Every day we’re faced with stresses that challenge us, leaving our minds busy and frazzled. Taking even 10 minutes a day to focus on yourself allows the mind time to quieten. Here are a few tips to get started.
Just stop Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed and can let your mind settle. Stopping allows your brain momentary respite. This will immediately reduce distress.
Use a tapping technique (a slow, alternate, rhythmic tapping on the thighs or upper arms). With your eyes closed, while tapping, visualise a space or place that represents peace and relaxation – a beach, or a particular room or garden. Take some time to go to this space, really noticing the colours, smells and sounds. Observe your stress level dropping.
Bring your mind’s focus to your breath Breathe in for four seconds, then out for four, repeating for eight rounds. Notice how tension gradually releases from your body and the noise in your mind reduces.
Observe your thoughts rather than engaging with them. Watch them come and go like clouds in the sky. Notice how incredibly soothing this can be.
These interventions will help deactivate stress activity in the brain and quieten the mind. Practising them daily will strengthen your brain, improve mental flexibility and change unhelpful patterns. It may well be the most important 10 minutes of your day.
• Owen O’Kane works in mental health services in the NHS. His book Ten To Zen is published on 27 December by Bluebird.