Our minds are never at rest. Often times, when we’re not occupied, an uninterrupted stream of thoughts flows through our minds. Sometimes, we deliberately think about things, but often, we are simply unaware of the thoughts in our heads. According to research, an average human being is believed to have over six thousand thoughts a day. Irrespective of whether or not we are aware of our thoughts, they form an incessant chatter in our heads. All this noise, or inner monologue, creates distractions and prevents us from concentrating on the task at hand. Just like a monkey that swings from one tree to another, our mind too jumps from one thought to another, either ruminating over the past or worrying about the future.
When we silence the mental noise, we find that our mind becomes still. It becomes calm and peaceful. Our brain begins to function better, and we become more creative, efficient and alert. We begin to feel as if we are in control. And instead of reacting to stressful life situations with fear and anxiety, we begin to face difficulties with a positive attitude.
But how do we silence the mental chatter? How do we take control of our thoughts? Here are a few ways to get off the mental hamster wheel.
Breathe with awareness
“This silence, this moment, every moment, if it’s genuinely inside you, brings what you need.” – Rumi
The practice of bringing the mind to stillness by anchoring ourselves to the present is called mindfulness. Of course, mastering mindfulness requires effort and practice. One of the simpler ways to become more mindful is by being aware of our breath. Meditation is one practice that allows us to pay attention to our breath. But often, when we sit down to meditate, we might find that random thoughts interfere. Author Stephen Richards offers a solution to this in The Ultimate Cosmic Ordering Meditation: “If you can simply dismiss the thoughts by giving them no value then the breathing will find its own medium and become subtle.”
The more we concentrate and pay attention to our breath, the more we’d be in sync with the present moment. After all, we can neither breathe in the past nor in the future. We can only breathe in the present—here and now. Therefore, focusing on our breath helps us become mindful, and quietens our busy mind.
Reconnect with nature
“The silence of nature is very real. It surrounds you, you can feel it.” – Ted Trueblood
It seems our brains are wired to recharge and rejuvenate only when we are in the midst of nature. Be it by walking barefoot on earth, swimming in the sea, or listening to the song of the birds at dawn, connecting with nature helps us feel peaceful. It calms our minds and slows down our thoughts. How does this happen? David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah has an explanation. According to Strayer, nature recalibrates our senses. In the Ted Talk Restore your Brain with Nature, the psychologist talks about the invigorating power of nature on our prefrontal cortex, which is the cognitive centre of our brain. He says, the more we spend time in nature, the more our overused frontal lobe revitalises. By overcoming mental fatigue and burnout, our frontal lobe heightens our senses. Hence, we become more mindful and perceptive of everything that surrounds us.