Ever notice how sometimes summer feels like the more stressful and busy time of year? One survey shows that a third of Americans reported that they are more stressed in summer months than in any other season.
This season has more social gatherings than any other. Trying to balance our personal life and work life can seem impossible, especially when kids are home for the summer and parents are trying to plan that “big family vacation.” We are all so busy scheduling and fitting our lives into datebooks and calendar invites that many of us end up doing more and sleeping less.
So, how to conquer summer with a stress-free, uncluttered mind?
Well, the number one way to clear our mental clutter and have a peaceful mind is (you guessed it!): meditation. A study in the journal Psychological Science showed that people who meditate are able to focus better while completing daily tasks and can maintain focus with a clear mind – even when trying to finish the most mundane assignment.
Why is meditation so effective? It literally gives your mind a chance to do what it never gets to do: relax without being controlled or told “focus, focus!” This completely rejuvenates your mind and allows the clutter to settle. It also gives the mind time to just be in the present moment. What is it that makes our mind so tired? Our mind is almost constantly vacillating during the day, from past to future, future to past. Have you ever noticed how many decisions you have to make in day? It’s exhausting! In meditation, we get a chance to just be in the present.
2. Breathing techniques
Maybe you’re thinking, “no way, it just seems too difficult to meditate!” Well, have you ever noticed that your breath is intimately linked to your state of mind? With every emotion that we experience, we have a corresponding rhythm or pattern in our breath. We can use this knowledge to our advantage to impact our mental state. You will find that by practicing a yogic breathing technique once or twice a day – like alternate nostril breathing – your mind becomes automatically calm, centered, and clear.
The breath affects the mind and nervous system all at once, for a quick and effective shift in the clarity and calm we experience. The Art of Living Foundation has some quick and easy breathing techniques you can learn right now. Try it out!
3. Take time for yourself
Have you ever noticed that it is not just our own thoughts that are making our mind busy, but often we are processing something we are reading or watching, along with other people’s words or actions, all at the same time? This can make for mental overload!
Take some time for yourself. Even if it is just a quiet 10 minutes here or there. Give time for yourself NOT spent on your phone checking email or scrolling through social media. Believe it or not, your mind is still processing other people’s thoughts while on these apps! Try taking a 15 minute walk in the fresh air or sitting outside to hear the world around you! There is nothing like the old solution of some time alone.
4. Focus on the positive – achieve inner happiness
The thing that makes our mind the most unsettled and constantly chirping, is often when we are complaining internally about something. What is the opposite of complaining? It is gratitude, or recognizing what we do have in our life to be thankful for. Gratitude brings instant happiness. It also allows us to focus on the positive. It is similar to meditation, in that it expands the mind.
There is an amazing program this June and July in several cities in the US, called Get Happy which combines this technique and meditation to help you discover the “how” of lasting happiness through Sudarshan Kriya (SKY) – a simple yet powerful breathing technique that draws an individual into a deep state of meditation and has long-lasting positive effects.
5. Meditation as a group activity – bring your family and friends!
There is no better way to experience a heightened, elevated mental state than when a group comes together to do something uplifting. Do you remember the last time you sang with a group of friends? The mind gets so cheerful and clear. How about cooking in a group? Your creativity wells up, your mind gets focused, your hands are busy and your heart is full. Try meditating in a group or taking your family to a workshop together! It’s far more powerful in a group and can be wonderful with a trained instructor. Here’s a good place to find workshops around the country to participate in with friends and family.
Most of all, remember that life is so short. All of these tips can remind us and bring clarity on what is truly important in our lives. When we focus on what is most important, we don’t let stress get the best of us. So this summer sit back, relax and meditate. Before you know it, the stress will slip away and all that will be left is the warm sunny day.
About the author: Annelies Richmond is an international teacher of personal development, meditation, wellness, and leadership programs for the Art of Living Foundation and of International Association for Human Values (IAHV). She is the national director of training and development as well as director of Teacher Training for the Art of Living Foundation in the United States.