the weather app or learning a language on duolingo.
Yes some of those things are fun and make us happy, never the less our mind is constantly engaged. We are analysing the present, planning for the future or ruminating over the past. When posed the question “how are they feeling right now”, 90% of people in my workshops answer – “tired”. Half of the time when I ask someone how they have been they answer – “busy”. We are in a constant state of being too busy, trying to get through everything but never quite getting to the bottom of our to-do list. We are often not aware of when we have adopted this lifestyle, we don’t remember how it is not to be busy, unless we go on a long anticipated holiday and even then it takes us few days to fully switch off and enjoy the state of not doing.
We believe this is the norm. Unfortunately, it is not the norm for our brain. Our lifestyle has changed massively over a very short period of time but our brains haven’t had time to catch up, no matter what we do our brain can’t evolve as fast as technology. This means that our mind is overloaded with information and not equipped to process this amount of data on daily basis. Often our urge is to do more, to know more, to experience more but we forget that it can get too much. It might work in the short term but when we focus on the long game it is draining and unproductive.
Anxiety disorders are on the rise. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization while the biggest threat to building an engaged workforce in 2018 is employee burnout. Looking at the stats it becomes pretty obvious that modern society is not doing the best job at supporting our wellbeing and general levels of happiness. I would love to see large shifts in policy which would positively impact our social lives and work culture but until this happens it is up to us, to look after our minds in a most constructive way. Given the levels of stress and demands that we are facing each day it should become our priority.
I meet a lot of people who think meditation is not for them, who believe their mind is way too busy to sit still and who hate the background sound of a waterfall or Buddhist chimes . I get you! Believe me you don’t need of the above to start experiencing the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Your mind needs a rest, it needs to reset from time to time, to disconnect from the constant flow of information, planning and analysing. All you need to do is find a place when you can be uninterrupted, sit down on a bench or chair or anything else you find handy for the duration of three minutes. Nothing more.
3 minutes of noticing your breath, your thoughts, your emotional state with kindness and without judgment. You are not supposed to stop thinking, you are not supposed to feel calm or relaxed, all you need to do is be present with yourself for that short moment in your day. If you are having lots of thoughts that is ok, notice them and try to gently let them go, if you are having lots of feelings and different opinions, that is fine sit through it and notice how everything changes, comes and goes, nothing lingers on for too long. Let your mind quiet down a little, focus it on your senses, so the sounds around you, the smell, the physical sensations of temperature, your body sitting down and that place where you can sense your breath most. Whatever happens, stay with it, don’t judge yourself and let whatever comes come. You have got to try it to understand how easy yet how magical this can be. De-cluttering the mind, focusing on what we truly need to focus on, being more resilient and more resistant to distractions, being more kind towards yourself and others.
This is mindfulness.