In my attempt at starting the new year off with a clean slate and clear mind, I’ve been on a quest to find ways to achieve mental clarity that may or may not reach beyond the normal borders of comfort. The holiday break has acted as sort of a purge, or pause, from my normal and often chaotic life. In these two weeks, I have realized a lot about myself that I believe has essentially put me on track to leading a more fulfilled and centered life in 2015.
The following is a list I’ve compiled over the course of the last few weeks, and most of which I’ve worked on exploring on my own accord during that time. My hope is that you can read this and find time for yourself to achieve that often hard to get to state of mental well-being so that you are better prepared to take on the possibilities that await you in the future.
1. Read something, anything. I know, I know–you probably hear this all the time. You’ve been meaning to get to that book, that magazine, that article everyone’s talking about, but how long have you been putting it off? I find that I am most at peace with myself when I immerse my brain in some well-written literature. I tend to gravitate toward the dystopian types of books, but I’ve found that books that others have been recommending have surprisingly topped my list of favorites lately. My current read, “Dying To Be Me” by Anita Moorjani, was suggested to me by my mother (lover of new age thinking) and it takes perspective of a non-traditional Hindu woman living in Hong Kong and going through the trials and tribulations that inevitably come with a cancer diagnosis. Her overcoming of strife and overall positive outlook on life has proved to be a true inspiration to me in my quest to better myself. The book is a super easy read and really takes you to a place of self-realization as you discover, with her, what actually matters in life. So I challenge you to look outside of your box and find a book that inspires you to look outside superficial and mundane day-to-day issues; you might surprise yourself.
2. Try something that scares you. I realize that reading that sounds precisely the opposite of any path in which you could fathom achieving mental clarity, but I believe that pushing yourself to a new level outside of your comfort zone can actually help you achieve your center. For instance, if you wouldn’t normally strike up a conversation with a stranger, or try a certain exercise–do so. Just the other day, I went out to go shopping and once I got to the store, I realized that shopping isn’t at all what I wanted to be doing or even needed to be doing. I went straight to a library nearby and signed up for a library card. I found 4 books and walked to a little town and sat on a park bench to read. I read there, alone, for the duration of the afternoon. Several different people sat next to me throughout the day and I found it refreshing to observe the different walks of life around me and gain a fresh perspective. During this time, I had two different conversations with strangers that made me smile. Now, I’m not normally the kind of person who strikes up conversations with strangers (and I’ll be honest, they were the ones striking up the conversations) but it felt really nice to engage in a conversation with someone new, if even for a little while. So, do something that scares you or something you wouldn’t normally do, it could change your perspective.
3. Push yourself. Part of the plight of achieving mental clarity includes purging the wasteful and unproductive habits you may harbor. Finding yourself in a rut is an unfortunate certainty in parts of your life, but you can choose to see them with a different lens. Realizing that your life has become stagnant in certain aspects is the first step in making a change and achieving that clarity you seek. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can do wonders for your psyche. If you are someone who is routine-based, like I am, the repetition of the everyday can often land you in one of two places–seeking comfort in the routine or despising it while you scream out for an ounce of spontaneity. While most of the time I enjoy a routine, there are times when spontaneity can refresh your way of thinking. So, take some time to allow yourself to break out of the usual and push yourself to do something out of the norm–see how much fun you can have!
4. Get inspired to find appreciation. Inspiration is literally everywhere and in everyone. However, the only way to get inspired is to allow yourself to become inspired. Try looking at things from a different perspective–suddenly your issues may not seem so bad. Even as I’m writing this, I’m laughing to myself because I can just see my mother saying to me “just look at that guy with one leg/in a wheelchair/who is homeless, now do your problems seem so bad?” As much as I hated hearing it growing up, she’s right. Seeing things from a different perspective is a refreshing way to clear your mind and appreciate the life you’ve been given.
5. Indulge in healthy habits. Now this may seem like some sort of paradox, but finding habits that you look forward to can trick your mind into thinking it’s indulging. For instance, find a delicious and healthy drink that you look forward to every day. Sometimes the thought of indulging in a tasty smoothie or doctored-up green tea can help you look forward to doing something that may not be so pleasant. For a surprisingly tasty one, try this one I cooked up that adds some protein, too!
6. Journal. Now, as a compulsive list-maker I may be a bit biased, but I find writing as a therapeutic way to purge negative thoughts while simultaneously planning out ways to be more productive and positive. A nice woman at a book store once told me the best way to relieve yourself of negative energy is to write all the stuff down that’s bothering you and burn it. Well, I’ve never actually done the burning part, but I have written down a bunch of things that were bothering me and shredded them. Just the act of writing it down then tearing it up signified to me that these things were able to be reduced to something as small as a piece of paper and then discarded just as easily. The symbolism triggered my brain to shrink the problems down so they didn’t seem as large as they did in my head.
7. Make a list. Well, hell while we’re on the topic, make a list! If you’ve never done it, try it. Honestly, one of the most therapeutic exercises that I do when trying to reach mental clarity includes making a series of lists. I know it sounds dumb and you’re probably thinking “how could this possibly help?” but trust me when I say that making lists helps your brain to sort through all the things floating through it that build up to create stress and anxiety. I stockpile those little grocery-list looking notebooks that you can fish out of the clearance bin at T.J. Maxx and keep them in a drawer behind my bed. Whenever I’m feeling out of sorts, I grab one and start writing down all the things I’m thinking about. Eventually, the process evolves into making other lists that detail how I can fix whatever problem is plaguing me. For instance, when I’m stressing about ways to better the blog I research articles from people more experienced and end up writing huge lists about what I can personally do to become proactive in my plight.
8. Unplug. This one is extremely difficult for me and I’m sure millions of other people but the rewards are astronomical. Even just taking a few hours to unplug from your social media, phone, iPad, computer, whatever can help you get back to feeling refreshed and in control of your well-being. One of the most relaxing times I can think of within the past year was when Nate and I took a trip to Siesta Key for our anniversary and electronics didn’t work on the beach. We had a wonderful time eating our packed picnic lunch, swimming, reading, and enjoying each other’s company. Since then, I’ve attempted to make a more concentrated effort at unplugging when I’m at home. Although this attempt has failed more times that it has won, it’s a struggle that’s worth working toward. There’s some sort of an overwhelming sense of peace when you step away from being “always on call”.
9. Detoxify your body. This comes at the most predictable time of the year, but detoxifying your body of all the crap you’ve been putting inside it and doing to it feels GREAT. With the holidays gone, there’s no excuse why eating cleaner shouldn’t be on the agenda. Being an emotional eater myself (hell, I eat when I’m bored too) I know it’s tough to put down the chips and dip but in the long run, this only adds to your stress level. “How am I going to dig myself out of this mess” becomes a pretty recurring thought when you continue to feed your body with non-nutritional things; and this only adds to an ever-growing list of things you worry about. So, take that off the table, you have enough to worry about 🙂 Your body is pretty simple–you get out of it what you put in–so nourish it with foods that will keep it strong, healthy, vibrant, and full of energy! If your body feels great, your mind will follow. If you’re not sure how, check out this cute article about detoxing without starving or going broke!
10. Pamper yourself. While it may take awhile for your body to adjust to eating better, detoxifying from the outside offers more instantaneous and calming results! When you’re feeling mentally fried, try a simple at-home treatment like this detoxifying bath or a pampering pedicure to soothe aching feet. When your body feels relaxed, it’s easier for your mind to follow.
11. Get better sleep. With the busy schedules we all have today, this is a toughie–but not impossible. A few pointers to remember, your brain stays active when the tv is on, even if you are asleep. This disrupts the REM sleeping pattern, making for more restless nights. Turn off the television, music, and lights before you attempt to sleep to calm your mind and focus on creating a peaceful environment in which you can relax. Try to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night to avoid not only stress and frustration but serious health deficiencies as well. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try guided meditation. I know it sounds silly and you’ll probably laugh like I did the first time I tried it but taking the worry out of relaxing your body in order to fall asleep has a sort of relief to it. I use this one a lot, and it helps!
12. Try yoga. No, really. I’m definitely not the master of contortion, but since my roommate introduced yoga to me two years ago, I find myself always resorting back to it when I have chronic pains and trouble relaxing. You don’t have to join the circus to do basic yoga moves, either. There are really easy-to-follow routines that do wonders for any physical or mental ailments you may have. There’s something for every level and style, no matter what your physical capabilities. I personally love Tara Stiles and her “The Yoga Solution” series on YouTube. I do the “5 Minute Yoga You Can Do Anywhere” video every time I feel like a need a quick and relaxing workout– it’s really easy and your body feels great afterward.
13. Plan a vacation. Part of the problem with achieving mental clarity is that you may feel you have too much on your mind to take care of and not enough to look forward to. Times like these can make you feel depressed and as though you’ve lost yourself. Giving your mind something to look forward to can help ease the stress of the daily grind. Google places within a decently short driving distance from you and vow to visit at least one per month. This will give you something to look forward to even when the light at the end of the tunnel seems particularly dim.
14. Try aromatherapy. My roommate and I go to this cute little shop in Orlando that sells candles, incense, and oils to stimulate the mind and relax the brain. Try finding a scent that helps relax you and allows your mind to focus. I’m a huge fan of sandalwood, oak, and lavender. I have different candles and incense burners throughout the house so I can change up the scents; it really helps me to relax!
15. Get a massage. They can definitely be expensive, but I’ve found that my new best friend Groupon helps to cut the prices immensely. Over Thanksgiving break, I scored a 90 minutes massage that was awesome, for just about $40. You can also give yourself a massage if you’re on a budget or in a pinch. I found this article on acupressure points in different situations particularly interesting!