Tame your busy mind

After dinner at a restaurant, our friend Chris* leaned towards me and said,  ‘You’re the expert in breathing – can you help me?’

The comment surprised me. I rarely talk to friends about meditation because it usually isn’t on their radar of self-help.

Also, I prefer not to be seen as a crusader… though everyone who comes to my classes knows that is precisely how I sound because I am passionate about the wellbeing benefits of meditation.

Chris told me that his psychologist had suggested some breathing practices to ease anxiety and his busy mind. He was seeking a little guidance and I was happy to help.

This was the second instance in a fortnight of a friend, aged 70-plus, seeking some advice. In Jane’s* case, she was desperately wanting to stop her chattering mind and had turned to complementary healthcare.

For both friends, their session achieved the same outcomes – they felt quieter within, noticed how abdominal breathing relaxed their body and knew they could easily use the series of simple practices at home.

Your mind will always take charge if you allow this to happen.

You have an ego voice – a talkative inner critic that busily analyses, comments and judges everything that is happening in your life.

Psychologist John Selby suggests it is easy to become caught in a continuing mental cycle, where worrying thoughts provoke anxious feelings and behaviours and, in turn, these responses provoke more worrying thoughts.

Constant episodes of anxiety and stress impact the body’s physiology leading to health issues like high blood pressure, fatigue, cell damage, reduced immunity and gastrointestinal problems.

Dr Selby says the cycle of worry and stress can be broken by shifting your attention to the present moment by doing meditation. This reduces left-brain activity and brings both hemispheres of the brain into balance.

He asserts that when your ego voice is busy, it is difficult to have any “meaningful heart-to-heart encounter with the outside world or to tune into deeper feelings and intuitive insights that might be of great value”.

Four ways to ‘tame’ your busy mind

Psychotherapist Amy Morin, the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, advises:

1. Recognise what you can do… When you  are worrying, recognise whether or not you have control over a situation. For instance, you cannot control how someone behaves or for things to go a particular way but you can control how you react.

2. Change your focus…  When you are continually replaying conversations or imagining catastrophic outcomes, acknowledge that your thoughts are unhelpful. Then go and do something so your brain focuses on something positive, enjoyable or productive.

3. A healthy plan… Create a plan for managing stress and anxiety that includes exercise, healthy eating and adequate rest and sleep.

4. Dealing with stress… Be aware of your stress levels and notice how you respond to challenging  situations. Also, pursue healthy ways to relieve stress by meditating, socialising and pursuing hobbies.

Meditation may not stop your thoughts but it will slow them down – and this will reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.  Specific practices helpful in breaking  the cycle of thoughts include bringing mindfulness into your day, connecting to the breath and your senses, relaxing your body, having a gratitude practice and creating positive affirmations like, ‘I am calm’ or ‘I feel gentle and quiet’.

Experience the benefits of mindfulness meditation at our courses starting in mid-February.
More details: http://meditationpathways.com.au/courses/beginners-and-intermediate/

* Names have been changed