Stoics like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and others understood and extolled the power of an organized, clear mind — totally controlling its thoughts and paying attention to exactly what matters.
The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. ― Marcus Aurelius
Most of us would like to be able to harness our minds in this way. And sometimes, we can. What seems to be a simple act of staying present, in reality, is a challenge for many.
So, what do you do when you just can’t seem to gain that often-elusive control over what you are thinking?
Where Do Centeredness and Clarity Originate From?
We’ll be diving into two things in this blog post: advice and tips on clearing your mind whenever you need to. Whether in a meditation session at home, in a critical meeting at work, or stuck in traffic, we’ll be diving into a multifunctional approach to mental clarity and presence.
Why is it so critical to be able to clear your mind?
A clear mind is a powerful mind. With clearer, more focused, and centered thinking, there’s no end to the health and wellness benefits you can gain by working on the famous presence. Here are just a few of the benefits you can look forward to:
Better control over negative thoughts and feelings
An easier time dealing with difficult situations and emotions
More presence during important moments
A more enjoyable and rewarding life overall
Feeling Foggy? What Is Brain Fog?
Brain fog refers to that “foggy” feeling in your head that often comes from not getting enough sleep or lacking energy.
If you have brain fog, you may feel like you can’t focus or think clearly. It may be difficult to concentrate on one single task or topic. Or, you may feel sleepy and generally run-down. In these cases, as long as you have no other symptoms, you can try the following tips for regaining mental clarity and harnessing a clearer mind.
Note: Occasionally, the symptom of brain fog may be associated with a more serious medical condition. Always speak with your doctor if you are concerned about brain fog or any other signs or symptoms that trouble you.
Quick Tips for Combating Brain Fog
If you’ve been experiencing brain fog or feelings of having a scattered mind, try these quick tips for instant refocus.
1. Eat a healthy snack.
If you haven’t eaten in a few hours, low blood sugar may be causing that brain fog you’re experiencing. Try eating something healthy such as peanut butter and an apple or a few carrot sticks and some hummus.
2. Take a power nap.
Often, brain fog can be the result of not getting enough sleep. Taking a short 20-minute power nap can be enough to recharge your energy, reduce stress and regain some clarity to get on with the day.
3. Go outside.
Sometimes, when we’re inside for long periods, our brains need a dose of fresh air to perk up. Go for a quick walk, or stand outdoors for a few minutes and take a few deep breaths of air. Our brains get energy from sunlight and access to fresh air so being outdoors as much as your situation allows is crucial for mental clarity. If you have access to nature, even better.
4. Drink some water.
Dehydration is one of the top reasons we feel foggy and unfocused during the day. Most experts suggest 3.7 liters of fluids daily for men and about 2.7 liters of fluids for women to maintain optimal hydration levels. Carry a refillable water bottle or download an app that tracks how much water you drink throughout the day if you need extra accountability.
5. Introduce regular exercise: a long run, a HIIT session or a yoga class
When you participate in physical activity, your body naturally releases endorphins that trigger positive sensations in the body and mind. Together with the endorphin release, the blood flow increase will help to combat the feeling of fogginess and dizziness. Whether it’s a run, a dance class, or something calmer such as yoga or pilates, any movement will only result in health benefits.
How to Clear The Mind
It might be time to employ a longer-term solution or several when it’s not just an occasional spell of brain fog. You’ve been feeling unfocused, lacking in mental energy, and scattered in your thinking.
The following comprises a list of handy techniques for clearing your mind and refocusing your attention and state of mind.
One of the main goals of meditation is cultivating that calm mental state we’re all after.
Practicing meditation helps clear the mind because it works on eliminating distractions. When we meditate, we focus on the mind-body connection, usually with the help of breathing techniques and breath observations. Some meditations include mantra chanting or visualization. In a sense, we’re training our minds to focus on the present sounds and sensations, which leads us to develop a habit of continuous awareness once we finish the practice.
Throughout the day, most of us are constantly distracted. You have experienced it all: people coming in and out of our office to ask questions or say hi, social media notifications on your phone, text messages, phone calls, and emails.
Saying that we are unfocused is an understatement. Modern life is generating so fast-paced it naturally causes stress, anxiety, disconnect, and hyperactivity.
Mindfulness practice alone or guided meditation can be just what we need to re-center, stay in the present moment, and empty our minds to put things in order. There are different forms of meditation and meditation techniques available for absolute beginners and experienced practitioners, both guided and un-guided.
How to Clear Your Mind for Meditation
“Want to know how to clear your mind for meditation?” is one of the most commonly asked questions regarding meditation practice. But it’s also somewhat counterintuitive as meditation is supposed to be what clears your mind in the first place. It can work circularly because clarifying the mind needs to happen to a certain extent to have a profound meditation experience.
The best way to clear your mind before meditation is to make sure you're practicing the proper meditation technique. First, you should be in a quiet place without distractions.
Aim for a comfortable position. Sit straight on a meditation cushion, a pillow, or a chair with your palms up and hands on your lap or sides. Gently close your eyes or keep them softly open, staring at the ground near the distance. Do this every time before you meditate for a clear mind. It’s the grounding practice that sets you for profound meditation practice.
Yoga as a regular practice is amazing at centering and refocusing the mind. It enhances the mind-body connection by reinforcing the link between breath, movement, and cognitive thinking, improving your quality of life. As a form of physical exercise, yoga can help alleviate the effects of brain fog. Our bodies need to get enough physical movement every day. Sweating releases toxins. Heavy breathing revives a sluggish cardiovascular system. And exercise relaxes and strengthens the muscles and bones, reinvigorating you physically and mentally.
Yoga is an excellent way to clarify the mind. New to yoga? Take up a yoga class in your local studio by starting with something gentle like restorative or Hatha yoga. If you don’t have a studio nearby, try to look for lessons online – from youtube to streaming platforms, there are endless options you can find that match your abilities and pocket.
Just a few moments of mindful breathing exercises can help clear your mind instantly. When it comes to centering and focusing your mind, breathing is a helpful tool due to the reinforcement of the mind-body connection.
Square or box breathing is one technique that quiets the fight or flight stress response or simply brings your senses back to calm when things get hectic throughout the day. Your practice doesn’t have to belong, and you can do it anywhere, anytime – at the office, on a train, while waiting in line to grab a coffee.
Alongside meditation, breathwork practice is one of the most effective tools for stress management and anxiety relief. It also improves memory and helps you to solve problems with ease and less distraction.
How to Do Square Breathing
Learn the different steps in the square breathing, aka box breathing process. Below, we outlined the classic approach to square breathing practice.
1. Find a quiet place where you can be alone and undisturbed for at least five minutes.
2. Sit with your back straight in a chair or on the floor. You can also grab a cushion to sit on.
3. Put your hands at your sides or in your lap with your palms up, and gently close your eyes. Relax your muscles as well as you can.
4. Start by exhaling. You want to begin with all of the air out of your lungs.
5. Square breathing has four parts. The first part starts with an inhale. Inhale slowly while counting to four in your head. At the count of four, your lungs should be full of air.
6. Hold the air within your lungs for another count of four.
7. Now, exhale the air slowly, counting to four once more in your head. Once you reach the count of four, all of the air should be out of your lungs.
8. Lastly, hold the air out of your lungs for a final count of four.
9. Repeat this tutorial as many times as you like, but not too much as it can make you feel slightly lightheaded. As a general rule, practicing square breathing for three to five minutes can help you destress and improve your overall mindfulness.
Improving Your Diet
We are what we eat. Eating more nutritious food is an excellent way to improve your focus. Especially when we’re busy and distracted, it’s not uncommon to grab quick, easy, and sugar-packed foods consumed on the go.
Unfortunately, this results in consuming a range of non-nutritious foods rapidly. It’s much better to take the time to eat healthily and develop sustainable food habits that will feed both your body and mind.
Here are a few foods that are excellent for the mind.
Green tea improves memory and thinking abilities. It is a great mood booster, releasing caffeine at a slower pace, which means you are less likely to hit energy highs and lows as it tends to happen with coffee.
Nuts are packed with omega-3 fatty acids that boost brain activity and cognitive function. Nuts are the perfect on-the-go snack for your brain.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, making them perfect for avoiding the neurodegenerative diseases that may be associated with long-term brain fog.
Many of us tend to eat quickly, negatively impacting how mindful we are daily. Conscientious chewing and mindful eating practices can bring back more awareness to how we eat food. Eating with more awareness also helps with overeating and portion control. Pay attention to how fast you eat and how quickly or slowly you get full; noticing the small things we usually take for granted is a potential solution to a clearer, more focused mind.
Improving your sleep can do wonders for your mental clarity. Lack of sleep causes brain fog and the inability to focus on intricate tasks throughout the day.
To improve your sleep, try investing more time in cultivating a regular nightly routine. For example, before bed:
Put a few drops of essential oils on your pillow for a calming scent when you lie down
Play some relaxing music
Turn off all screens
Dim the lights
Ensure a comfortable setting in your bedroom
Have fresh sheets and blankets on your bed
Read a book before you nod off
Wear comfortable pajamas
Try a guided meditation for sleep
How to Clear the Mind for Sleep
Another technique you can try is progressive muscle relaxation. Here is how to do it:
1. Lay on your back in bed, prepared for sleep.
2. Starting at your toes, clench your toes and feet very tightly for a count of five. Release and wait for another count of five before moving on to your calves.
3. Clench and tighten the muscles in your calves for a count of five. Release and wait for another count of five.
4. Continue doing this up to the top of your body and your neck and head muscles.
Taking these steps will allow you to empty your mind and improve your sleep.
Clear Your Mind: Frequently Asked Questions
What are tips on how to clear your mind of negative thoughts?
Negative thoughts have a habit of creeping into the mind uninvited.
You might be lying in bed trying to sleep when you suddenly remember a bill you forgot to pay. Or, perhaps you’re on a date with your partner when it strikes you that they’re acting strangely — are they mad? Are they annoyed at you? Do they think about someone else?
Most of the time, the best way to stop these negative thoughts is to act as the “bouncer” of your mind and to say a hard-and-fast “no” to non-useful, negative thoughts. If it’s not a good thought or a constructive thought, don’t let it in.
This is obviously easier said than done. With practice, you may see that this muscle gets stronger, and you can resist the lingering dwelling on negative thoughts you once had. Sometimes, clearing your mind comes with a bit of a fight.
How do you empty your mind?
In the end, “emptying your mind” may not be what you truly want to achieve. Perhaps a focused or clear mind is a better visual than an empty mind is. After all, an empty mind is entirely devoid of thought, thinking, and feeling. On the other hand, a focused or clear mind is one with intention, awareness, and sharpness. Try meditation, mindfulness, yoga, deep breathing, or physical exercise to cultivate a clear or focused mind.
How do I clear my mind and focus on one thing?
It can be challenging to clear your mind and focus on one thing when you have distractions. That’s why eliminating distractions is the number one way to focus on a given task at a given time. Turn off all screens and media, go to a quiet place, don’t bring a snack or drink, and have nothing else in front of you except the task you want to complete. Longer-term, you can cultivate the ability to focus better by using deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, and meditation practices.
In addition to the above, a simple act of writing and to-do list generation is a great tool to bring more clarity into your mind. Journaling, listing, and goal setting, all layed out on a piece of paper, bring more order into your life. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of focus, write things down.
If emotions are overwhelming you or you feel a blockage in your mind, introduce yourself to expressive writing – a personal and emotional writing form where you let your thoughts fly in a way that they come to you.
How do I clear my mind and relax?
When you’re in a bind, and your mind is aflutter with thought, you can clear it and relax by taking several deep breaths. Breathe deeply from the lower abdomen, and go slowly. Count slowly in your mind to four as you inhale, and do the same as you exhale. Repeat at least three times.