It’s in this space, beyond your overworked and overwhelmed mind, where you feel both fully engaged and incredibly at ease. It’s in this space, away from your roles and plans, where you are not only happier, but also more creative and productive.
This spring I presented a program called Beyond Your Busy Mind, at Yale University for their inaugural Yale Mental Health and Wellness Weekend. It’s safe to say that, like most of us, college students live in high gear, with little to no space for silence or solitude, and little to no opportunity to rest or renew.
Their dorms rooms are cramped and cluttered, as are their tightly packed schedules. Bombarded by the constant chirping of phones with requests, demands and invites to fun stuff to do, college students these days are, well—busy.
Mental stress, I explained to these Ivy Leaguers, is like having too many thoughts barraging your mind at the same time. It’s like not being able to see your wallpaper because of the 50 documents stored on your desktop. When your mind has too much stuff competing for space on your mental desktop, it sends your nervous system into overdrive and your life into a tailspin.
The fact is we all get stuck in the minutia of thinking, caught in the web of our overactive mind.
Mental quiet, on the other hand, is a more peaceful place to hang. It’s where you tap into clarity. It’s in this space, beyond chatter, where insights flourish and time seems to slow down—where you feel confident, happier and incredibly at ease. Studies show that mindfulness practices can help you go beyond your busy mind—where stress melts away.
After guiding the Yalies through some mindfulness-based yoga and meditation they seemed more like bright, curious children than the sort of stressed, uptight twenty-somethings that walked into the room. I offered them the three practices to living beyond their busy mind every day. Try them yourself and experience the space beyond noise—where you stress less, think less and enjoy life more.
What do you have to lose? Perhaps just your busy mind!
1. Power Off: The All-Essential 10-Minute Nap
The smartphone timer is the perfect tool to help restore your energy and settle your mind. Set the timer, once per day, for 10 minutes. (By the way, you really do have 10 minutes.) While there’s nothing special about taking a nap, the results can be tremendous for your mental health and wellbeing. It doesn’t matter where you do it. Naps help you clear your mental desktop. By pausing, your mind has the time needed to file away necessary information and trash stuff that is useless. Nap every day—it may just change your life.
2. Hang Upside Down: Back Bends
Research shows that bending your spine backwards can make you happy. It’s also a super healthy thing to do. The easiest place to bend backwards is actually off your bed. Lie down cross your bed with your head off the side. Stay for a few breaths. Then slide your upper back off to open your chest. You can even let your arms fall over your head. Now slide your mid-back off your bed. Back bending will energize you both physically and emotionally. (Watch out if you are on the top bunk!)
3. Take Five: Focused Deep Breathing
Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Take a breath in while slowly counting to three. Pause for a count of one. Breathe out slowly while counting to six. Pause for a count of one. Once again, Inhale, 2, 3, pause. Exhale 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, pause. Continue to breathe this way for one full minute. Studies show that elongating the exhalation for a minute or more will shift your nervous system from the sympathetic state of “fight or flight” to the parasympathetic state of “rest and digest.” In other words, you can shift from a heightened state of stress to a relaxed state of calm in one minute.
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: Susana Karim/Pixoto