It’s hard to believe, but we have around 50,000 thoughts a day! And a lot of these thoughts are on the same subject, with a lot of negative self-talk. It’s no wonder people need to quieten their minds and give their brains a rest. Humans have big brains, but that’s still a lot of thinking for one day, and while it is a beautiful creation, your brain isn’t your boss; it’s only there to keep you alive. Its fabulous circuitry and neural plasticity are designed so you can function and survive.
Everything we do each day channels into one operating system - it’s called the fight or flight response, and it’s a function we share with lizards, crocodiles and all mammals. Experts tell us the problem with our brilliant fight/flight mechanism is that it was designed back when humans became bipeds and stood upright some 300,000 years ago. Back then, people had to fight or flee from wild animals that would eat them. If a monster appeared, the person’s brain sent a message to the adrenal glands, which released adrenaline to raise the heart rate and blood pressure to prepare to fight or flee. When the crisis was over, the adrenaline lessened, the heart rate slowed, and the blood pressure went down. Phew!
We still possess the ancient fight/flight mechanism but there’s more to our minds than mere survival. Our minds are a natural wonder; the result of brilliant circuitry and the creations that are produced by the computer in your skull. The mind is full of dreams, memories, hopes and desires, passions, sorrows and joys that make up your individual life. The operative words are Your Life. Finding happiness in today’s world may depend on learning to quieten your caveman brain so your 21st Century mind can blossom and bring you happiness and success.
Your brain creates emotions such as hate and fear, pain and love to keep you out of harm’s way and to help you grow. This is why these emotions play such a major role in your life. Also, there is a psychological phenomenon called ‘pacing. If you’re around a very anxious person for too long, you begin to match their pace or anxiety. Learning how to quieten your mind and practising daily can help you both quieten your own mind, and the minds of those around you.
The following tips may show you how to quieten your mind:
1. The Negative Voice
We’re not talking about the symptoms of a major mental illness, just that feeling or small voice that sounds like a critical classmate telling you that you’re doing things wrong all the time. That voice is your 40,000-year-old brain talking, catastrophising, searching for trouble, and if there are no monsters near, it turns inside and picks on you. If you can learn not to listen to that voice, it will fade away in time.
2. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is focusing on what is happening right now, this second, and it can help reduce stress levels. Most people live in the past or the future rather than the present. Focusing on or obsessing about what might happen tomorrow or what should have happened in the past is a waste of time and causes anxiety. There is no future or past, they are only thoughts. There is only ever now. To practice mindfulness, you pay full attention not only to what is happening outside of you but inside as well, moment to moment, without judging. You simply observe your thoughts and sensation of smell, touch and taste, sight and sound and touch. Mindfulness comes from Buddhist meditation practices, but anyone can get into the healthy habit of being mindful to improve their wellbeing, memory and self-awareness. Seek out a meditation teacher or find a group that meets every week to get you started on your quest to quieten your mind.
Other ways to quieten your mind
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