The world is a hectic place. Do you feel bombarded by information? Is your mind awash with 'to do's' as you simultaneously send an email and sip a juice, while hot footing it to another meeting?
With so much going on mentally, it's impossible to enjoy what's happening in the moment as we are constantly projecting into the future, ruminating over the past, trying to solve a problem or mentally rehearsing a conversation. Have you ever had an argument with someone, in your own head, just to mentally prepare yourself for the slim chance of you ever running into said person again. Not ideal.
Now, I can't promise these tricks will have the same effect as a week long beach holiday, but they could help you to create some more mental space and de-clutter your mind. Plus they beat having several glasses of red wine when it comes to quietening worries since you can do them anywhere and they don't cost a thing!
Turn off alerts on your phone. When you are not at the beck and call of every facebook status update, tweet and email you get sent, you are creating a bit more brain capacity and one less distraction from whatever task you're doing at that time. Each time your phone buzzes you are introducing another piece of information into an already overloaded system and taking your attention away from whatever is going on in that moment.
My to do list is really, really long; I'm sure yours is too. It's pretty intimidating to see such a long list. This can cause us to to do a number of tasks simultaneously (see point number 3 about why this isn't a good idea). Or, maybe we procrastinate because we feel overwhelmed by the enormity of what needs to be done, or perhaps we get distracted with other tasks and leave some things unfinished. The truth is; you are NEVER going to do everything on your long to do list. That's because, if you're anything like me, you're always adding to it. So the night before, make yourself a nice, short, to do list and order them in terms of priority. A short list means a more clear and focused mind, while making you much more likely to attain that oh-so-satisfying feeling of doing everything on your list (you can always add more later).
Studies have shown that the idea of 'multitasking' http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creativity-without-borders/201405/the-myth-multitasking is actually a myth. A blow to some of womankind who saw that as their special ability, but you cannot, technically, do several things all at once.
In his book 'Focus', Daniel Goleman tells us that the human brain (much like a computer in fact) only has the ability to process one piece of information at a time. If things appear to be happening simultaneously, we are in fact just switching quickly between one focus and another. Of course, in the process of doing this, we waste time and overload the mind with too many things happening at once.
Think about the last time you were really in a state of flow. Maybe you were working, running, spending time with your children or playing an instrument. I'll bet you were totally absorbed and focused on what you were doing and experiencing in that moment. I'll bet it felt good to be so focused; you might have noticed joyful feelings arising. Potentially, that's how good all things could feel, if we get ourselves to be totally in the moment, in a state of flow.
This sort of focus takes practise, so for example, try paying close attention as you walk along the street. Notice the feeling of the ground under food, the wind on your skin, the smells and the sounds and colours around you. Focus is like a muscle that you can strengthen with practise and you'll probably find doing this creates a sense of clarity and calmness in the mind.
Build space into your day
It's tempting to try maximise time and try to cram as many appointments into one day as possible. But if rushing from place to place leaves you in a tail spin, try to schedule in some time for yourself in between. Nothing leads to mental overload more than back to back meetings. So if you can, take a break, do something different, go for a walk or take some some time to focus on your breath to reset yourself and clear your mind before the next one.
'Feel' your body
Try paying attention to how your feet are feeling. Now see if you can simultaneously keep focusing on your feet while at the same time worrying...You can't, can you.
Tuning into how our body feels, or sensing the 'energy' and 'life' in the body, as Ekhart Tolle puts it, helps us to come into the present moment and quietens down the mental chatter. You can try this anywhere; it's a great way to quieten the mind and feel calmer. You can sense the energy in your whole body, do a body scan from head toe, or simply focus of the sensations in a single body part, such as your feet or hands. Try it now for instant relief.
Stress and worry needn't be an unavoidable by product of modern life, so give these tips and try and see if you can't feel calmer and more focused.
What techniques do you use to de-clutter your mind? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
Images supplied by 123 RF and iStock photo.