5 Ways To Hibernate Your Mind
If you find the cooler winter and spring months lure you into wanting more sleep, indulging in comfort food and staying indoors, you are actually experiencing your body’s evolutionary drive to hibernate in winter. Similarly, your mind also functions at its best when it’s allowed periods of activity and periods of rest. Unfortunately, the demands of work, life and technology don’t usually allow us this luxury.
Training your mind to slow down and meditate is proven to boost your effectiveness in every area of your life, sharpen your decision-making, improve relationships, bolster your immune function, protect you from illness and reduce inflammation in your body.
Here are 5 simple ways you can give your brain a break and reap the benefits of more clarity, less stress and better physical and mental health:
1. Connect with your body and be mindful
Our minds are constantly thinking, analysing, worrying, wondering or remembering and are very rarely fully engaged with the present moment. The single most effective way to unhook from your thinking mind is to relax and switch your attention to the physical sensations in your body, because your body is literally always in the present moment. Even spending a few minutes practicing the art of mindfulness and noticing the feeling of your feet on the floor, the temperature of the air and the position of your body is enough to give your thinking brain a much needed break.
2. Take a digital detox
Constant connectivity has the effect of firing up your brain’s stress response centre and keeping you in a ‘fight or flight’ state. When access to technology means your brain’s survival response is switched on all the time, it can lead to depression, insomnia and a whole host of physical problems including obesity. Scheduling relaxation time to unplug from devices, even just for an hour a day or a half-day on the weekend, is a great way to support your physical and mental health.
3. Try micro-meditation
Meditating might feel like too big a challenge in a busy, stressed-out world, but finding opportunities for micro-meditation and relaxation is more achievable for many people. Simply take a few minutes at regular intervals throughout the day to bring your attention to your breath and become aware of your thoughts, feelings and body. Let go of stress-inducing thoughts, relax your jaw and shoulders and move on with your day from a place of more calm and clarity.
4. Take a 3-minute breather
Meditation in less than 5 minutes? Yes, it's possible! The 3-minute breathing space is the backbone of the world renowned 8-week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course which is proven to reduce relapse rates of depression by 50%. The 3 easy steps are:
a. Bring awareness to what's happening right now. Note thoughts and feelings without any judgement (switch off autopilot!) for one minute.
b. Narrow focus to the sensation of each in-breath and out-breath for one minute.
c. Expand awareness again, this time to include the whole body. Note residual feelings of tension. Intentionally relax, then move on with more mindful awareness.
5. Enjoy the view and be present
For most people, rushing through life means living in your head and being disengaged from the world around you. When you’re walking or driving, make a choice to be aware of your surroundings. Notice colour and texture. When you’re with people, tune into their body language and facial expression. As well as giving you a mental break, you’ll increase the quality of your relationships by giving people your full attention. Win-win!
6. Take meditation to the next level
When you’re ready to level up your mental relaxation, try increasing your 3-minute breathing space to 10 minutes - morning and night. The simplest way to start is to download one of the many meditation apps available for free (such as The Mindfulness App, headspace, Smiling Mind and Insight Timer) and follow some simple guided instructions. Sitting still might sound simple, but for most people it’s not easy. There’s a good reason why millions of people around the world – including celebrities from the likes of Novak Djokovic to Jennifer Aniston, Twitter co-founder, Evan Williams and Oprah Winfrey – who use it to give their mind a tune-up. The flow-on effects to every aspect of your life definitely make it worthwhile!
Written by Cassandra Dunn - a dual-qualified Clinical & Coaching Psychologist and the owner of Living Wise Psychology. She is an experienced meditator with over 15 years of meditation practice, and is trained to teach the world-renowned Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course. She draws on both eastern wisdom and western psychology to help her clients create their most happy, fulfilled and inspired lives.