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3:00 AM I wake up and still half asleep make my way into the bathroom, 2 minutes later I come back and slide into bed and all of a sudden my head, which had been happily snoozing away just 2 minutes before, goes all “thinky” on me. Now, apparently with great urgency, my mind decides I need to worry about a meeting I’ve got tomorrow, strategize how I’m going to deal with a team member who is not doing their job, relive a moment of extreme embarrassment, agonize over a much regretted past mistake, ponder that horrific image I saw on the news, you name it, any bad thing I can think of comes rushing into my head.
Really?!?! What the heck is that about?? It’s 3:00 AM and I should be sleeeeepppping… Sound familiar? Of course, this doesn’t happen to me every night, but it happened regularly enough for me to decide enough was enough. Who was in charge here, me or my sometimes weirdly overactive mind??
I’ve come to realize that I can declutter my house and clean out my closets and yes, it does make me feel lighter and a little freer and things go much more smoothly, but if my insides are in turmoil then all that outer “clean-up” won’t fix the problem.
BONUS help! You can grab a FREE checklist of 31 Things to Declutter in 10 Minutes or Less here!
For me, simplicity on the inside is correlated with simplicity on the outside. Part of the reason I like a well-organized and uncluttered space is that it helps calm my mind. If I’m in an environment that is chaotic and overfull and dirty and I’m there for very long I start to feel more chaotic on the inside. But even with my outside environment simplified and organized I still need work to simplify or declutter my “insides” sometimes.
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Ever had your mind just basically run riot dragging your thoughts from one worry or problem to the next? Ever notice while you’re driving, or cooking or meditating that your head is going in 5 different directions seemingly all at the same time? Yep, I have, too. It can be kind of exhausting and it isn’t a great way to stay motivated, be efficient and get things done because it’s hard to focus on what is in front of you. Fortunately, I’ve found a great way to deal with this “monkey mind” as it’s often called. The solution is your breath. Isn’t that great! The key to inner simplicity is something you have right there with you and need to be doing anyway if you want to stay on the right side of the grass.
There are many different breathing techniques and you may be saying, yeh, yeh, I know how to breathe. And I know you do. But with this technique you’ll be able to use your breath deliberately as a tool to create a calmer yet more energized you (or if you’re trying to sleep then a calmer and more relaxed you).
The breathing technique is called conscious connected breathing. It’s very simple and you can even teach it to kids to help them deal with stress and anxiety.
1) No pauses between the exhale and the inhale
2) Relax the exhale
So basically, you breathe in as fully as you like and then just let your breath flow out. As soon as the last little bit of breath is out of your lungs begin your inhale. Don’t pause between the exhale and the inhale. I don’t know about you but if I pay attention to my “normal” breath I find I usually have quite a pause between the inhale and exhale. So this may feel a little strange at first. It’s important not to force your breath out or push it out, or you might start to hyperventilate a little bit. Just let the exhale go out on its own.
Now let’s try this for a few minutes. Set your phone timer for 3 minutes if you like. Close your eyes so you can focus on your breath more easily.
Now that you’ve opened your eyes, how do you feel? What do you notice? I’ve taught this breathing technique to people in retreats and workshops all over the country. Many people mention that when they open their eyes the colors seem a little brighter. Some people feel a little light-headed. Some say they notice an ache or pain in their body they weren’t aware of. Many say they feel more relaxed or more peaceful. The results are as varied as the people who have tried it.
“O.K. Amy,” you might be thinking, “so that’s an interesting way to breathe and it made me feel ___________. How does that help me get control of all the stuff running through my head?”
So glad you asked.
Being able to deliberately focus your attention on something, in this case the breath, helps center you, bring you back to the present (which is the only place/time you have any control over), and puts you in charge rather than feeling at the mercy of your mind or outside circumstances. You decide what you are going to think about, focus on, give your attention to. It can take some practice with the breathing and focusing, but it’s a great way to “clean-up” and declutter your mind when you need to, whatever time of day or night it is.
Want to learn more about conscious connected breathing and some of the other ways it can benefit you? Take a moment to read The One Tool You Need for Inner Simplicity.
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FREE BONUS – Want an easy to follow 7-day plan to help you get started on your path to simplicity? The Seven Days of Simplicity Action Plan can help!