Racing thoughts. Nagging worry. Weekly work drama.
Many of us live with a level of persistent low-grade stress that becomes so normalized that most of the time, we don’t even realize that it’s there.
While we might not be displaying obvious signs of stress, cortisol – the hormone associated with stress – underhandedly wreaks havoc on our mental and physical health over the long-term. Therefore it’s important to make time to clear our minds and bring some peace into our lives, even if we’re not feeling particularly anxious.
Here are some of the best – and most scientifically backed – ways I’ve found to bring my mind back to center:
Make Time To Meditate
Meditation has a number of positive effects on mind and body. It’s also deceptively hard, which is why many people try it once or twice but struggle to make it a regular habit. Meditation helps combat the physical and emotional affects of stress and has lasting benefits that affect your productivity, as well as your ability to relax under pressure. Set aside time to meditate for just 10 minutes a day over the next week or two and experience the benefits for yourself.
Here is one of my favorite personal meditations, taken from my book Cured by Nature:
THE CONNECTION MEDITATION:
Sit up straight in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
Wipe your mind clean and start over. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your abdomen.
Breathe In and feel where your air flows in your body. Is it just your lungs or does it fill your stomach, your abdomen or other parts of your body?
Breathe Out: I am connected.
Breathe In and focus on smoothing your breath.
Breathe Out: I am connected.
Continue to focus on your breath. Anytime your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. When you are ready, open your eyes with a smile and greet your day.
Research determined that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN). The DMN is responsible for the “monkey mind” chatter, mind-wandering, and self-referential thoughts.
Walk It Out
If you follow along with me on instagram, you know a daily walk with my pups is a non-negotiatble. While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins (which, in turn, reduces stress hormones), consider walking in a park or other green space, or taking a short hike, which can actually put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.
Visualize To Manifest
A short visualization is an easy way to get back to center. Much of our worry stems from feeling a lack of control. Even the National Institutes for Health recognizes the power of “guided imagery” to elicit a relaxation response.
Simply make yourself comfortable and then picture a peaceful scene: a future vacation, your favorite beach. You can even visualize yourself accomplishing a future goal or picture yourself in in your dream home next to the man or woman of your choice (yup. anyone! Have fun!) These are some of my favorite mind-strengthening techniques to do because they truly WORK.
BONUS: Hang Up, Then Detox
Cell phones stress you out, there’s no question about it. Talking on your cell can even raise your blood pressure. If you recognize that social media, emails or your phone in general is stressing you out, put it down for the day and walk away. If you’re feeling a bit of phantom limb syndrome, read a book, take a walk or spend quality time with loved ones cooking, organizing, decorating or doing something you’ve been putting off. When you say you’re out – be OUT. Be present. At the end, I highly doubt you’ll remember the texts you got, but your loved ones smiles and laughs will be at the top of your most precious moments.
For weekends, you can also give yourself a curfew of when you’ll begin looking at your phone in the morning and what time you stop at night (for instance, 11:30 am – 3:30 pm). This will help you manage your time and open up tons of time to work on yourself and projects that are important to you as well!
Photos by Arielle Levy