Clear Your Mind

Are you stressed? It’s no secret, of course, that modern lifestyles often go hand-in-hand with cluttered, unsettled minds. Chances are, if you are not experiencing stress right at this moment, you have recently or will soon. Eager to find a “fix,” well-intentioned folks advise slowing down and taking time for what’s important–while simultaneously giving constant tips for fitting more into already packed schedules. But HOW?

Our society is almost universally plagued with a perceived abundance of problems, and a shortage of time to deal with them. Even now, you probably have a running to-do list in the back of your mind and a mental list of ongoing areas of concern in your life.

Trying to juggle the countless responsibilities that come with each of the many roles we play (such as employee, parent, or student) is enough to drive anyone crazy, and that’s just ONE possible source of stress. Add on top of that finances, relationships, health concerns, and so on, and it’s no wonder the American Psychological Association revealed that more than half of all Americans are concerned about the amount of stress in their everyday lives.

Can a solution to internal chaos really be as simple as “slowing down”? Life has become busy and fast-paced, of course, and physical rest can be beneficial. But a still body does not guarantee a still mind. Even during sleep, a state of almost total physical relaxation, the mind tends to remain active. And even sedentary people can be addicted to distraction, needing media like television or music to keep their mind off the present.

So what IS the solution? The answer lies not in a big, one-size-fits-all overhaul, but in small, personal, everyday life choices. Tiny steps can be made towards awareness, which lead to relief from the mental rat race, and finally to being fully present in life. The act of accomplishing mental presence is hard, but not impossible. With practice, it is a discipline that anyone can access.

Many tools can help on the quest for a clear mind and stress relief. Unsurprisingly, yoga is pretty high on the list! Countless studies testify to the positive effects of yoga on mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and of course, regular stress. Different aspects of class–such as the commitment to showing up, the singular focus required to hold difficult postures, and the discipline required to remain still in savasana–can all serve as “stepping stones” toward inner stillness.

While these examples are specific to the yoga room, what is mastered on the mat will carry over into the rest of life. You CAN create change within yourself. Become aware of and limit things that take you out of the present. This might mean shutting off your smartphone when you’re not using it, avoiding excessive alcohol intake if you find yourself using it as a way to avoid being in the present, or even choosing a simple phrase to repeat and focus on if your own mind is the culprit. Even more importantly than just limiting things that take you out of the moment, is learning how to love the moment while you are in it!

Your still and present mind will not come overnight, but it is worth the effort. Enjoy filling your life with moments that you can fully appreciate. Though you cannot add hours to your life, you can add a lot of quality life to your hours.

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