"Shut up". We are taught from a young age that those two words are rude and that we shouldn’t say them to other people. But I would argue that there is one case in which using those two words is quite appropriate. The one person who I give you full permission to tell to shut up to is yourself. In particular, I want you to tell your mind to shut up.
While the art of mindfulness and learning to quiet your thoughts is becoming all the fashion, the value of learning to quiet your mind is a timeless trend. If you can learn to quiet your mind, you can gain clarity and peace in this loud world. And you may even find that your anxiety and stress dissipate with a simple mindfulness practice.
This article will teach you how to turn down the volume on the endless chatter in your brain, so you can hear what matters most to you.
Why having a quiet mind matters
The body of science that supports the benefits of mindfulness is growing exponentially as we are finally waking up to the concept that so much of life is lived between our two ears.
A study in 2009 found that individuals who incorporated mindfulness in their lives were able to use healthier coping strategies when encountering stressors and experienced greater well-being.
These findings were further supported by a review of the literature in 2011 that found increased mindfulness resulted in fewer mental health issues and improved regulation of that individual’s behavior.
These studies convinced me that mindfulness was not something reserved for yoga-practicing hippies searching for nirvana. And as someone who is prone to high levels of stress and anxiety when dealing with life’s troubles, I knew that I needed to figure out ways to be more mindful.
What happens when you let your mind be loud
With so many noises competing for our attention in today’s world, it can be challenging to not let your mind run a million miles per minute. But the research indicates that if you don’t take the time to quiet your mind, the consequences could significantly impact your life.
A study in 2011 found that senior medical students who did not participate in mindful practices were more likely to experience higher levels of stress and anxiety. And it’s not just medical students who need to find ways to quiet their minds.
Research demonstrates that educators who practiced mindfulness were far less likely to experience burnout in their field compared to those who did not incorporate mindfulness practices.
Without mindfulness in my own life, it becomes so easy for external sources and my circumstances to dictate my life experience. Quieting my mind helps remind me of life’s beauty and places me in a state where I am then able to be more resourceful when facing my troubles.
7 ways to quiet your mind
Quieting your mind doesn’t have to look like sitting cross-legged in a silent room, but if that is your thing then great! If you need some more ways to quiet your mind that don’t depend on your flexibility, then here are 7 different options that are sure to help you get started.
1. Walk it out
When my mind is racing, one of the first things I do to pump the brakes is take a walk. Walking is such a great and accessible way to get your mind to slow down.
I implement this technique often at work. If I find my stress levels rising and the urge to pull my hair out coming on, I make it a point to take 10 minutes of my lunch break and walk. Now ten minutes may not sound like much, but it never fails that after those 10 minutes of walking I feel grounded and ready to tackle whatever comes next.
You can walk as fast or as slow as you would like. There are no rules. Using your body to take that bottled-up energy of your buzzing mind and putting it to good use in the form of physical activity will help you to find peace of mind.
2. Take a nap
You might be thinking, “Well, duh Ashley. If I’m sleeping, of course, my mind is quiet.”
But there is more to this point than that, I promise. Sometimes when I can’t seem to get a handle on all of my thoughts, a short catnap can work wonders for giving me the clean slate I need in my brain.
Just last week, I felt like I couldn’t think straight about a big decision I was facing. So I decided to plop down on my couch for 20 minutes and use my body’s natural slowing down the process to recharge my mind. And let me tell you, it worked wonders.
I woke up from that nap with a sense of clarity about what I needed to do and my mind was completely at ease.
This is one of the most common suggestions I hear when it comes to quieting your mind. And after practicing it myself, I can see why.
Your breath is your constant companion. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re overwhelmed by your thoughts or emotions, slowing your mind down may be as simple as taking a few deep breaths.
My favorite technique that I use almost daily now is the 4-4-4-4 method. All you have to do is breathe in for a count of 4 seconds and then hold your breath for 4 seconds. Next, you exhale for a count of 4 seconds and then hold your breath for another 4 seconds.
When I’m driving home with a head full of negative thoughts or when I find myself fuming over finding dirty laundry sitting right next to the hamper, I use this technique and it is truly magic for my mind.
4. Write it all out
I tend to rely on this technique when I cannot let go of all my busy thoughts. Putting my thoughts down on paper seems to let them escape, which frees up space in my brain.
I remember during grad school it was finals week when my boyfriend of two years decided it would be a good idea to dump me. As you can imagine, my brain was having a hard time focusing on anatomy and instead was gravitating towards thoughts of my impending romantic doom.
After hours of staring at my textbooks and getting nowhere, I decided to journal out all my thoughts and feelings. And while I won’t pretend that I felt totally fine after that, I was able to quiet my mind to be able to study and do the things I needed to do.
Now you had to see this one coming. But before you skip to the next point, let me say that meditating does not have to mean sitting in silence.
I personally cannot meditate in silence to save my life. If I try the whole “think of your thoughts as clouds passing by”, then all of a sudden I am staring at a sky covered in clouds that keep bumping into each other.
My preferred form of meditation is guided meditation. I like to use the app Headspace because having someone help me intentionally direct my thoughts with questions or statements appears to give me the greatest benefit.
Here's an article with more specific examples on how meditation can help you live a happier life.
6. Read to quiet your mind
Reading helps quiet my mind by simply forcing me to divert my attention to something else for a time. And through doing this, I find that my conscious mind is able to chill out and let my subconscious mind do its thing.
This one comes in handy for me in the evenings. I have a brain that likes to think about what I am going to pack for lunch tomorrow or how in the world I am going to meet a deadline precisely at my bedtime each night.
So in order to put my to-do list on hold and let my mind relax, I have found reading is the perfect outlet. When I finish reading, I find my mind has gone from feeling overwhelmed and anxious to curious and calm.
Social media is the greatest gift of our time and yet somehow it is also the greatest curse of our time. Within just 5 minutes, you can view someone else’s life and form a sense of jealousy or inadequacy about all the things you are not doing in your life.
I find that if I scroll mindlessly for hours on end, my mind never feels refreshed or at ease. Instead, I am left with a mind that either needs to find that cute sweater my favorite influencer was wearing or a brain that asks, “Why can’t my life be like hers?”.
Now I won’t deny that social media can also be a beneficial tool and a source of joy. But for me personally, taking a break from social media for a day or even a month can be a powerful means by which to quiet my mind and regain my focus.
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You don’t have to be a yogi who chants “ohm” incessantly to quiet your mind. If you implement the ideas from this article, you can discover the bliss that comes from giving your mind respite from the loud world. Telling your mind to shut up may be the thing that allows you to finally listen to that voice inside of you and find the joy you’ve been missing out on all this time.
What's your favorite way to quiet your mind? Do you think I missed an important tip in this article? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!