Calming Your Distressed Mind
Sometimes in life it’s helpful to have signposts that we can see to help bring us back to the present moment and reinforce a certain way of being that we aspire to. Just like signs on the road may help remind us to slow down or children crossing, we can use short verses in our day to day to remind us to be how we want to be.
Check for auto-pilot reaction before moving on: Take a moment to check in with any judgments that might be arising right now. For example, “short verses? Is he nuts? How could that ever help me?” or “What is this, an affirmation, those never work.” Or “why am I even continuing to read this?” If anything like this arises, this is normal, just take a moment to notice the automatic judgment, let it be, take a breath to help ground to the here and now and then gently continue on with the next paragraph.
Acclaimed author, teacher, and Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh uses short phrases all the time to support himself in being more present, grounded, and aware in daily life. He has taught this practice to medical professionals, Psychologists, and students for many years now. He teaches the practices of walking and/or breathing and using these phrases to support us in calming our distressed minds and being more present to every day life.
- You may take three steps while breathing in and say “Breathing in, I calm my body” and then with the following three steps “Breathing out, I relax.” You can then shorten this to saying “calm” as you breathe in, and “relax” as you breathe out.
- “Breathing in, I notice the colors all around me, breathing out, I smile.” Then shorten to “Breathing in, colors, breathing out, smile.” Even if we don’t feel like smiling, the simple act of doing a half-smile sometimes can change the tension in our faces, which in turn affects our mood.
- “Breathing in, I have arrived, breathing out, I am home.” Then shorten too “Breathing in, arrived, breathing out, home.” Have you ever had the experience where you were rushing home to relax. It doesn’t make sense and isn’t effective is calming the nervous system. Sometimes reminding ourselves that we have arrived to the present moment already and that we are home can help calm an anxious mind. We can then slow down and get home a few minutes later in a more collected and relaxed state.
- “Breathing in, I wash my hands, breathing out, may I use them wisely throughout the day.” Shorten to, “Breathing in, washing, breathing out, wise hands.” This practice can not only bring appreciation to one of the unsung heroes of our bodies, our hands, but also reinforce the idea of being aware of all they do during the day and being more mindful with them. This cultivation of appreciation can support us in feeling well.
These are just some examples; you can make up your own that fit for you. You can do this while walking or just sitting and breathing. And ofcourse, most important of all, don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. If it’s not for you, cast it aside, but give it a shot. Pay attention to how you are feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally before doing it and then again after you do it for a few breaths.
As always, please share your thoughts and questions below. Your engagement here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Goldstein, E. (2009). Calming Your Distressed Mind. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/03/calming-your-distressed-mind/