Do you ever find it hard to focus, your mind racing through a thousand thoughts about unfinished projects, errands, and other things to do? Modern life constantly bombards us with micro-information every second and keeps us connected 24/7, so we are repeatedly distracted by notifications, messages, and emails. No wonder many of us find it hard to stay focused and calm our minds.
This mental chatter not only affects your productivity but may also lead to anxiety and depression in the long run. One good thing is that there are a few simple habits you can learn to quiet your mind chatter and reallocate your attention elsewhere. Below are some of Working Den’s simple tips to help.
Mental chatter often comes with symptoms of anxiety – racing heart, restlessness, lack of concentration. When your brain is being pulled apart in a thousand directions, it is understandable that your body responds with physical symptoms to help you cope with your racing thoughts. If this is the case, you can start with some simple grounding exercise to find your balance and shift your focus to the present.
The easiest grounding exercise is taking deep breaths and focusing your thoughts on the rhythms of your breath. Deep breathing can physically ground your body and help your heart find its normal beat. If you still find intrusive thoughts lurking in your brain during this process, you can incorporate the 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 grounding exercise to this routine. This exercise is simple: address five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste at the moment. The exercise shifts your focus to your five senses and grounds you in the present moment, and it is an amazing way to calm your mind and body.
Listen to calming music
Music is another great way to instantly transport you to another realm. If your working space is too noisy with chatters from your office or even your neighbours, you may experience sensory overload, which can also affect your ability to calm your mind and focus on the matter at hand.
If you find it difficult to find a private space to do grounding exercises or meditate, you can create your personal space by listening to some calming music or daily life sounds with noise-cancelling headphones. Music can not only calm your senses but also create a safety bubble that allows you to relax and find your balance. Closing your eyes and focusing your attention to music is an excellent calming exercise for those who find “meditation” too intimidating. Plus, you can do this exercise almost anywhere – even if you work from a crowded office or coffee shop!
Acknowledge your thoughts
If you find yourself being pulled apart by hundreds of intrusive thoughts and mental chatters, the first step to address this problem is to acknowledge your thoughts. Think of it as taking stock of your brain’s concerns, and address these thoughts one by one. What is it that you are worried about? An unread email, a call you need to make, a dinner plan, an anniversary gift? Then, simply organize your thoughts and mentally list problems you can address and other concerns that you need to let go.
If you want to take this acknowledgement to the next level, you can write them down as if you are writing a to-do list. Writing down your mental chatter is a great way of exercising control over your thoughts, as well as concretise the problems you are facing. Writing is also a great way to process your thoughts, which helps you face the problems in your life in a more logical way. When you write things down, you will feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders, and find it easier to address your concerns.
Address your concerns
After taking stock of your thoughts, you will find that many of these problems can be addressed with a few simple steps. Simply go through your list again and ask yourself: Is this problem rational? Can this problem be addressed right now? If not, are these thoughts helping me solve my problems?
If your thoughts are rational and you can address your problems with concrete steps, that’s great, you can get to work! However, many of us cope with irrational, negative thoughts that are not grounded in reality. It is only human to fear failures and embarrassment, but these thoughts are not productive. If you experience these intrusive thoughts, you have to look deep within yourself and actively create counter-thoughts. With time and discipline, you can train yourself to think positively about your problems and minimise these intrusive thoughts.
Check if your phone is being too distracting
Phones are designed to be addictive, and every app is competing for your attention with pop-up notifications, banners, and interesting content. These apps may be contributing to your mental chatter and making it more difficult for you to focus. If this is the case, you can go through your phone’s notification centre and turn off notifications for apps that are too distracting. Minimising these distractions can help you focus for longer and calm your mental chatter.
When you get the chance, you should also take a break from your phone. We recommend physical exercises like running, jogging, or even taking a walk without your phone so that you can shift your focus to your surroundings and enjoy the moment. It may feel strange at first, leaving the house without your phone, but soon you will find that you do not need it. This break, however short, can help your brain and body reset and quiet your mind so you can face your problems head-on when you return.