“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.” -Diane Webb
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
“I took a trip to the mountains to destress from a emotional week. Just me and my camera on a 3 hour trip on a foggy and rainy morning. I needed to get away and breathe. Life gets crazy and sometimes overwhelming but it’s okay – we just need to breathe.” ~ J’Waye Covington, Photographer
In last week’s blog I talked about the things in life we have fear of that we don’t actually need to fear. I call these Paper Tigers. This week, I am talking about things that ARE valid fears. For example, a hot burner on a stove. A healthy fear of being burned keeps us from touching the burner.
Yes, that’s a softball example; we are justified in avoiding things that can physically harm us. And there is probably not much internal stress involved when we do have fear of many of those things.
I believe there are two other categories into which we can place fear. The first is the category that encompasses those things for which we should have legitimate fear, but that we need to face (as opposed to avoiding like the hot burner). Let’s call this category “Real Fears.”
The second is the category of those things that have some risk. These things are different from the Paper Tigers. Paper Tigers, once we examine them closely, actually cause no risk. What I am talking about placing into this category are things that fall somewhere in between Real Fears and Paper Tigers. Let’s call this category “Risk Factors.”
Here’s a quick overview:
Paper Tigers: Things that seem scary to us in life, but actually will not cause us any harm. For more on Paper Tigers head on over here.
Real Fears: Things that we really do need to be wary of because they could cause us harm, but that we can face either by using caution – e.g. avoiding the hot burner – or, by using bravery and/ or mindfulness.
Risk Factors: Things that we are wary of because they contain an element of risk, but that are not necessarily harmful. These are things that we either are not sure about or that we know there is some risk of harm, but the risk is minimal.
What are some examples of Real Fears other than the potential of physical harm? Transition and loss are two examples of things that fall into this category. Big changes can definitely encompass an element of fear. Whether it’s a long-distance move, a divorce, being laid-off from a job or empty nesting, transitions can be scary.
Loss also causes fear. When a spouse or other family member dies or leaves, when a house or business is foreclosed or shut down, the loss can be devastating. These are the things that we justifiably fear, but that we also need to dig down deep to find our courage to face and get through.
These types of transition and/or loss can rock people’s worlds. I know because I’ve lost a business and a home as a result of the economic crash as well as friends to cancer. I’ve transitioned out of a career for which I studied and went to school for many, many years. I moved from my beloved home town over 3000 miles to the other side of the country. And, I’ve lived with people with serious mental illness.
All of these things were terribly fear-invoking. They were so fear invoking at times that I felt nearly paralyzed. HOWEVER… I lived through the challenges. I learned from them. AND I found joy in life again.
I’ve been putting off writing this blog because honestly I think I am a little afraid to write about fear. I know – the irony. It’s also been a busy time of year with all of the end-of-school activities for the kids. So it’s been hard to find the time necessary to write about such an important and deep topic.
But now, on a beautiful Saturday morning, with a thunderstorm brewing on the horizon, it’s time.
Thunderstorms are such an apt metaphor for fear. They loom…They are impending… and then they BOOM & CRACK & GUSH! But, in general, if one takes proper precautions they are not dangerous. They will not hurt us. In fact, I love thunderstorms. That’s not to say that I don’t have a healthy fear of them – especially if I’m driving. But again, if I’m prepared, I take caution, and yes, if I’m brave, I can weather even a ferocious thunderstorm (even the emotional kind 😉
“Suffering is one of the many possible responses to pain.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
The practice of mindfulness allows, even encourages, the acceptance of feelings of sorrow. In the practice of mindfulness acceptance of negative feelings, whether physical or emotional, is actually a way of preventing ongoing suffering.
I started my meditation this morning with my mind inevitably flitting from one thing to the next. As is human nature, I was in my cognitive brain and thinking about one thing and another: The post I just put out on social media with my cat enjoying his mindful moment in the flower pot to a recent conversation I was having with a friend about being let down by other people.
And that’s when it happened – the rapid descent into sorrow and frustration. (more…)
It’s a very rainy Monday here in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. And honestly, having an upbeat mindset can be a challenge for me on these gray days! Being from San Diego, California I am definitely a sunshine person. Yet, I have learned to make a peaceful living day even if it’s gray. I’m cuddled up in my bed, the fireplace is on, I have my fuzzy socks on and my kitty is dozing at my feet. So I say, “let it rain because I feel warm and snuggy & peaceful!”
But, what about those days that are emotionally gray? Are you rushing through life feeling like you are in a gray haze sometimes? Can you find a way to feel peace and joy on those emotionally gray days? I know, sometimes that gray haze of stress just weighs us down. Some days it’s all we can do to make it through each day. I’ve been there! I know what it’s like to spend most of my moments wishing that each part of my day would just hurry up and happen so that I can get home and into bed.
THE GOOD NEWS
The good news is, you do not have to live that way! You can get your stress under control and start living each moment as if you don’t want that moment to pass because you are enjoying it so much!
You CAN live a happy, peaceful life!
Again, I know because I have been there. Here is the formula I use:
HAPPY DAYS = I embrace them with gratitude!
GRAY DAYS = I stay in each moment and detach from the overall feeling of the day.
And you can do this too!
You can live a peaceful, joy-filled life, in spite of the gray days!
BUT, YOU HAVE TO STOP MAKING EXCUSES!
Here are some of the top excuses I hear:
- My job is so stressful that I can’t do anything about my stress.
- My spouse/ partner makes me so unhappy I can’t do anything about my stress.
- My kids’ schedule is so busy that I can’t do anything about my stress.
- I am so busy that I can’t do anything about my stress.
- I have health problems, and I don’t feel good, so I can’t do anything about my stress.
Here is what one of my favorite authors, Jack Canfield, has to say about those types of excuses:
- You are 100% responsible for your life!
- You can decide to make an excuse and live with your stress and unhappiness.
- Or, you can adjust your response to life’s events and take responsibility for a different outcome.
- Event + Response = OUTCOME
You are 100% responsible for your life! ~ Jack Canfield
On first read, this can sound very harsh. But, I promise you it’s not. I’m not saying that very hard, challenging things don’t have an effect on us as human beings. I’m not saying that your job isn’t stressful, that your relationship isn’t hurting or that your kids’ schedules are not overwhelming. What I am saying is that through taking responsibility for yourself – how you think, how you care for yourself, what choices you make, HOW YOU RESPOND to life’s challenging events – you absolutely can have a peaceful, joy-filled life, irrespective of your circumstances!
At this point you may be asking: But, how do I do that Jen?
You need to figure that out for yourself, or even better, with a coach, friend or therapist! It’s about YOU taking responsibility for YOU! But, here are a few examples to go along with the “excuses” I mentioned above:
Excuse 1: “My job is so stressful…”
- First, make a list of the things you like about your job.
- Write out and say why you are grateful for these things.
- Second, make a list of the things that are stressful about your job.
- Problem-solve to find ways to alleviate the stress. Bring in a trusted friend, family member, coach or therapist to help you with this if you need.
- If you just cannot find a way to solve the problems look for another job or way of making money – i.e. entrepreneurship, an online business, even driving for Uber.
Excuse 2: “My spouse/ partner makes me so unhappy…”
- First, realize that you cannot control another person. You can only control yourself.
- Second, work on yourself and your own happiness. You may be pleasantly surprised that when you change your way of being, your spouse starts to change as well.
- Third, seek counseling!
- Fourth, figure out what each of you needs in the relationship and then start filling those needs for your partner. Again, you may be surprised at how your partner will respond by filling your needs.
- And while doing all of these things, communicate mindfully! Mindful communication makes all the difference.
Excuse 3: “My kids’ schedule is so busy…”
- This one is easy! Give both yourself and your kids a break and unscheduled them!
- Only allow them one sport or activity at a time.
- If the travel team is eating your time, have your kids play club sports instead. They will survive!
- If you are one of those parents who just won’t lessen your kids’ sports and activities, then at the very least, find a carpool.
Excuse 4: “I am so busy…”
Excuse 5: “I have health problems…”
- This is definitely one of the more difficult situations. Poor health and chronic pain are very hard to live with. But, it can be done.
- Know that you will need to live differently than you have in the past.
- Take exceptionally good care of yourself, both physically and emotionally.
- Ask for and be open to receiving help.
- Be mindfully accepting of your new normal.
- Find gratitude in the little things
THE BAD NEWS
The bad news is that if you don’t get your stress under control you are at risk of many stress-related diseases: heart disease; stroke; diabetes ; certain cancers; thyroid conditions ; the list goes on and on!
BACK TO THE GOOD NEWS
You can take small steps to lower the level of chronic stress in your life.
You do not have to live with chronic stress or the dis-ease it brings.
Changing your mindset and giving up your excuses is the first step!
Stick with me! I have lots of tips, techniques, motivation, inspiration & encouragement for you!
Would you like some of that?
Love & Light Y’all!
I don’t care how busy I am I will always make time for what’s important to me.
~ Kevin Hart
My Dear Friends,
I am writing this blog as a letter to you ~ a love letter, if you will allow me to say that ~ because I want you to read it as if I am speaking to you as someone who cares deeply about you. Because I do! Even if we’ve never met. Because you are a human being, I care deeply about you! I am worried that you are so busy you are not enjoying life!
I am increasingly having the feeling that society is suffering from an epidemic of being busy!
Now, don’t get me wrong, in general I don’t have a problem with people being busy. But, I’m seeing that Americans in particular are taking the idea of busy to new levels. As an American, I would like to proudly say that we are a high-achieving people. The problem is that our high-achieving nature is making us ill!
Okay – I know I lost some of you there… but, stick with me. I’m NOT saying that having high standards of achievement is making us ill. What I AM saying is that breakneck pace at which we go after those high standards of achievement is making us ill.
Additionally, many of my friends and neighbors are achieving high standards of being busy just for the sake of being busy. On this score I want to share three crucial points of wisdom:
- BUSY is not necessarily PRODUCTIVE!
- Taking time for SELF-CARE is NOT lazy!
- Being too busy = STRESS = ILLNESS
I chose the Kevin Hart quote at the top of this post because in it he talks about making time for what is important. My question for you, my dear, sweet friend, is:
“Are you important?”
Are you important enough to yourself that you will take time out of your busy schedule for self-nurture???
WHO COMES FIRST?
I wrote an earlier blog for moms Want To Be a Supermom? Take Good Care of Yourself! about how to use the airline analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. The airlines want you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first (in case of emergency) so that you don’t pass out before you can put the oxygen on your children and others who need help. Likewise, if a mom allows herself some self-care, it helps her to be a better mom because she’s not exhausted and stressed-out.
Honestly, this analogy is important for anyone who has a care-taking role for others. Whether you are a teacher, a nurse, a manager, a parent, an adult child who cares for an elderly parent, etc. etc. you NEED to take care of yourself first!
That does not mean that you are going to the spa or the golf-course every weekend in lieu of taking your kids to baseball or gymnastics. It means that you CAN take an amount of time that you specify (and perhaps work out with your spouse or partner if need be) for self-care on a daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly basis.
Give yourself a little care first and you will be able to give others a lot of care on a regular basis!
Here’s an exercise for you to try out. Make a list of things you can do for your self-care:
I’ll get you started with ideas
- Meditate daily: 10 to 15 minutes 2x is a good start!
- Go to yoga and/ or take a walk or leisurely bike ride 1x to 3x per week.
- Play golf or tennis or engage in another activity with friends 1x per week.
- Have a “date night” with your spouse 1x week.
- Have a night out with friends 1x to 2x per month.
Keep the list going!
TAKE A DAILY TIME INVENTORY
Another good way to figure out how to break busy is to take a look at how you spend your time. One of the very first sessions I do with my Peaceful Living Wellness coaching clients is to have them write out a detailed list of what they do with their time. I have them complete one list for weekdays and one for weekends. It helps us figure out how they are spending their time AND if the way they are spending their time is serving them.
Here are some things that I found when I did this exercise myself:
- I was spending so much time volunteering for my kids’ schools and organizations that it was almost a full-time job! Volunteering is a wonderful thing & it absolutely feeds my soul to help others in that way. But, volunteering so much that I was not taking care of myself or my business was causing a problem!
- I was spending a lot of time vegging out in front of the television in the morning and in the evening. Vegging out in front of the TV is something that can actually be good for you in small doses. 30 minutes to an hour to give your brain a break is really okay. But, how I was watching the morning news and starting my day with negativity and noise was not a good choice. And for those of you who veg out for several hours in front of the TV every night, it’s really not serving you as well as reading or listening to something enriching, meditating, doing yoga, cuddling with &/ or reading to your kiddos, etc. will.
- I was allowing myself to fall down the rabbit hole of SOCIAL MEDIA for too many hours. Even though my social media use was often sporadic ~ 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there ~ when I completed my detailed inventory it ended up being a lot of hours over the course of the day and the week! Again, social media is something that can serve us well. For business-owners it’s a must. For others, the social connection is very uplifting. But, when your time spent on social media adds up, when it gives you FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), when it makes you feel bad about yourself because you are comparing your life to the lives of others, or when it is exposing you to the negativity of others, it is NOT serving you well.
What I found for myself, and what my clients find, after doing this exercise, is that there is a lot of time we all waste on things that are not helping to make us happier healthier people!
Use this exercise to help you figure out what you are doing that is NOT contributing to your feeling relaxed and happy.
TRY TO DO THIS! NOT THAT!
- Spend 10 – 15 minutes meditating by cutting 10 – 15 minutes off your social media time.
- Spend an hour-and-half weekly going to yoga by carpooling for your kids’ soccer, gymnastics, etc. etc.
- Spend an hour reading (or listening to a good book) by cutting out an hour of TV time.
- Spend an hour taking a warm, relaxing bath at night by asking your partner to do the dishes and/ or put the kids to bed. Trade off nights with this if need be.
You get the picture! Fill in your own ideas. Once you get going I bet you will find that there are a ton of DO THIS ideas on your list!
Go to it Peaceful Living Warriors! Find your inner peace and healthy life by BREAKING BUSY! I know you can do it! And if you need support in your quest to Break Busy, reach out to me! We can schedule a breakthrough coaching session in which I can support and motivate you! I’m here for you friend.
Love & Light,
Want more easy, helpful tips on how to break busy? Check out my blog “Are You Addicted to Being Busy?”
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