“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Stoics like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and others understood and extolled the power of an organized, clear mind — totally in control of its own thoughts.
Most of us would like to be able to harness our own minds in this way. And sometimes, we can.
But what do you do when you just can’t seem to gain that often-elusive control over your own thinking?
Where do centredness and clarity really come from?
These are the things we’ll be tackling here today: Advice and tips on how to clear your mind whenever you need to — whether that’s in a meditation session at home, in a critical meeting at work, or stuck in traffic.
Why Is It So Critical to Be Able to Clear Your Mind?
The Power of a Clear Mind
A clear mind is a powerful mind. In fact, there’s no end to the health and wellness benefits you can gain with a clearer, more focused and centred mind. Here are just a few of the benefits you can look forward to:
- Boosted creativity and flow
- Improved mindfulness
- An easy-going attitude that others will be drawn to
- More energy
- Clarity during times of stress
- Better learning
- An improved memory
- 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 is the term given to that “foggy” feeling in your head that often comes from not getting enough sleep or lacking energy in general.
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 Combatting 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 eating 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 just a 20-minute nap can be enough to recharge your energy and regain some clarity.
3. Go outside.
Sometimes, when we’re inside for long periods of time, our brains need a dose of fresh air to perk up. Go for a quick walk, or even just stand outdoors for a few minutes, and take a few deep breaths. Even recent research suggest that our brains like the outdoors better.
4. Drink some water.
Dehydration is one of the top reasons we end up feeling foggy and unfocused during the day. Most experts suggest 3.7 litres of fluids every day for men and about 2.7 litres of fluids every day for women for optimal hydration.
How to Clear the Mind
When it’s not just an occasional spell of brain fog, and you’ve been feeling consistently unfocused, lacking in mental energy, and scattered in your thinking, it might be time to employ a longer-term solution — or several.
The following comprises a list of useful techniques for clearing your mind and refocusing your awareness and attention.
One of the main goals of meditation is cultivating that calm mental state we’re all after.
Meditation is useful in clearing the mind because it helps eliminate distractions. When we meditate, we are focusing on the mind body connection, and, in many cases, we are essentially thinking about our thoughts. This is a new perspective for most of us, but it can be very calming.
Throughout the day, most of us are constantly distracted. Whether it's people coming in and out of our office to ask questions or say hi, social media notifications and text messages, emails, phone calls, or any number of other stimulations, we are often so distracted that to say we are unfocused is an understatement.
Meditation alone or guided meditation can be just what we need to re-centre.
How to Clear Your Mind for Meditation
Want to know how to clear your mind for meditation? This is one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to meditation techniques. But it’s also rather counterintuitive as meditation is supposed to be what clears your mind in the first place. In fact, however, it can work in a circular fashion because clarification of the mind needs to happen to a certain extent in order to meditate as well.
The best way to clear your mind before meditation is to make sure you're practicing the proper technique. First, you should be in a quiet place without distractions. Also aim for proper form. Sit with your back straight on a meditation cushion or chair, palms up and hands in your lap or at your sides, and eyes gently closed or only slightly open and staring at the ground in the near distance in front of you. Do this every time before you meditate for a clear mind.
Yoga as a regular practice is amazing at centring and refocusing the mind. It enhances the mind body connection by reinforcing the link between breathing, movement, and cognitive thinking. As a form of physical exercise, yoga can help alleviate the effects of brain fog as well. It’s essential to our bodies to get enough physical movement in every day. Sweating releases toxins. Heavy breathing revives a sluggish cardiovascular system. And movement relaxes and strengthens the muscles and bones, reinvigorating you physically and mentally.
New to yoga? Anahana in-home yoga services can bring a professional yoga instructor right to your home. You’ll practice in your own space, with personal and individualized attention, and at your own pace.
Just a few moments of mindful breathing exercises can help clarify your mind in an instant. When it comes to centring and focusing your mind, breathing is a useful tool because it reinforces the mind body connection.
Square breathing or box breathing is one technique that is often used to quiet the fight or flight stress response or to simply bring your senses back to a calm place when things get hectic throughout the day.
How to Do Square Breathing
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.
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 entirely 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 exercise as many times as you like, but not too much as it may have a tendency to make you lightheaded. As a general rule, practicing square breathing for 3 to 5 minutes can help you destress and improve your overall mindfulness.
Improving Your Diet
Eating better, more nutritious food is an excellent way to improve your focus. Especially when we’re busy and distracted, it’s not uncommon to grab anything that’s quick, easy, and tastes good. Unfortunately, this results in consuming a range of non-nutritious foods at a rapid pace. It’s much better to take the time to eat healthy. Here are a few foods that are excellent for the mind.
- Green tea has been proven to boost memory and thinking abilities — and improve mood.
- Full of omega-3 fatty acids, which 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 as well, which can negatively impact how mindful we are on a day-to-day basis. Conscientious chewing and mindful eating practices can help bring thought back to the way we eat food.
Improving your sleep on a regular basis can do wonders for your mental clarity. It has been proven time and again that lack of sleep causes brain fog and the inability to focus on intricate tasks throughout the day.
In order 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 relaxing book before you nod off
- Wear comfortable pajamas
- Try a guided meditation for sleep
How to Clear the Mind for Sleep
In order to clear your mind for sleep, try progressive muscle relaxation. It goes like this:
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 all the way up to the top of your body and the muscles in your neck and head.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Clear Your Mind
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 get 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? Are they thinking about someone else?
Most of the time, the best way to stop these negative thoughts is to act like 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. But with practice, you may come to see that this muscle gets stronger and you are able to resist the lingering dwell on negative thoughts that you once had.
How do you empty your mind?
In the end, “emptying your mind” may not be what you really want to achieve. Perhaps a focused or clear mind is a better visual than an empty mind is. After all, a mind that is empty is one devoid of thought, thinking, and feeling entirely. On the other hand, a focused or clear mind is one with intention, awareness, and sharpness. To cultivate a clear or focused mind, try meditation, mindfulness practice, yoga, deep breathing, or physical exercise.
How do I clear my mind and focus on one thing?
It can be difficult 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 of any kind, and have nothing else in front of you except the task that you want to focus on. Longer-term, you can cultivate the ability to focus better by using practices such as deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, and meditation.
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.
Just 25 Minutes Is All It Takes for a Clear Mind
You might think of the mind as a group of electrical cords (unconventional maybe, but useful and you’ll see why).
These electrical cords are necessary for everything you do and think — everything that goes on in your mind, from forming ideas and planning, to feeling and emoting.
At times, the cords are unrestricted and well-organized — all in a row and straight. Thoughts and feelings flow freely through them, and you can easily discern each “line of thinking,” choosing deliberately which one to focus on when you want to.
At other times, however, these cords can become tangled. They may twist and bend, kink and wind, in and out of each other. Knots can form, and you may begin feeling like your thoughts are jumping from one idea to the next, skipping from here to there, losing focus and then coming back again, with no clear path or level of organization.
It’s at these times that you need a way to unwind your mind. Quite literally, you need to detangle your thoughts and let them stretch out and have space.
That’s why, at Anahana, we created a quick and simple Unwind Your Mind thought-clearing service that in just 25 (or 50) minutes can help you get out of fight or flight and back to clear and crisp focus and control.
Also, don’t forget to sign up for our health and wellness emails where you’ll get helpful weekly tips on clearing your mind and regaining the focus and clarity in your life.
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Written by Clint Johnson
Clint teaches Yoga, Pilates, breathe, and mediation to students and teachers all over the world. Prior to joining the wellness world, CJ as his friends call him, started his career as a MBS derivative trader and portfolio manager on Wall St. Clint is the founder of Anahana, and holds an MBA from INSEAD.