It’s no secret that times have been tough over the last few years. From cost of living struggles to the COVID pandemic, we have certainly had to learn some resilience in recent times. With all of these external stresses it’s important to make sure that you take time out for yourself and engage in some activities that clear your mind when life gets a bit hectic.
Your environment, the people you spend time with and some of the activities that you participate in have a huge effect on your mindset and also can have a cumulative effect on your mental state and if left unchecked can lead you to a darker mental place.
So if you feel the level of overwhelm build in your life, it’s time to take a step back and work towards clearing your mind and improving your mental state and mindset. Below we go through 7 tips to help clear the mind.
Give your bedroom or living area a good clean
When life starts to get a bit hectic it’s easy to get behind in some of your household chores. This includes the tidying of rooms, in particular your bedroom. Whether it’s clothes all over the place, sheets and blankets that need a good clean or having lots of junk on your bed, giving your bedroom a good clean can help with your mindset and clear your mind.
Every day you come home after work to a messy room this adds to any of your daily or work frustrations and general mental clutter and this can keep you in a funk and off your normal equilibrium.
If the decluttering or cleaning job is a big one then start small. Start with tidy up clothes or in one corner of the room. Once you see the improvement in the small part you have completed you will want to finish the rest off as you can see the results. The improvement in your mindset will then be light and day.
Even a light dusting or wiping down of surface areas can add a spring to your step. Another way you can clear your mind is to go through your wardrobe and get rid of any clothes that you no longer wear, no longer fit or are getting a bit long in the tooth.
It’s amazing how mentally refreshed you feel once you’ve given your bedroom or house a good decluttering or clean.
Take up a meditation or mindfulness session
Living in today’s world seems to be non-stop. The lines between work and home are blurred, social media has added to our daily pressures as does cost of living stresses that don’t look like easing up any time soon. Sometimes you need to take a break from everything and look for something mentally freshing.
Meditation and mindfulness are great examples of activities that can provide ways to improve your mental health, relax the body (and mind) and bring some sanity into your life.
Even something so simple as focused breathing has some great benefits for your mind.
What is meditation and what can I expect?
According to popular website/app Headspace, meditation is “It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.”
Regarding the experience a beginner to meditation may experience, the Mindworks website suggests beginner meditation practitioners “find themselves distracted by thoughts when they try to settle down to meditate. Somehow, instead of staying focused on the sensation of breathing, the mind naturally pulls us in the direction of our to-do lists, hopes, and worries. When this happens, we might think there is something wrong and wonder if we’ll ever be able to meditate properly. There are so many other things that need to be done – maybe, we think, we’re just wasting our time when we simply sit.
With time, though, our ability to remain with the practice increases and we start having subtle experiences that confirm that our meditation practice is working. We notice that our thoughts and sensations are less likely to disturb the feelings of completeness and peace that meditation produces. It may take longer than we anticipated, but sooner or later we’re going to discover that the journey is the important part: in fact, the journey is the goal.”
What is mindfulness and what can I expect?
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests some of the benefits you will experience from mindfulness include “benefits are self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion.”
Similar to meditation above, it may take a little bit of experience to get to this level however stick with it, the benefits are worth it and your body and mind will thank you for it.
What happens if you’ve never done this before?
An important part of both meditation and mindfulness is to try and let everything in your mind go. Focus on being present and try not to think of anything. Don’t be concerned if your mind won’t stay still or if your brain is working overtime, this gets better the longer you practice meditation or mindfulness.
Keep doing it no matter how little you think you are getting out of it. It’s rare that someone picks up meditation and mindfulness straight away, it takes time and practice, however the more experienced you become the more you will begin to see the positive effects of meditation and mindfulness through most aspects of your life.
How to engage in meditation or mindfulness?
If you haven’t had experience with meditation or mindfulness, don’t be afraid to try this. A simple entry to mediation or mindfulness can be through a YouTube video from a quality practitioner or by downloading a specific app such as Brain.fm or Headspace.
We’ve written about the great things from the Brain.fm app before and if you want to trial Brain.fm click on this link and use the discount code yourgoalsyourlife (should you sign up after your trial you will receive a 30% discount off the regular price).
The other alternative is to seek out in person meditation or mindfulness classes or instructors and trial one of their classes or sessions. With all of the above options give them a go and stick to what you feel comfortable with. If it’s not working, move onto another instructor, app or class.
The end result of both of these exercises is being more present and being a better version of yourself. A better partner, a better employee, a better person. You should get better use of your mind, hopefully a better memory, easier recall and a more sharper mind.
Take a break from your phone, devices and social media
Mobile device use and social media (good or bad) has become a large part of people’s lives in recent years.
Whilst more and more studies have shown the negative aspects of using devices, computers as well as the increasing negative effects of sustained social media use it’s time we cut back our device and social media use.
Look at how using devices and social media impacts your life and what changes you can make to improve this. Is your family life and relationships affected by constant device and social media use? Is your health beginning to suffer and your weight increasing due to these unhealthy habits?
Is your device use at night affecting your sleep and as a result your long term health? If this is the case, put down your phones and devices at least an hour before sleep to help build a better nighttime routine and enable a more healthier sleep.
That’s not to say we have to stop using devices, computers or social media forever, just put some boundaries in place. Ask yourself if it is becoming a problem in your life where you spend far too much of your time on devices, computers (for personal use) or your social media accounts.
As we discuss below, do some physical activity and spend some time outdoors. Catch up with friends and relatives as a change to spending hours and hours at a time on your device scrolling through your social media feeds. Take up a new hobby, read a book, something that will help expand your mindset and take you away from the online world.
Anyone that has used social media for a substantial period of time can attest to the positive feelings when you’ve had a decent break, when going back make sure you are in control and have other activities and events in your life.
Get some exercise, preferably outdoors
Changing your environment and getting outside for a walk offers a great opportunity to clear your head and refocus. You could also reach out to a friend or family member to spend some time with them while undertaking some form of exercise.
Other benefits of exercising include becoming more focused, creative as well as getting healthier. Exercising and getting back into nature allows you to become more grounded, more relaxed and feeling more appreciative of life and place in the world.
Studies have shown how exercise benefits your mental state. Similar studies have also shown the benefits of spending time outdoors or in nature. Looking back at the last time you spent enjoying some quality time in nature or out in the ocean, how relaxed and centered did you feel?
Simple exercises you can start today include a walk around the block, a walk to and around your local park or for the more fitter person a long hike along your local trail or in a national park.
Other exercise ideas could include a visit to the gym to lift some weights or participate in a class. A social or more organized game of sport such as football or basketball. Getting out on the ocean for a swim, a snorkel or scuba dive or for the more daring a windsurfing or kitesurfing session.
If you haven’t been exercising for a while, visit your doctor or health professional before undertaking a new exercise program but start this today, your body and mind will thank you for it.
Write down your feelings
Experts have been sprouting the benefits of writing for years. This could be in the form of gratitude statements, writing to a long lost friend or ideally through the daily or regular writing of a journal.
The act of writing can also help you analyze why you feel a certain way or why you act out when triggered. This can help see any underlying issues you may have, some underlying mental blocks that you may not have been aware of.
Even if you are angry with someone and need to vent, writing down your feelings (rather than exploding at someone) is a great way or relieving yourself of this anger without causing any long lasting issues.
You can then decide on whether to act on these feelings however this can act as a buffer rather than you spewing out these emotions at or on someone which could put someone offside or even worse cause damage to relationships (personal or workplace) or to your reputation.
If you are the creative type, this writing can be in the form of music or even a written story.
If you are going to take up the journaling habit, make sure you write consistently. This could be daily, weekly or even monthly however stick to this schedule. The practice loses some of its meaning if it is haphazard or irregular so where possible stick to a regular timeframe.
Don’t force yourself to write. Some days the writing will pour out of you, for others it may be a trickle. Similar to meditation and mindfulness, write what is there, don’t force it. Capturing your written thoughts has a great many benefits and is a great look through into your growth as a person, particularly if you take up the writing habit at a younger age.
Spend some time with people you enjoy
Nothing beats spending quality time with family and friends, the people who matter the most in your life.
As a younger person you may not have much choice to hang out with your family however for the more older readers, when was the last time you spent with your parents, grandparents or your favorite relative?
When was the last time you had a night out with your best friends or even a date night with your partner? It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of life however it’s important to spend time with the people who mean the most in your life.
When you get older you aren’t going to be regretting that you should have spent more time in the office or doing meaningless chores, you will be wishing you spent more time with those who matter.
If you haven’t recently, reach out to close friends and family and if they live close by, organize a time to catch up and spend some quality time in their company. Observe how happy you are when you do this and how much your stress levels drop and how life problems are forgotten or fall away when catching up with great people.
Getting some much needed rest
How many times have you snapped at someone due to being tired and at your wits end? As we’ve touched on previously, our lives are a lot busier these days and our sleep seems to be the main victim of our ever demanding schedules.
A good night’s sleep can solve a lot of your problems or at least give you a much better insight to how to solve them. Not only does a good night sleep help provide a solid mental state, it helps improve your immune system, your mental capacity and your overall health levels.
Some tips to improve your sleep:
Have a sleep routine
Includes winding down at night
Avoiding computers and devices close to sleep
Regular sleep time and wake time
Sleep in a cool, dark room with a quality mattress
Try to waken at the end of a sleep cycle
Avoid alcohol or food close to your bedtime
Follow these above tips and chances are you will be feeling like a new person. Not only will your mental state be refreshed you should be feeling a lot better physically and most areas of your life should see this improvement.
These are just some suggested tips if you are struggling to work on reducing stress levels in your life. You may also have some other tips that you practice that get you in a better mental state and if these work, keep using them. If you are still struggling after trying the above exercises then it’s time to reach out to a qualified medical or mental health professional.