We look forward to summer all year long. We plan our holidays and await those moments when we do not have to be so busy. The rest of the year is filled with deadlines, expectations and the logistical juggle of a full life. Finally summer arrives – however all too often we forget that it is not just the arrival of summer that helps us decompress. We actually need to find ways to center ourselves and let go of the stress of the year. It is not unusual to be in the midst of a fabulous life, but unable to be present in that fabulous life.
Summer does bring an opportunity to put aside some of the “doings” in life, and focus on just “being” in life again. In order to do this we need to be present and anchored so that we actually experience the joy that summer can bring. But if you approach the de-cluttering of your mind as just another task, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment and more stress. It is important to be realistic in our expectations and to be kind to ourselves. Summer is not the be all and end all of relaxing – it is just an opportunity to experience change, approach time a bit differently and be reminded of the environment around us.
In my book “M.O.R.E. A New Philosophy for Exceptional Living”, I note 16 steps to living an exceptional life. The 5th step asks you to Quiet the Chatter. It is natural to have a lot of chatter going on in your head. Our brain is an amazing resource, filled with information and able to provide entertainment for us as well. It has a highly developed pre-frontal cortex that allows us to engage in complex thinking. This ability for creative thought is at the root of much of human ingenuity. But this area of the brain also leads us to indulge in a great deal of chatter and distraction, making us forget to pay attention to the moment we are in.
The chatter is not the specific problem; it is our inability to manage it at times that can cause difficulties. Our mind can shoot off in all sorts of directions, much like a roller coaster at an amusement park. If you are anything like me there are times that your mind may be filled with images, thoughts, distractions and great insights all at once. The problem with this is that too much chatter can distract you from being present in the here and now. Our greatest joy comes from contributing in the here and now – if we don’t manage the carnival in our minds appropriately, it can lead us to miss out on some of these special opportunities.
So how do we become mindful in the moment? Here are some simple tools that can assist you in quieting the chatter and allow this summer to be a chance to relax and refresh yourself:
- Remember to breath. Take a MORE moment and become aware of your body and your breathing. Take a deep breath, hold it for four seconds, and then let it our slowly. Continue this rhythm of breathing for as little or as long as you want. Let it feel natural, and just focus on the breath as it moves through your body.
- Become aware of your thoughts. Welcome your thoughts as they emerge, and pay attention to any feelings that are associated with the thoughts. Your thoughts are not the enemy, and they need to be honoured. Once acknowledged, let the thoughts go as if they are waves in the ocean; let them come and go with a rhythm of movement.
- Write down your persistent thoughts. If your thoughts keep coming back and you find yourself dwelling upon them, then write them down. You can do this on a pad of paper, or in the notes section of your phone or computer. Once they are written down, your mind no longer has to hold onto them and focus energy on trying to remember to address them. You can address the list at another time.
- Find your center. Use your imagination to find your center in your body. Ask yourself when you think about your essence, where in your body are you drawn to? It may be your centre, but there is no right or wrong. Just focus on that part of your body and use it to center yourself.
- Check in with your senses. What are you hearing, smelling, seeing, tasting, and feeling?
As it is summer, remember to get outside and connect with nature. It is amazing how even a quick walk around your neighbourhood or some gardening time can ground you and provide such a sense of relaxation and focus.