The human mind can do incredible things, but clearing your mind is definitely not one of them. Sometimes, it simply feels impossible to clear your mind, no matter how hard you try.
You need to finish a presentation but the part of your mind that should be designing PowerPoint slides is busily reanalyzing that preposterous thing your neighbor said — again. You’re trying to relax and unwind, but your brain is still in work overdrive mode. And randomly, your memory decides to put on a parade of all the embarrassing things you’ve ever done.
In situations like this, clearing our minds is all we wish to do. But how do you go about doing that? This article will give you 11 tips backed by research, experts, and experience.
- How to clear your mind
- 1. Take a walk in nature
- 2. Practice gratitude
- 3. Tidy up the mess around you
- 4. Meditate
- 5. Have proper downtime
- 6. Work through your to-do list
- 7. Do 20 minutes of cardio exercise
- 8. Get some quality sleep
- 9. Commit to finishing pending tasks
- 10. Look for the colors of the rainbow
- 11. Accept that you can never fully clear your mind (at least not for long)
- Wrapping up
How to clear your mind
You might be trying to clear your mind because some stubborn thoughts are driving you crazy. In that case, here are some science-backed tips that will surely help you clear your mind.
1. Take a walk in nature
Have you ever heard of forest bathing? When I first did, I immediately fell in love with the concept — and its benefits.
Called “shinrin-yoku” in Japanese, this is the practice of spending time in a forest, soaking up the peaceful atmosphere. Aside from getting to feel like Yoda, forest bathing for 1.5 hours is proven to dispel negative thoughts.
Granted, not all of us have a forest nearby — or 1.5 hours to spare. So if you need a more practical way to clear your mind from stress and anxiety, try the tip that follows.
2. Practice gratitude
Instead of trying to make negative thoughts go away, it may be easier to try to replace them with more positive ones. The best technique for this is a gratitude practice.
There are multiple valid ways to approach a gratitude practice:
- Write down or draw all the things you’re grateful for.
- Close your eyes and spend a few minutes visualizing them.
- Find a guided gratitude practice on YouTube or an app such as Aura.
- Create a gratitude vision board by collecting beautiful stock photos that represent what you appreciate in your life.
Consider a range of areas in your life: health, career, family, friends, home, city, and anything else that brings you joy.
If you need more tips, here's our article that goes more in-depth on how to be more grateful in life.
3. Tidy up the mess around you
I have to admit, I’m a bit weird. I actually enjoy cleaning. It gives me a break from intense mental work. My mind can wander while I do simple tasks that don’t require much thought. And, I can visually see the progress I’m making as the room becomes neater.
But best of all, it helps me clear my mind. If the room around me is cluttered, then my mind tends to reflect that.
Science shows there’s logic behind this: clutter makes a person’s visual cortex overwhelmed by objects not related to the task at hand. Thus, it becomes harder to focus.
So if your environment mirrors the chaos you feel, get-a-cleanin’ and you’ll get rid of them both.
When I was in university, I joined a 4-week weekend meditation course. In the first session, the teacher asked us what brought us there. The answer was nearly unanimous: “I want to learn how to clear my mind.”
The teacher nodded knowingly, then explained we may have come there with the wrong expectations. Because meditation is not, in fact, about clearing your mind. Our entire experience is made of sensations and thoughts — and meditation does nothing to change this.
What meditation can teach us is to observe our thoughts rather than being sucked into them.
Now, this may not be what you’re hoping for — it wasn’t what I was, either. But accepting this prevents you from ending up frustrated about inevitably failing at making your mind into an empty abyss.
And, there are still many excellent benefits. Even just 15 minutes of meditation decreases stress and puts you in a more relaxed state.
There are literally hundreds of ways to meditate. For clearing your mind, I suggest one of these two:
Notice your thoughts and feelings going through your mind, as if you are observing people walking in and out of a room.
Whenever you realize that you got sucked into a train of thought (as you inevitably will), just begin again. Bring your focus back to what you’re trying to do. Remember, there’s no limit to the number of times that you can begin again.
Focus on the physical sensations of being:
- Breath enters in through your nose, down your windpipe, filling your lungs, and the same path back out.
- Your body is being pulled by gravity into the chair, mat, or floor.
- The feeling of having a body, and what each of your limbs feels like.
For more tips on meditation, this article of ours contains all the basics of meditation!
5. Have proper downtime
Arguably the best way to clear your mind is, for a while at least, to stop putting new things in it. At all. That means no reading, chatting, watching TV, scrolling through social media, or anything that requires any level of thought or focus.
This is downtime in the true sense of the word. You let your mind wander and focus your attention inward rather than on the world around you.
This practice is often called unplugging, which we've covered in this article before.
How can you do this? Aside from sitting and staring into space (which is a perfectly fine option!), you can try doing a mindless task like vacuuming or weeding. Or, return to tip #1 above and take a walk in nature.
6. Work through your to-do list
This tip sounds completely contradictory to the one above. But the Zeigarnik effect shows why it’s also an effective way to clear your mind.
Unfulfilled goals persist in our minds. In other words, they will continue to nag us until we get them finished. So if you’ve been avoiding doing something for months on end, you’re basically renting out mental space to that task for free.
To get it back, simply stop procrastinating and get things done.
7. Do 20 minutes of cardio exercise
Someone once told me that we have to balance how much we tire our minds and how much we tire our bodies. If you maintain this balance, then you can’t overload one or the other.
Doing intense physical exercise forces your brain to rest. It can’t focus on making your body work hard and solve complex problems at the same time. So it finally gets a break.
There is also scientific support for this theory. Doing 20 minutes of exercise has amazing benefits for your mind:
- Better concentration.
- Improved mood.
- More energy.
Not to mention all the amazing ways that exercise increases your happiness.
I personally like to work my exercise routine into my lunch break. It gives me a chance to break the 8 hours of sitting at my desk in half. Plus, I can flop onto my sofa afterward guilt-free.
8. Get some quality sleep
As humans, we sometimes look for complicated solutions when nature gives us very simple ones. And for clearing your mind, that solution is sleep.
There’s no exercise, magic pill, or shortcut to getting good rest. It improves your attention, focus, and mood. Ideally, you should get enough quality sleep on a regular basis. But I find even a half-hour nap makes me feel rejuvenated and much more able to tackle a task.
If you think you don’t have time to sleep, think about all the time you’re wasting trying to get work done with an unfocused mind.
9. Commit to finishing pending tasks
As mentioned above, finishing open tasks can help clear your mind. Sometimes, though, you can find yourself in a cursed cycle.
You have a ton of tasks, and want to get them done and off your mind. But you’re so stressed over them that it’s impossible to focus and get them done.
Thankfully, researchers found a back door out of this maddening cycle. Make specific plans for all your tasks. First, write down all the things on your mind. Then, pull out your calendar and write each item of your list on a concrete day and time. (Double the time you think it will take — we always underestimate the time things need!)
This gives you a bit of that sensation when you finish a task that has been weighing on you. It works best when you follow through on your plan, so take scheduling these tasks seriously.
10. Look for the colors of the rainbow
Some moments are particularly rough.
You’re in the middle of a work meeting and anxiety just won’t loosen its grip on you. Or, you just got yelled at by an upset customer and you have to turn to the next one with a smile on your face.
You need to clear your mind instantly to deal with the situation in front of you, and you can’t escape for even a second.
In this case, use a color-based technique by Dr. Kate Truitt.
It’s very simple:
- Look for 5 red objects in your immediate environment. If you’re in the middle of a Zoom meeting, look for red anywhere on your computer screen: app icons, people’s clothing, background colors, etc.
- Look for 5 orange objects.
- Look for 5 yellow objects.
- Look for 5 green objects.
Keep going through as many colors as you need until you feel calmer. If there is nothing of a particular color in your environment, Dr. Truitt suggests thinking of things of that color in your mind.
Fun fact: I had to use this tip in order to be able to focus and finish writing this article on time. So the text you’re reading now is direct proof that this strategy works!
11. Accept that you can never fully clear your mind (at least not for long)
Expectations are the puppeteers of our happiness. What you expect yourself to achieve can frame your performance as an astounding success or an utter failure.
So if happiness is important to you (as I’m sure it is for anyone on this blog!), remember this. It’s in the nature of our minds to wander.
Just like it’s the nature of cats to roam. They may sit still for a while, but eventually, they will go off somewhere again.
The more you try to force them to stay in a particular spot, the more fiercely they will fight for freedom. You wouldn’t get upset at a cat for doing this. But many of us forget that our minds — though less furry — work the same way.
So as you use these tips, remember that their effects are always very temporary. But if your mind refills with clutter, don’t worry — as the wise monk would say, begin again.
💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I've condensed the information of 100's of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇
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Now you know 11 proven and actionable tips for clearing your mind. I hope they help you find a sensation of calm, or get through a tough day.
I’d love to hear about your experience with trying out these tips. Let me know which one is your favorite and how it worked for you in the comments below!