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13 secrets to calm and relax your mind

Whenever you’re stressed, facing a difficult situation, or for some reason just seem to be struggling to drift off to sleep, try one or a combination of these tricks to relax your mind–and feel the sense of calm you’re craving.

Got a lot on your mind? Same. A racing mind does us no favors. While your brain is busy creating a mental grocery list, rearranging your schedule to accommodate a last-minute to-do, and troubleshooting a particularly thorny work issue, it can be impossible to focus on the mo- ment you’re in now. Forget trying to have a conversation or navigate your way around a road closure. You’ve just got too much on your mind.

A racing mind doesn’t just make it difficult to focus on the present—it also impedes your ability to fall asleep. And the worst part? The more you feel your mind racing, the more distracted and distressed it can make you feel. But inner calm is possible. Next time you feel your mind revving uncontrollably, try one of these techniques to relax your mind, slow your thoughts, and achieve a sense of calm

1. Learn to meditate

Meditation is all about clearing your mind—becoming aware of your thoughts without judging them. Most meditation techniques involve finding a quiet space, focusing on your breathing, and letting all other thoughts drift away. You can find guided meditation apps, websites and books. Browse a few, to find the technique that speaks to you most. Once you do, you’ll find it easier to meditate whenever you need to relax your mind—whether before a big meeting, after a rough day or when you’re struggling to fall asleep.

2. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is another powerful way to stay in the present. Here, the idea is to listen to the thoughts in your head, one at a time, without judgement. Rather than obsess repeatedly over a disagreement with a friend, think about the situation as if you weren’t directly involved. Then let the thought pass. Worries and grievances are less powerful once we “look” directly at them. After you give them attention, you can set them aside and let your mind relax.

3. Start journaling

Some people find it beneficial to keep a journal detailing the events of their days; others find comfort and strength in a gratitude journal. The idea is to focus on the positive: Consider what you have achieved, who made a positive impact in your day, and what you have to look forward to. This tip for how to relax your mind will soon become a mind-clearing ritual to look forward to every day.

4. Seek perspective

One of the best ways to get out of your own head is to get into someone else’s. If something is persistently bothering you, share your wor- ries with someone else and ask how they view the situation. An outside perspective can help you look at things differently. Not in the mood to share? Just spending time with people (or four-legged friends) you care about can help take your mind off whatever is stressing you.

5. Drink tea

Most warm drinks are soothing, but teas with little or no caffeine content are a top choice, as they lack any stimulant to activate your mind. Look for rooibos blends, herbal teas, and decaffeinated green tea. The latter contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps quench anger and promotes sleep.

6. Change your activity

Whether you’re unable to focus on a task or you’re struggling to sleep, doing something different can help reset your mind. During the day, go for a brief walk, even if it’s to the kitchen for some ice water. If you’re in bed, get up and read a book for a few minutes, do a crossword puzzle or find something else to calm your mind—just don’t look at a screen, as the artificial light it emits can further disrupt sleep.

7. Inhale a fresh fragrance

Aromatherapy helps calm the body and mind. If you’re outdoors, find the nearest flower garden or patch and breath deep—honeysuckle, roses and lilacs are especially fragrant blooms. Sniffing an essential oil like lavender, tea tree or citrus can also reduce stress and quash negative emotions. Or you could sniff coffee beans—one study found that inhaling their roasty aroma eased sleep-related stress.

8. Listen to music

If you want to stop your thoughts from racing on an endless loop, play songs you know the words to and sing along (dancing is also en- couraged!). If relaxation is your goal, try classical music, smooth jazz or even calming sounds—as long as the tunes don’t exceed 60 to 80 beats per minute.

9. Try a supplement

Sometimes, other techniques still don’t seem to do the trick. So if you’re really having trouble calming your mind, try Blissful Sleep at bed- time. This all-natural supplement, derived from whole foods, contains magnesium, l-theanine, valerian root extract, chamomile flower and other proven all natural herbs that promote a good night’s rest.

10. Take deep breaths

There are several breathing techniques you can try to calm your body and mind. The first involves breathing deeply from the belly. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for three, and then breath out for four. You’ll notice how the hand on your chest stays in place, as the hand on your belly rises and falls. Continue this practice until you feel calm. Another technique is great to try when your mind just won’t stop racing. Draw your attention away from your thoughts by instead concen- trating on breathing in and out. Breathe as slowly as possible, counting your breaths if it’s helpful. Do this for at least one full minute—it is better still if you continue for five minutes. The last tactic is alternate nostril breathing. Using your right hand, fold your index finger and middle finger toward your palm. Use your ring finger and pinky finger to close your left nostril. Breathe in for a count of 10. Then, using your thumb, close your right nostril as well and hold your breath for 10. Release the fingers holding your left nostril and breathe out for 10. Next, breathe in with the left nostril for 10 and repeat the entire process. You should do this several times.

11. Release body tension

It’s impossible to calm your mind when your muscles are taut. Reduce tension by clenching a muscle, breathing in and holding your breath for a couple seconds, and then releasing your breath at the same time as you release the muscle. Do this from head to toe, starting with the forehead and working all the way down to your feet.

12. Practice self-massage

Squirt lotion into your palm, then give your hands a massage, starting with the top of your wrist, moving to the base of your thumb, covering your entire palm, and finally going up each finger in turn. For an easy, instant foot massage, roll bare or sock-clad feet over a golf ball.

13. Exercise

One of the many joys of physical activity is that it’s excellent at clearing your head in the moment—and reducing stress levels in the long term. If you have no time for a full workout, just a few minutes is still worthwhile. Ideal exercises include running, brisk walking, and short but intense intervals. If it’s late and you can’t fall asleep, try stretching or holding simple yoga poses. For instance, you could lie in bed with your legs straight up the wall to stretch out your legs.