I write a lot about setting aside a small amount of time for yourself every day because I believe it is so important to your overall wellbeing and mental health. It's something that I'm trying to do more often this year, and after doing some research, I came across these four ancient techniques that help make that quiet time more effective.
For those of you like me, it's not always easy to quiet the never-ending mental checklist or the nagging voice inside your head that always has something negative to say. I've tried a few of these on the list, and they've really helped to make it easier to make my quiet time actually quiet.
Try them for yourself and let me know what you think!
1. Practice breathing meditation. Breathing meditation is a simple and effective method for calming your mind. It's worked wonders for me in many aspects of my life. Start by finding a comfortable and quiet place where you can sit and observe your breath. With practice, you'll be able to meditate longer periods or place your mind on your breath in any surroundings.
2. Develop single-pointed concentration. Train your mind to rest upon your object of meditation whether it's a candle or a spoken mantra. Note any distracting thoughts but decline to pursue them. Bring your mind back to your chosen object.
3. Learn to visualize. Select images that promote happiness and serenity. I tend to save images to my phone's photo album that make me happy and peaceful, and then I use one or two of the images to help me visualize myself being there.
4. Focus on positive thoughts. If your meditation is part of a spiritual practice, you can follow the prayers taught in your tradition. Alternatively, you can soothe your mind by repeating any thought or quote that is meaningful for you.
Use the Soothing Qualities of Water
1. Take a bath. Cultures all over the world have long appreciated the calming effects of water. A simple warm bath can soothe your nerves. Rest your head on a bath pillow and add some comforting scents like sandalwood or lavender. Turn the lights down low and play soft music.
2. Surround yourself with the sound of water. Eat your lunch by a park fountain or install a solar device in your own backyard. You can find recordings of waterfalls online or get a CD with aquatic effects that you can play anywhere you go.
Get Back to Nature
1. Go for a walk. In some eras, it was common for people to go on long retreats into the wilderness. Even a short break can do wonders to restore your peace of mind. Visit your local park or take a quiet walk around your neighborhood. If you work indoors all week, use the weekend to explore scenic trails for biking and hiking.
2. Cultivate a garden. Gardening is a great way to slow down and appreciate nature. It's one of my absolute favorite ways to spend a morning — my hands in the dirt helping something thrive and grow. Devote a section of your backyard to growing flowers and vegetables. If you live in an apartment setting, select plants that will flourish indoors or on a balcony, like some species of palm trees and herbs.
3. Spend time with animals. Spending time with animals is so therapeutic it's even been proven to help people recover from surgery faster. Take your dog for a walk. Watch your cat at play. Sign up for horseback riding lessons.
Live in the Present Moment
1. Put the past behind you. Dwelling on the past can make it difficult to be completely engaged in the present. If you're thinking about the past, make a choice to devote your energy to more constructive activities.
2. Adopt a positive view towards the future. The future always carries some uncertainty. Focus on creating causes for a better future and patiently accepting whatever outcomes arise.
3. Enjoy the present moment. Give your full attention to what is happening now. Take advantage of the opportunities before you and enjoy the good things that surround you. Steer your mind towards positive thoughts and actions. Engage fully with the people who share your life.
Many of these techniques have worked well for me in achieving a quiet mind regardless of what's going on around me. With these methods, you can create a welcoming environment for yourself and train your mind to enjoy greater peace, even during times when it feels extremely difficult to do so.