Mental noise - also called inner monologue - is that voice which provides an oftentimes ongoing verbal whirlwind of your conscious (and unconscious) thoughts. These can show up as repetitive belief patterns, a reliving of negative experiences or fears, dwelling in the past or fearing the future, criticizing or analysing your (or others) actions or decisions and involuntary thinking and daydreaming. Most often, your inner monologue is not dealing in the present. It's almost always thinking about something in the past or in the future.
While your inner monologue does have its advantages, it can also derail you and create a hurdle in your endeavor to live your most desired life. The great news is that we can train our brains to think and consider almost any thought differently. In today's post we share Neat Little Nest's 10 techniques to help decrease your mental clutter.
take deep breaths
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to almost immediately lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends the message to your body to do the same.
To use your breathing to find a state of calm, focus on slowing the pace of your breath. Begin by counting to four on your inhales and then four on your exhales for one minute. Then, try to slow your breaths down further by using a count of six and do so for another minute.
do a brain dump
When my mind is on overdrive, it's often because I'm trying to do too much or I'm trying to remember all of the things I need to do and that build up begins to cause a mental swirl and leads to a state of overwhelm. If this sounds familiar, then a brain dump is an excellent technique to decrease all of the noise that is cluttering up your mind.
A brain dump is as simple as taking a blank sheet of paper or a page in your favorite journal and for 5 minutes or so jotting down everything on your to-do list and other items that are top-of-mind. This exercise helps you organize the mish-mash of random and not so random mind wanderings. You can learn a lot about yourself this way plus gain a lot of wisdom from taking a step back from a brain dump and reflecting a few days later on what you might glean from it.
Getting outside and into nature is likely to make you think more clearly and consequently leave you feeling more relaxed and refreshed. Your brain doesn't have to work as hard in a greener environment. In one study, after 20 minutes in a park, children with ADHD were able to concentrate better. Spending time outside can also bring down your heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones, and even muscle tension. Don't forget to breathe.
consider how you would react to a friend
If your mental chatter is being overly critical of yourself, one way to decrease the negative self-talk is ask yourself how you might talk to a close friend if they were in a similar situation that you find yourself in. This reframing the chatter in your mind can assist in redirecting it from taking you down a negative thought spiral and it can help you architect your thoughts in a more positive pattern so you can move about your day in a more constructive and productive way.
widen the view
If you find yourself become overly obsessed with a certain topic or event or monologue and the tape is playing over and over and over, it might be time to widen your view.
Widening you view is a technique to help shift narrow-minded thinking. To do this, begin to consider how the experience you are worrying about fits into the broader scheme of your life and world and if relevant, how this concern compares to other other experiences you have had in the past. The wider you take your view, the easier it is to put the topic you're spending a lot of mental energy on into a broader perspective from a different angle.
get more sleep
If you've noticed you tend to be more sensitive, easily irritated, or impulsive when you get less sleep, there is a biological reason for it. Sleep is essential for both your amygdala and prefrontal cortex to work properly.
The amygdala is in charge of your emotional responses and when you sleep your amygdala processes your emotion. That means when you miss out on sleep, the amygdala goes into overdrive, causing your immediate emotional reactions to intensify. The prefrontal cortex does many important things. One of which is being “the voice of reason” to emotions (this means getting the amygdala to cool its jets when it's out of sorts). The prefrontal cortex helps control impulses.
Getting more sleep ensures that your putting your brain in its best state and with the optimum balance to help you manage all of the things life throws at you. Take a look at some of my favorite self care items to help you wind down for better sleep.
move your body
Even just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise, like a brisk walk, can begin to calm your mind. The reason for that is when you exercise, your body releases endorphins -- chemicals that make you feel good and can help improve your mood, focus, and sleep.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can give you a big dose of endorphins in a short time. HIIT programs include a warm up followed by alternating 20- to 30-second bursts of pushing yourself hard (like doing sprints, squats, or fast weightlifting) with equal amounts of rest.
reframe negative experiences as challenges
Everyone has negative experiences. Our reaction to those experiences has a big effect on our mind chatter. If we choose to deal with an obstacle by repeating negative beliefs and interpreting the challenge as a threat or something we cannot process, our mental clutter can skyrocket.
One way to combat any negative feelings is to reframe them more as a challenge. Telling your inner voice how you have succeeded in the past with other challenges reminds it that you are capable of making changes and improving a situation.
declutter your home
It has long been studied that a cluttered environment can lead to a cluttered mind. The reason for this is that when you are in a chaotic environment your brain needs to take in a lot of stimuli. Depending on what the stimuli is (eg. delayed tasks, important to-do's, etc.) it can increase stress and the feeling of overwhelm and, in turn, increase your mind chatter.
By taking the time to declutter your home and by removing items you no longer love or need, you can decrease the stimuli surrounding you and help to slow down your mind and foster an environment that helps you find equilibrium.
hang out with a dog or cat
Whether it's a member of your family or a therapy pet, a pet can make you feel less anxious, tense, confused, and restless. When you pet and play with a dog, studies have shown it can lower levels of stress hormones. One reason, according to research, is that social interaction with your dog increases the feel-good chemical oxytocin, which lifts your spirits. Although not studied as much, cats can calm you, too.
Letting go of unhelpful inner chatter that we tend to lug around allows you to embrace more of the positive, feel good vibes that life can offer. Freeing up a bit of mental real estate makes room for a much more reasoned and compassionate style of thinking and I think you would agree that we all could use a bit more of that type of self-care.
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