5 Exercises to Clear Your Mind During Your Holidays
In this regard, there are various ways you can disconnect during your holidays. Clearing your mind is one of them, a resource with tremendous therapeutic value that can help you relax tensions, balance emotions, silence repetitive thoughts, and free yourself from the feeling of always being busy and/or worried. However, although it is a simple technique, for many people, it can represent a significant challenge, especially when they don't understand what clearing the mind truly means. So, if you want to learn how to clear your mind, the first step is to understand what it means before you can practice it.
What Does Clearing Your Mind Exactly Mean?
When talking about clearing your mind, most people imagine a state in which the mind is entirely empty, free from all thoughts and emotions. Some go even further and believe it's a kind of "nothingness" covered in a white cloak where only consciousness exists. However, in reality, clearing your mind doesn't mean emptying it of all content but rather letting go, ceasing to cling to those repetitive emotions and/or thoughts. This phenomenon is known as rumination, and according to one of its leading researchers, Psychology Professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, it refers to a "series of recurrent, repetitive, intrusive, passive, and unwanted ideas" that cause intense distress.
Therefore, the primary goal of clearing your mind is to halt this flow of ruminative thoughts and rein in the associated emotions, promoting a state of deep calm and relaxation. This doesn't necessarily involve emptying your mind of thoughts but rather avoiding fixation on them, allowing them to gradually dissipate so you can focus on the present moment and perceive what's happening within you.
Why Would Learning to Clear Your Mind Be Beneficial During Your Holidays?
Clearing your mind will not only help you disconnect from work during your vacations but also calm your emotions and relax your mind. It's an ideal therapeutic resource for relieving tensions and combating stress, as it has been found to reduce the activity of the amygdala, a brain region responsible for processing and storing fears, traumas, and anxieties. Moreover, it's a great ally for fully enjoying the present moment while enhancing your psychological well-being. However, these are not its only benefits:
1. Increases Your Energy Level:
Learning to clear your mind can be a great exercise for calming your mind and helping you achieve a deeper and more restorative sleep, resulting in waking up with much more energy. It also helps you stay more focused on your tasks and plans, preventing your mind from wandering into other ideas or thoughts that not only cause significant discomfort but also consume a lot of cognitive energy. As a result, you'll not only be more focused but also more physically and mentally active.
2. Fosters Emotional Self-Control:
Learning to clear your mind is also an excellent exercise for controlling emotional reactivity and impulsivity, as revealed by a study conducted at the University of Surrey. It can also help you work on self-control and identify and accept your emotions. Clearing your mind helps calm your mood and creates emotional distance from experiences, allowing you to observe and reflect on what's happening from a more balanced perspective.
3. Facilitates Decision-Making:
Did you know that clearing your mind can also help you make better decisions? This is because it helps you gain a broader view of your experiences while enhancing your problem-solving ability. Thus, you'll be able to make more thoughtful and rational decisions, reducing doubts and boosting self-confidence.
4. Improves Cognitive Functions:
Clearing your mind can also improve your concentration, stimulate your memory, and enhance your creativity since it helps rebuild the gray matter in your brain—the area where synapses between neurons occur, forming the basis for your higher cognitive functions, as shown in a study by Harvard University researchers.
5. Enhances Mindfulness:
When you clear your mind and disconnect from repetitive thoughts, you can better notice what you're feeling at the moment and experience your reactions to the events around you. This not only contributes to improved focus but also helps you maintain mindfulness and focus on the present moment.
5 Practical Techniques to Clear Your Mind and Disconnect
Clearing your mind requires practice. To begin, it's recommended to choose a quiet space where there are no distractions, and no one can disturb you. It could be a room where you feel comfortable, or an outdoor environment where you can connect with nature. Also, make sure to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that facilitates your mobility and breathing. Once prepared, you can start with some exercises that will help you gain skills in this technique.
Meditation is one of the simplest exercises for disconnecting and clearing your mind, while also offering many other benefits for your well-being. To practice it, sometimes all you need to do is slow down your daily pace, take a break from your plans, and enjoy the moment with all your senses alert. However, if you want to take it a step further during your holidays, here's an exercise:
- Choose a quiet place where you feel comfortable and sit with your back straight or lie down on a mat to facilitate breathing.
- Focus your attention on the air entering your nose and going into your lungs, imagining that you are gaining tranquility with each inhale and exhale.
- When you begin to relax, shift your focus to your thoughts. Don't judge them; simply be aware of what you're thinking and observe how they pass through your mind.
- Once you've noticed this flow of thoughts, avoid clinging to them. Observe how they march through your mind and continue on their way.
- At this point, shift your attention to the stimuli coming from the outside—the air on your face or the sound of trees—and enjoy every detail. Stay in this state for at least 2 or 3 minutes.
- When you return your attention to your mind, you'll notice that your negative thoughts have stopped bothering you, and you'll feel much calmer and more relaxed.
2. Conscious Breathing:
Breathing exercises are great allies for relaxing tensions and letting go of disturbing emotions, as they activate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing blood pressure and heart rate. Furthermore, they can help you clear your mind. In this regard, mindfulness breathing is an excellent technique to achieve this.
- Sit comfortably or lie down in a place where you feel at ease and calm.
- Start by inhaling slowly through your nose. Feel your lungs filling from bottom to top, and your chest rising.
- Hold the breath for a few seconds, and then exhale very slowly through your mouth. You can place a hand on the top of your abdomen to feel how the air fills and empties your lungs.
- Focus your attention solely on the exercise, and don't think about anything else but your breath. If you notice a thought entering your mind, let it flow and continue the exercise.
- Perform between 10 to 15 repetitions
of the exercise. Afterward, you'll notice that your mind is much more relaxed and free from negative thoughts.
3. Visualization Technique: "Leaves in the River"
Visualization is a very effective technique for dealing with situations, especially for inducing a state of mental calm. The "Leaves in the River" technique, in particular, is highly effective for letting go of negative thoughts and clearing your mind.
- To begin, focus on your breath—inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Repeat this exercise until you feel relaxed.
- Close your eyes and imagine that you are standing in front of a river with swiftly flowing water carrying leaves from various trees. Create all the details around you until you truly feel like you're there.
- Concentrate on the thought you want to free yourself from and visualize it as a leaf. Give it the shape and color you wish.
- Take the leaf and place it in the water, observing how the current carries it downstream until it disappears completely from your view. Meanwhile, feel that thought drifting away with the leaf.
- Move on to the next thought and/or emotion you want to get rid of, and repeat the same process. Continue until you feel that your mind has emptied of all those negative ideas and has gone blank.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Mindfulness:
This technique, developed in the early 20th century by the physician and psychiatrist Edmund Jacobson, is one of the most widely used by psychology professionals to induce a state of mental and physical relaxation. It can be a useful resource for disconnecting and clearing your mind, especially when combined with mindfulness exercises.
- Get into a comfortable posture, preferably lying down with your hands extended by your sides.
- Breathe deeply and slowly. Inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this exercise for about 2 minutes.
- Focus your attention on your feet. Tense them for about 20 to 30 seconds and imagine that all your body's attention is concentrated in them. Think about the sensations this generates in the rest of your body.
- Then, slowly release the tension in your feet for about 20 to 30 seconds. While doing so, focus on how all the accumulated tension in the rest of your body is gradually releasing. Pay attention to the sensations this creates.
- Repeat the same exercise with the other muscle groups in your body: thighs, abdomen, arms, shoulders, neck, and finally, facial muscles.
- At the end, you'll not only notice that you are much more relaxed but also that you have stopped paying attention to your worries and negative thoughts.
5. Relaxation with Visualization: "Blank Mind"
Another exercise that can be very useful for learning to clear your mind is to combine relaxation with the "Blank Mind" visualization technique. This is a simple but highly effective way to calm your mind and disconnect during your holidays.
- Lie down on a mat or sit comfortably with your hands by your sides.
- Focus your attention on your breath. Inhale through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Feel your abdomen moving with each breath.
- Repeat this exercise until you start to feel more relaxed and at ease.
- Then, imagine yourself in the middle of a room surrounded by thoughts, worries, and emotions that disturb you.
- Suddenly, visualize how everything turns white and envelops you as all your thoughts disappear.
- Stay in this state, enjoying the white space beneath and around you. Gradually color your surroundings with new thoughts that bring you peace.
- To conclude, create a visual portrait of the new room you've created. You'll likely feel much calmer and more relaxed.
Finally, keep in mind that initially, it may be challenging to perform or complete these exercises. However, with some practice, you'll likely succeed in clearing your mind and feeling calmer and more relaxed. Nevertheless, if you find it difficult to clear your mind, and these exercises don't work for you, you can always seek the help of a psychology professional who can teach you how to practice them and provide you with other tools to avoid rumination of thoughts.
You can count on an online psychologist at Therapyside to continue delving into your emotions, prioritize yourself, and take care of your psychological well-being. If this article has helped you better understand this topic, we hope you feel more empowered to live a life without limitations!