Our ability to think and reflect is one of the major attributes that separates us from other species on the planet.

Every day, we rely on our mind to make thousands of decisions: from picking the cloth we wear that day, to choosing who we call on the phone, to what we watch on tv, and what we eat for dinner that night. This is obviously crucial, and extremely helpful.

But have you ever noticed how unhelpful our mind can also be?

We have over 80,000 thoughts in a single day, most of which (over 90%) are negative. And most of those are negative thoughts towards ourselves. Our mind can be, and often is, our very own playground bully. This is what we refer to as the mind chatter, those nagging thoughts that just won’t leave us alone.

  • “I should be or I should be that”
  • “Why is this happening to me?”
  • “What will happen if I don’t come through on this?”
  • “If only I could…”
  • “I’m not qualified enough to go after this job”
  • “I should have eaten less desert”
  • “They can do it, why can’t I?”
  • “This is too hard; I might as well give up”

This constant negative mind chatter weighs us down, beats us up, and ultimately has us believing the absurdity of those thoughts. So how can we turn things around, and make our mind an ally instead?

So how can we turn things around, and make our mind an ally instead?

Here is tip # 1 for doing just that:

Close your eyes, and take 1 deep inhale (count to 4), then hold the breath (count to 4) and exhale for 4 seconds.

Repeat as needed.

This exercise interrupts the flow of thoughts, helps to recenter our energy, brings forward our awareness and presence, and calms our body.

Notice the quietness immediately afterwards.

You have access to this peaceful place anytime you want.

Tip # 2: Use your senses

You can use almost all of your senses to re-route your focus from thinking to being.

  • Touch: rub two fingertips gently against one another with enough tension that you can feel the fingertips ridges. Pay attention to the sensations for 10 seconds.
  • Sight: Look at an object for 15 seconds. Really look at it. Notice its shades, shapes, and various colors.
  • Hearing: Close your eyes, and focus on listening to your own breathing for 15 seconds. Then switch to listening to the farthest away sound for 15 seconds.
  • Taste: Pick up a berry or a fruit. Close your eyes. Bite into the fruit and pay attention to how good it tastes in this moment. We often eat without even paying attention. Bringing presence and focus to each bite is quite a profound experience, and also stops our flow of negative thoughts in that moment.

Tip # 3: Be in Nature.

The activity of simply being in nature, and connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch is called “forest-bathing” in Japan.

It is incredibly good for our soul, and an amazing way to recenter, and quiet down our minds.

When you mind is feeling out of control with negative thoughts, find a park, a forest, or a tree area. Pick up a pine cone, feel it with your hands, smell the air or a flower nearby, close your eyes and listen to the birds, or observe a squirrel.

Forest bathing is proven to reduce stress hormone production, improve feelings of happiness and free up creativity, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and accelerate recovery from illness.

Tip # 4: Practice stepping outside of your comfort zone.

One way to overcome discomfort, and negative self-thinking is to mix things up a bit. For example, you could take a different route to your usual destination, take the bus to work instead of driving, commit to not turning down any invitations that’s offered to you this entire month, sign up for a dance class, walk up to a stranger and start a conversation, read a book at night for a week instead of watching tv, call someone you haven’t spoken to in 5 years…

The point is that when you step outside of your comfort zone, you have different experiences in your life than you would otherwise. It builds self-confidence, fills your mind with positive thoughts. It helps you grow.

Give all these a try the next time you feel your mind won’t shut off. I know they will prove helpful.