Ever notice how sometimes summer feels like the more stressful and busy season? A recent survey conducted by SleepRate shows that a third of Americans reported that they are more stressed in summer months than in any other season. Why? We have busier social lives this time of year – with as many as three events per week! – so we are trying harder to balance our personal life with work life. Parents are twice as busy because the kids are out of school. We are all busy planning trips and the stress that comes with that. The most surprising is that in summer, most of us try to do more and sleep less – recent surveys show that in summer, we sleep less and poorer quality.
So, how to conquer summer with a stress-free, uncluttered mind?
Well, the number one way to clear our mental clutter and have a peaceful mind is, you guessed it: meditation. A study in the journal Psychological Science showed that people who meditate are able to focus better in daily tasks and can maintain focus with a clear mind – even during boring tasks.
Why is meditation so effective? Meditation literally gives your mind a chance to do what it never gets to do: just relax without being controlled or told “focus, focus!” This completely rejuvenates it and allows the clutter to settle. It also gives the mind time to just be in the present moment. What is it that makes our mind so tired? It is that our mind is almost constantly vacillating during the day, from past to future, future to past. Have you noticed this? In meditation, we get a chance to just be in the present.
- Breathing techniques
Maybe you say, “no way, it just seems too difficult to meditate!” Well, have you every noticed that your breath is intimately linked to your state of mind? Have you noticed that with every emotion that we experience, we have a corresponding rhythm or pattern in our breath? We can use this knowledge to our advantage to effect our mental state. You will find that by practicing a yogic breathing technique once or twice a day – like alternate nostril breathing – your mind becomes automatically calm, centered, and clear. The breath effects the mind and nervous system all at once, for a quick and effective shift in the clarity and calm we experience.
Learn a quick one: http://www.artofliving.org/us-en/yoga/breathing-techniques/alternate-nostril-breathing-nadi-shodhan
- Take time for yourself
Do you notice that it is not just our own thoughts that are making our mind busy, but often we are processing three people’s thoughts and words, and two people’s actions, all at the same time? This can make for mental overload! Handling one mind is quite enough. J
Take some time for yourself. Even if it is just a quiet 10 minutes here and there. Let your time for yourself NOT be on your phone, on email, or on twitter/Facebook. It is still processing other people’s thoughts then! Try taking a 15 minute walk in the fresh air, in nature if possible. There is nothing like the old solution of some time alone.
- Focus on the positive – achieve inner happiness
The thing that makes our mind the most unsettled and constantly chirping, is often when we are complaining internally about something. What is the opposite of that? It is gratitude, or recognizing what we do have in our life. Gratitude brings instant happiness. It allows us to focus on the positive. It is similar to meditation, in that it expands the mind.
- Group activity – bring your family and friends
When we bring a group together and do something uplifting with everyone, there is no better way to experience a heightened, uplifted mental state. Do you remember the last time you sang with a group of friends? The mind gets so cheerful and clear. How about cooking in a group? The creativity wells up, the mind gets focused, the hands are busy and the heart is full. Try meditating in a group or taking your family to a workshop together? It’s far more powerful in a group and can be wonderful with a trained instructor. Here’s a good place to find short workshops around the country: http://www.artofliving.org/us-en.
Most of all, remember that life is so short. All of these things mentioned above, can bring us back to the clarity of what is truly important in our lives. And when we remember what is most important, we don’t let stress get the best of us. Then we focus on what is working and we enjoy that warm, sunny summer day.