Clear Your Mind
We live in a hectic world. For most of us, there are too many demands on both our time and attention. Trying to keep on top of everything usually leads us to over-schedule and over-stress, work too much and sleep too little—starting to sound familiar?
But more and more these days, people are coming to realize the importance of unplugging and focusing one's mind. Beginning in 2017, French companies with more than 50 employees are now required to guarantee workers the "right to disconnect" from technology when they leave the office at night. Because if there's no break, there's no resetting of your mind. Without that, everything from your creativity and clarity to your ability to make concise decisions and interact with others will suffer. Thankfully, you don't have to move to France to pull back from daily demands. You just need to reclaim some time each day to let your mind and soul rest. Meditate. Go for a walk. Do some simple yoga stretches. Hell, do whatever it is you have to do to allow your mind to focus on the present moment and nothing else.
"We live in a culture where maybe we think the more we're thinking about stuff, the more that we're doing stuff, the more productive we're going to be, but it doesn't actually always work like that," says Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace, the popular guided meditation app. "Meditation offers us the ability to step out from that thinking mind and to see it in a different way so that we're not so easily overwhelmed." He likens meditation to working out. Consistency, he says, is probably the most important thing—go the gym for an hour once a week and you probably won't notice much of a benefit. But go every day for half an hour and you'll start seeing real results.
And the good thing about taking time to meditate is that it doesn't even require half an hour. Headspace, for example, only asks for 10 minutes. To help you form sustainable habits, the app uses some of the same tactics as activity trackers (i.e. mindfulness push notification reminders, tallies of "run streaks" and congratulatory emails). They also offer sessions for such active experiences as cooking, commuting or walking—all specially designed to help you bring mindfulness into the ties of your life when you're not sitting comfortably with your eyes closed.
Of course, the benefits of mediation have long been documented. It's simply a challenge to prioritize putting yourself and your wellbeing first when there are so many other demands. So if even ten minutes feels like a stretch, start even smaller. Got 18 seconds? We thought so. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four, then hold that breath for a seven counts. Then exhale, letting the breath escape through your mouth for seven counts. There, you've just meditated. And already, you probably feel a touch calmer, right? That's the body's natural relaxation response. Keep it up and you'll not only feel relaxed but you'll start feeling more accomplished too. Boosted concentration, awareness and a sharper focus won't be far behind. All without ever lighting up some incense.