Most of us have been there at some point — can’t stop thinking, fraught with worry, over-analyzing, can’t sleep well or relax easily, anxiety flares up, stress mounts, every upset or bump in the road feels overwhelming, etc. Sometimes this is a fleeting experience related to an acute, short-lived situation… but other times this mental chatter can go on and on long-term, and if un-checked, can lead to very detrimental effects on your overall health and well-being.
This may surprise you, but one major roadblock to healing can be your own mind! If you find yourself overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, over-thinking, worrying, analyzing every event or reaction, stressing about work or family or health issues, not able to relax or sleep well — these may all be signs that you need to regain control of your thoughts and reign in this pointless worrying. They are damaging your health of body and mind!
Oriental Medicine theory associates over-thinking and worry with your Spleen organ, which just so happens to be the primary organ in digestion, immunity, and ability to lose weight. Your Spleen can either spend its time processing thought and worrying, or spend its time digesting food and dispersing nutrients that your body needs to remain healthy. It CANNOT do both at the same time! Which would you prefer? Taking time to learn how to calm your mind, reign in your thoughts, and be in the present moment is a worthy task to pursue.
How can you regain control of your thoughts and calm your mind? It can seem impossible or certainly difficult to attempt the act of “not stressing out” or “not thinking too much”.
How can you just turn it off when you have so many things to worry about? We are here to tell you it’s not impossible, and not only that, it is actually ESSENTIAL for good health that you learn how to take control of your mind and allow your nervous system to rest and regenerate.
Here’s how I do it: Mindfulness exercise or “Meditation” for 5-10 minutes on a regular basis. I put meditation in quotes because when people think of meditating it can bring visions of perfect peace and pure clarity of mind. This is not what I experience with meditating, or mindfulness. And I don’t think it’s the point. That’s why I prefer to use the word mindfulness, or even awareness, exercise. Because it is an exercise, a practice, for your mind – a way to condition it into doing what you want/need. Just like exercise for the body. The point is, no matter how well you do it, that you are doing it on a regular basis. Mindfulness exercises will calm your mind and give a focus to your mental chatter; it will also bring you into your body and out of your busy head for a moment; it will allow your nervous system to shift gears and re-pattern itself; and it will calm certain over-active areas of your brain that make it difficult to relax & unwind. Repetition is key, so keep practicing awareness exercise on a daily or 3-4x week basis to fully reap the benefits of training your mind.
How do you practice mindfulness exercise?? Get in a comfortable position in a comfortable place – sitting or lying down, indoors or outdoors, wherever you find it appealing. Turn your cell phone off, or throw it in the trash. Close your eyes and start a natural rhythm of breathing from your belly, nothing too deep or controlled, just natural in and out breathing. Bring your awareness to your breath and focus your mind on saying “breathe in”, “breathe out” until the scattered thoughts of your day recede somewhat. When you feel more centered, start noticing how your body feels and focus your awareness on different aspects of your body and physical being. Do this without judging yourself or setting expectations.. observe with a neutral perspective… how does your back feel? your shoulders? your ears and lips? How does it feel to sit in this position? Do you notice discomfort or pain? Or perhaps you are warm or cold? Notice all these qualities within you while letting your mind go loosely to different focal points of the present moment. If you have worrisome thoughts interfere, notice them and let them go. Get back to the present by focusing on breath or body. Once you have observed your body in the present moment, notice your environment. How does the air feel? Are there noises around you? Do you hear nature sounds or traffic or music? What do you smell and what textures do you feel – fabric, a hard chair, the cotton of your clothing… Notice these small sensations and observe them. You are here in the moment with yourself, and it is very interesting! So many small things to notice and observe – things you never pay attention to. This is mindfulness. 5-10 minutes have probably already passed… slowly re-integrate yourself into your daily routine or work. You will have a renewed sense of self and energy to face the day.