Today is National Quiet Day.
I’m kidding. But it does raise a good point. When was the last time you were truly quiet? And I don’t mean not just talking, I mean consciously took yourself out of reality and your thoughts to enjoy a peaceful moment on your own? For many of us, this is difficult to answer.
Modern life isn’t quiet, not mentally or physically. We wake up to the shout of an alarm clock, we pile into trains and traffic, we are subjected to a deluge of emails and notifications and advertising, we need to think about work and bills and whether we’ve got enough bread for tomorrow’s breakfast and who is going to pick up the kids or walk the dog or water the plants. And this is just before lunch.
Now, I feel like I am not the most qualified person to be telling you how to take a moment out for yourself. (For some context to this, I told my boyfriend what I was writing for this blog and he reacted by shouting YOU’RE LITERALLY NEVER PEACEFUL, YOU ARE THE MOST CHAOTIC PERSON. Which is true.) But perhaps in some ways, this makes me more capable, because I get it.
I get how difficult it is to find time in the day to take a break.
I get how difficult it is to ignore that nagging feeling you should be doing something productive.
And I get how easy it is to burn out of energy and concentration if you don’t embrace moments of peace, whether they occur naturally or you engineer them by setting aside time to do it.
So, to help you find your moment of calm today, here are some super simple tips and techniques that you can do anywhere without any props or equipment.
3 Super Simple Exercises to Quieten the Mind
Take a deep breath is a common piece of advice when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. In the moment it seems annoyingly simple, but it really does help you calm down and gain a bit of perspective (I was curious to know why this is so googled it and came across this, for those interested!) However, the trick is to get into the habit of taking a moment to do some deep breathing before you get to the peak of the stress mountain, making it easier to do in times where you really need it.
If you want something to follow, there’s lots of videos and a few apps that can guide you through various breathing techniques (I like Oak), and if you have a Fitbit, there’s one on there you can do too, but you could easily do this by just counting in your head, or even just watching the second hand on a clock.
There are various patterns and counts you can follow, but start with in for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds, then work out your own rhythm from there.
- Make yourself comfortable and loosen anything that might restrict your breathing
- Keep your feet roughly hip-distance apart and relax your arms onto the floor, chair arms or by your sides. Place your hand on your belly
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, expanding the belly against your hand.
- If you want to and are able to, hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Exhale slowly, deflating your belly
(Focus on keeping a steady breath. Repeat for around 2 minutes, or until you feel calm.)
P.S. I know you might feel a bit self-conscious doing this on the train or at your desk but honestly, no one is watching and if they are, perhaps they should be joining in rather than being nosy!
Progressive muscle relaxation
I find this easier to do lying down, but you can easily do it sitting or even standing.
- Start by taking some deep breaths (In- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and Out- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- Focusing on one muscle group at a time, starting with your feet, tense your muscles as tight as you can (without hurting yourself obviously!) as you inhale.
- As you exhale, release the tension, noting how good it feels to loosen up.
- Relax for a few seconds, then repeat exercise as you work your way up your body’s muscle groups (I think I usually go feet, calves, thighs, bum, tummy, hands, arms, shoulders, face)
If you haven’t got time to scan your whole body, just squeezing and releasing your shoulders a few times can relieve tension and improve your posture, especially if you haven’t moved around much today.
Obviously, don’t do this one if you have an injury that could be worsened by tensing your muscles. Instead, just practise focusing your attention on your various body parts, moving from your feet to your face, noting how they feel and imagining you are sending your breath to these areas.
Afterwards, if you have time, you could stretch out anywhere that feels a bit tight.
The Sensory Game
I love this because it reminds me of English lessons in primary school, where the teacher would get you to write all the sensations a character in a book was experiencing. Just like that exercise, doing this in your own life gives you a deeper sense of awareness of the surrounding scene. A lot of people use this technique to help quell panic attacks when they are in public space as this isn’t about blocking out the noise you can’t control, but rather just observing it objectively to create a mental quiet space within it.
You can play this observing game in various ways, like people-watching (which is my favourite thing to do in Manchester city centre!), but here are some prompt questions to help you get the idea.
Name 5 things you can see
Name 4 things you can hear
Name 3 things you can feel.
Name 2 things you can smell.
Name 1 thing you can taste.