Settle Your Mind


“The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh

It’s the holidays and many of us are operating in overdrive.  As if our busy lives weren’t hectic enough, add the stress of holiday/end of year celebrations, decorating our homes, band concerts, mailing out holiday cards, shopping for presents, and you have a recipe for being very, very stressed out.  What can you do to bring a sense of calm to your day? 

According to Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, to settle your mind, bring more of all three of these key elements into your life:

1) Come into your body

2) Surround yourself with green

3) Play

Research shows there’s an inverse relationship between a busy mind and actually being present in your body. So just take a gentle scan of your body, all the way from your toes to hips to torso, arms, face, and head. Notice if there’s tension anywhere. If there is, just allow that to soften—gently stretch or adjust your body in any way that softens your body. Gentle body scan.

If you’re in an office all day or in a concrete area of a big city, see if you can put more greenery around you (greenhouses count if you’re not near a park). Find ways to get out to areas that have more nature. And also, if there’s sunshine, 20 minutes of sunshine is good for greater resiliency and a sense of well-being.

Play is not only for kids. Play is a natural antidepressant; play creates resiliency; play helps us integrate learning more.  Find ways to play. It’s healthy for you, it will improve your focus and make you more productive—whether it’s getting on the ground with kids, doing things you don’t normally give yourself permission to do, or watching a humorous video. Whatever It is, find more ways to play.

I practice coming into my body and surrounding myself with green fairly regularly with my morning meditation and a walk or run outside every day.  I use the Calm app on my iPhone for meditation.  My outdoor time during this time of year is much more limited due to cold weather—so it’s a dog walk or two per day and/or a run outside.  In the warmer months, I take every chance I get to be outside, and if I am working from home you can bet I’m on my back deck. For play, I love to play around with my kids and dogs.  A good session of Just Dance on the Xbox is a chance to play, work up a sweat, and to show my daughters just how it’s done. ;-)

Exercise control over your present time and see which of these practices you could implement right away.  Try one, two, or all three, and see what difference it makes in settling your mind.  Best case scenario, it could help you get refocused and more resilient this holiday season and beyond.