It was an early morning and I was a fatigued, busy, working mom. The sun was not up yet, but my six-month-old son and I were. He was wide awake, and I was trailing behind in a sleepy stupor. All I could think about was coffee. The smell, the creamy taste, and the heavenly shot of energy that would come from that dreamy cup. I looked down, at to my dismay I was scooping my infant’s formula in the coffee filter instead of coffee grinds!
This made me laugh and jolted me awake a little more. It was a human moment for a mom that was trying to be super-human. Whether you are a parent, a working parent, a working person, or simply a fellow human being this scenario is all too familiar to you as well. I’m sure that at some point you have found yourself doing something mindless that left you feeling confused and maybe even embarrassed- such as walk into a room with purpose only to forget why you were there, or forgetting a ‘special place’ that you put an item you didn’t want to misplace.
These moments happen to us humans when we have too many thoughts running in our minds at once. This is a mindless state of being that creates tension, anxiety, confusion and irritability. It’s a common issue among all of us, but something we are not stuck with. If we approach our thoughts in a different way, we can reduce all of the running mindlessness that occurs in our minds and achieve a quiet, peaceful state of mind.
A quiet mind is focused on the task at hand. It is calm and helps us to appreciate our lives from peaceful moment to peaceful moment. With a quiet mind, we are happier people overall.
Some people reading this might only view a quiet mind as a lovely thought, but not a realistic goal. This misconception could not be farther from the truth. Running thoughts and mindlessness may be a given of human nature, but it is something that we can improve upon with consistent effort over time.
To learn how to quiet your busy mind, try these strategies:
- Adopt a different perspective on your thoughts. See yourself as an observer of your thoughts as opposed to the thoughts being an extension of you are: It is extremely important that you understand that your thoughts are not you, they are separate from you. Everyone has hundreds of mindless thoughts throughout the day. Adopting a perspective as a neutral observer of your thoughts, will help you to navigate through the maze of mindlessness when running thoughts creep up. As an observer, you can choose what you pay attention to, and what you want to follow up on. You will learn that every thought does not need attention or action. This will give you the ability to let thoughts come go out of your mind peacefully.
- Do not give yourself unreasonable expectations. Aim for only one or two minutes of a quiet mind at a time: In the beginning, it will be extremely difficult to quiet down your mind. After years or even decades of an unfettered mind, you may find it extremely difficult to let thoughts come and go without attaching values or emotions to them. Reducing mental chatter is a skill that you develop over time. In the beginning, it is best to aim for one or two minutes of a quiet mind. With consistent practice, you can increase your goal a little at a time until you are able to create a lifestyle of mindfulness. As the famous Chinese proverb goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
- When you are in the middle of a task, try to put all of your attention to it: Set your sights on being really be present in all parts of your life, including seemingly mundane tasks. Practice quieting the mind during routine tasks. For example, when you are washing the dishes you can use this opportunity to tune in and reduce mental chatter. Instead of running a to-do list in your mind, tune in to being fully present for the task at hand whether it’s washing the dishes, taking a walk, or playing with your children. Use these moments of being fully present to practice quieting the mind so that you can use this skill in more challenging or stressful conditions as well.
- Pay attention to your sensory experiences: When we focus on our sensory experiences (what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell) we are less ‘in our heads’ and more in the present moment. To help yourself reduce mental chatter, focus attention to those sensory experiences that surround you. What do you feel in your body? Savor the flavor and warm temperature of a cup of tea. Look out the window and focus on the colors you see. These practices are simple, but in the practice of them you learn how to redirect your attention away from mental chatter and into a more peaceful state.
This is not nearly an exhaustive list of ways to reduce mental chatter to achieve a quiet mind. However, using these strategies you can get a jump-start on the peacefulness you seek. As with all things that are worthwhile, the ability to quiet your mind will come in time with persistence and follow-through. They are not strategies that you do once or twice and write off if they do not work. They are strategies that need to be replicated over and over again to help us create the skill set necessary to reduce chatter and achieve peace. I hope they help you live more fully in the present moments of your precious lives!
Guest Blog by: Diane Webb, LMHC. Diane is a psychotherapist in upstate New York that specializes in anxiety reduction, post-traumatic stress disorder, overcoming depression, transpersonal therapy and achieving emotional peak performance. For more information and how to work with Diane, visit: The Peace Journal Connect via Facebook Here: The Peace Journal Facebook