The saying “healthy body, healthy mind” is and always has been a tried-and-tested mantra. Arguably, the phrase has just as much relevance when flipped on its head. After all, the effects of psychological stress on the body can have a significant impact, reducing the ability of our immune system to fend off infection.
Simply put, when our minds are bogged down with deadlines and demands, all aspects of our health can be negatively affected.
This rings particularly true in the context of today’s world, where we eat on the go, shop on the go, and even work on the go. Such a fast-paced way of living is not only physically exhausting, but also takes its toll on our mental health as we struggle to keep up with both personal and professional demands.
So, how can we actively protect our mental wellbeing in order to ensure overall health and contentment?
A great place to start is by training your mind to relax.
Given your busy schedule, it may be difficult to fathom where you’ll get the time to fit this in. However, it is a simple process (sometimes setting aside five minutes a day is all it takes) and once you get the hang of it, it could significantly change your life for the better.
How do you train your mind to relax?
We’re used to training for a marathon or gradually strengthening our muscles through various methods like weight lifting and Pilates, but can you apply the same principles to training your mind?
The short answer is yes, and it’s a lot easier to achieve than you might think!
The neural networks of the brain are capable of becoming rewired and adapting accordingly when exposed to new practices. This is known as “neuroplasticity”. The more you expose your brain to these novel experiences, the quicker it will respond and the faster you will react.
The trick is to put in the practise to reap the rewards.
Techniques like meditation and deep breathing are closely associated with mindfulness and mental wellbeing, but there are also other routes you can take to train your mind and declutter it of stressful thoughts, while benefitting other areas of your life in the process.
1. Get some fresh air
Becoming accustomed to daily sessions in the great outdoors can do wonders for your mindset. Breathing in some good old-fashioned fresh air can increase the oxygen levels in your brain, which in turn boosts mood-altering serotonin. You might decide to sit in a quiet, secluded area where you can breathe and watch the world go by, or you may decide to up the ante by taking a walk to raise that step count.
Examine your daily routine to find out where you can slot in this outdoor time without having to sacrifice other important items on your to-do list. Perhaps the commute to and from work could be completed on foot. Or maybe you could trade your lunchtime online browsing session for a brief spell in the sunshine.
Whatever way you can incorporate it, make an effort to do so for the good of your overall health.
2. Find your happy place
This next technique couldn’t be easier to both accomplish and master. Similar to meditation in ways, the process of finding your happy place can help you to recentre your thoughts and remove the mental chaos caused by a stressful day or worrying work situation.
Simply find a quiet spot where you can be alone for five minutes, 10 minutes, or however long you feel appropriate, close your eyes and concentrate on evoking a memory that makes you feel calm and happy. Linking this memory specifically to a place helps you to positively activate all the senses and really lose yourself in this more pleasant space.
Think of the scenery – what you see, who you see, the colours and the eye-catching details; the smells; the sounds you hear – whether the hum of a crowd on a busy street or the calming lull of the waves on a beach; the textures you feel with your hands or the sensation of water, wind, or materials on your skin; and the tastes you experience – were you enjoying a gourmet meal or tasting the salt water in the air during a day at the seaside?
Harking back to this place and this moment in time that fills you with happy memories will instantly impact your mood and change the direction of your train of thought.
3. Feel the music
Music is magical for many reasons. Whether listening to music, playing an instrument, singing or dancing along to a song, the power of this melodic language serves to boost your mood while offering other routes to self-improvement, such as enhancing memory, concentration, focus and the ability to learn.
Finding the right way to integrate music into your life on a regular basis can play a huge part in relaxing your mind and helping you to switch off from the stress and strain of the daily grind.
If taking up an instrument is an idea you’ve always toyed with, why not bite the bullet and go for it? Maybe you love singing and have always wanted to showcase your talents outside of the shower. In that case, check your local area for choral groups that are looking for new members. On the other hand, if performance isn’t your thing, take refuge in listening to the music that instantly perks you up or relaxes you, placing you back on a positive mental path.
To achieve the latter, you could create a personal mindfulness playlist and have your headphones at the ready for that point in the day when you need it most.
4. Conduct a digital detox
In this digital era, it’s hard to escape the lure of screens in their many forms. Oftentimes, however, we need to make a conscious effort to do so – particularly when our mental health is being compromised.
Of course, it is inevitable that to function as part of modern society, we need to engage with screens to a certain extent. However, excessive exposure to that pesky blue light can not only affect our sleep, but can also increase our likelihood of depression and poor physical health.
Regular time spent online takes chunks out of the hours and minutes we could be spending interacting with friends and family, out and about exercising, and catching up on that all-important shut-eye. It’s therefore crucial to regularly re-evaluate our screentime tendencies and to actively cut down on overindulgence where possible in order to restore balance in our minds and our lives in general.
5. Get more sleep
Speaking of shut eye, it’s amazing what a few extra hours of precious sleep can do to relax our brain and body.
Reorganising your routine – and retraining your brain – to accommodate an increase in snooze time has plentiful benefits, providing opportunities for physical and mental recovery, while boosting memory and mood in the process.
Those with jam-packed diaries, incorporating work, family and everything in between, might scoff at the implausibility of catching an extra forty winks here and there, but by examining your schedule and finding areas that can be reduced or eliminated, you might just be able to allocate some extra time to this vital practice.
This could involve cutting out that extra nightly episode of the Netflix series you’re currently hooked on, or avoiding the temptation to delve into those work emails after dinner. It doesn’t matter how little or large your efforts are; making small changes to your routine to allow for a slightly earlier bedtime will attribute to a more relaxed state of mind and recharged body.
For more on this you can download and view our webinar with the incredible Jen Martin, Psychological Coach, who gave us a masterclass on how to build resilience, reduce stress and learn to live our best lives. This session qualifies for one hour of CPD training under the Management and Professional Development category and you can download that here.
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