In today’s world, we are constantly attempting to balance our work, play and social events; in-between juggling our technological addictions and down-time. We have become increasingly fixated on our screens, busying our minds relentlessly to the point we are actually finding it increasingly harder to calm and still our minds for that inner-peace. Furthermore, each and every day in our lives we are exposed to approximately 5000 adverts; there is no wonder so many people suffer from anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia. When do we actually give ourselves time to truly switch off from all that we call life?
Stilling the mind is something that I have been working on for a few years now; through the process of stilling the mind, I have overcome anxiety, depression and insomnia. Mental-stillness (meditation) is increasingly being recognised as the ‘medicine that cures all mental ills’. Once we can attain that mental stillness, we can find that longed-for, inner-peace – the real mental rest we truly need.
It can be hard to find the time in our busy schedules to fully relax and ‘switch-off’. After testing out many different forms of meditation practices such as Vipassana (silent 10-day meditation retreat) and a 6-month Transcendental Meditation course, I have worked out certain fundamental techniques that is needed in order to achieve mental-stillness. However, I understand that these retreats are not practical for everyone. Therefore, I have formulated the following simple tips in order to help you to achieve that inner-peace that you truly deserve, without needing to spend thousands on retreats. It is imperative we give ourselves the time each day to fully reconnect to ourselves; this is when the answers we are searching for can finally come to us with ease and without too much effort. You will notice your inner-state becoming calmer, improving the overall quality of your life.
My Top 10 Tips on How to Achieve Mental-Stillness:
1. Morning-stillness (A short 10-minute Vipassana-technique meditation)
Morning is the most important time of the day with regards to how we will feel for the rest of the day. Therefore, we must gift ourselves at least 10 minutes to ourselves of complete silence and stillness. Upon awakening, set aside yourself 10 minutes on a timer, sitting up-right, with no distractions and just stay present in your body. Close your eyes and take three long and deep neutral breaths – neutral breaths are when you don’t hold any pauses from the in-breath to the out-breath. Breathing deeply allows the body to enter a meditative state of being, allowing you to become more present and focused. From there, allow your breath to return to its natural rhythm.
- Start by focusing your concentration on the top of the head (the crown)
- Move your focus very slowly down the body from this point. The front of the face, the sides of the face and the back of the head.
- Become aware of any sensations that you notice in each area.
- Move your attention to your right shoulder, then to the top of your right arm, moving to the lower part of your right arm and your hand and fingers individually.
- Again, just observing any sensations throughout without judgement or aversion (dislike).
- Repeat the same process on the other side starting with the left shoulder.
- Then focus on the neck, the chest and your abdomen.
- Feel the right hip, the front of right thigh, back of the thigh, the right knee, the front of the shin, back of the shin and the foot, noticing the heel, ball and each individual toe.
- Repeat the same process on the other side from the left hip. Then from the back of the neck feel the back of the shoulders, the top of your back, the middle of the back and the lower back – again noticing any sensations and observing these feelings throughout without judgement.
- Then re-focus the attention at the crown of the head; by this stage it should have taken you a good few minutes and the mind should start to feel much less cluttered and calm.
- Keep the focus on the crown, just observe any sensations throughout your body, and again, observing any thoughts.
- Take a few deep neutral breaths and by this point you may have experienced a level of stillness in this time; if not don’t worry, it takes practice.
Observe how you feel, hopefully you will be feeling much more calm, still and centred by this point, enabling you to prepare for the day ahead with much more focus and presence in each moment. The more you practice this, you may begin to notice how your day unfolds with greater ease and serenity. Repeat the same process before you sleep at night.
2. Be Mindful of Your Sugar and Caffeine Intake
Both of these substances effect the central nervous system, specifically the sympathetic nervous system; causing it to ‘speed up’. If consumed in excess, feeling of anxiety, worry, hyper-activity and a sense of feeling ‘wired’ may increase. Both sugar and caffeine, when consumed in excess, may cause the mind to become over-active and ‘busy’, resulting in a much tougher time achieving any desired mental-stillness. Lower your intake of caffeinated drinks to 1-2 cups per day, and keep your sugar intake as low as possible (approximately 30g or less per day) – if excess sugar consumption is an issue to you, be sure to check out my ‘sugar-free’ top tips on how you can quit sugar, for good.
3. Switch-off from the Screens!
Allow yourself the gift of switching-off from any form of technology for at least one hour each day. YES 1 HOUR! I know this might sound hard, but trust me, it is SO worth it! Turn off the TV, switch your smartphone to aeroplane mode, turn off the tablet and the laptop, and just focus your attention on something relaxing and calming. Find something that you enjoy in this time that does not busy the mind in any way. For example, you could read a fiction book, spend time with family members or friends or even receive a massage or any other holistic treatment if you feel like indulging – you deserve this time! I can guarantee by switching off from technology for at least one hour a day, you will increase your overall level of calm and serenity; allowing you to become more present thus achieving a greater sense of mental-stillness. Also remember to switch-off from any form of technology for at least one hour before bed. This will allow the mind to slow down, preparing you for a great night’s sleep.
‘Feel in The Rush of The Passing, The Stillness of The Eternal’ –
Abraham Joshua Heschel
4. Be Mindful of Your Breath
This may take some practice as many of us are so unaware of our breath throughout the day. However, breath is consciousness. When we focus our attention on our breath, our consciousness immediately ignites. If you feel your mind is racing at any point of the day, recognise this, observe and take a few really deep breaths. Not only is this extremely grounding, you will instantly feel a sense of calm and presence. Practice being mindful of your breath throughout the day and you will notice your level of mental-stillness increase rapidly. Tip: When we are anxious, we tend to breathe short, shallow breaths just from the upper chest region; by allowing our whole lungs to fill, the sympathetic nervous system will relax, causing the mind to still. Remember to breath using your whole lung capacity, not just the top section of the chest. Breathe deeply from the stomach, moving up to the chest and repeat 10 times, every time you notice your mind is over-active – guaranteed instant calming!
5. Surround Yourself with People Who Bring Out the Best in You
We become the 5 people we surround ourselves by the most. If you are surrounding yourself with anxious, stressed people who worry about the world incessantly; chances are you will absorb this energy and act similarly. On the contrary, if you surround yourself with calming, uplifting and supportive people, you will notice your state-of-mind and mental-stillness and clarity will improve. Remember, our vibe attracts our tribe! The more calm and centred we are as individuals, the more likely we are going to attract similar people who are in alignment with our true selves. Assess your friendship circle and see whether or not you feel they are uplifting, or sapping you of your energy – the latter will cause unnecessary burdens and mental over-loads that quite frankly, you could really do without in life! Instead surround yourself with joyful, peaceful and calm people and I can guarantee your mental-stillness and overall happiness will improve.
6. Limit Your Viewing of the News!
If you are a news watcher, limit your viewing time to 10-minutes per day and do NOT watch the news last thing at night. Personally I never watch the news purely because it tends to be overloaded with negativity. Since I have stopped watching the news, I have definitely noticed an increase in my mental-stillness and also my happiness. I can assure you that by limiting the amount of time you read or watch the news, your levels of mental-stillness will increase and your sense of calm will flourish. The news is a fear-based, negative and unrealistic view of the world, we really do not need to be force fed this negative information every day.
7. Drink Calming Herbal Teas
Lavender, Hops, Valerian, Lemon Balm, Catnip, Skullcap, Camomile and Linden Flowers are all great herbs for calming the nervous system in the body. The calmer our nervous system is, the more easily we are able to still the mind at any point throughout the day. Teas containing any of the above ingredients are excellent at any point, however, I would recommend having Valerian on an evening as it has a mild sedative effect which is more suited for sleep. The other ingredients can be used at any point of the day to achieve that inner calm and greater mental-stillness. My favourite brand of calming tea is ‘Yogi’ tea – ‘Calming’, and for the evening – Pukka ‘Night time’ is also excellent for calming the mind and body.
8. Exercise at Least Once a Day
We all know that exercise is amazing for us! Exercise helps to lower your stress levels and in turn, helps to calm the mind. Whenever you are feeling stressed or experiencing mental over-activity, instead of turning to alcohol or the television, go for a quick 10-minute run or a brisk walk that raises your heart-rate. Not only does exercise lower stress levels by lowering the stress hormone, cortisol and the blood pressure, causing the inner-state of your body to calm down – exercise also releases endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones resulting in increased happiness and serenity within. This is why we always feel SO much better after we exercise. Tip: However, remember not to over-do it! Over-exercising can cause greater stress on the body, wreaking havoc on our adrenal glands, causing cortisol levels to increase– remember to keep your cardio exercises to a maximum of one hour per day, followed by a rest period.
9. Increase Your Intake of Alkalising Foods
The more acidic the body is, the more over-active the mind can become. If the body is high in toxins, the brain can become overloaded with toxins, causing a sense of mental over-activity, thus finding it much harder to switch off – especially at night. The more alkalised our bodies are, the more calm your system will be, in turn causing your mind to still. For a list of alkalising and acidic foods, please check out my ‘nutritious and detoxed life’ section, where you can find ways of improving your diet in order to create greater health throughout.
10. Ground Yourself Daily
Take a few minutes each day to ‘ground’ yourself with earth / nature. Grounding has been shown to be a great anti-inflammatory technique, thinning the blood therefore calming the nervous system down and therefore increasing mental-stillness. If you find throughout any part of the day that you feel your mind is over-active, take a few moments if possible, to stand on the ground with bare feet – trust me, this really works! Good grounding surfaces are grass (particularly damp as the water creates greater connection from skin to earth), sand on the beach, bare soil, ceramic tiles and concrete/bricks. As long as the surfaces are not sealed or painted, you will create a good grounding connection between yourself and earth. Attempt to make a conscious effort each day to ground yourself for at least 10 minutes and you will begin to notice your state of being becoming more calm.
Stay happy, stay healthy, stay conscious