How to Clear Your Mind to Meditate: 11 Tips to Slow Your Thoughts
Feeling stressed, frazzled, and anxious? You might be tempted to try meditation. It’s been shown to reduce anxiety, improve your focus, and help improve your sleep.
But whether you’re following an app, a class, or just sitting down by yourself to give it a go, clearing your mind to meditate can be the hardest part of the whole exercise.
After all, how are you supposed to focus on your breath when your brain is thinking about tomorrow’s presentation, yesterday’s argument, and today’s to-do list?
Feel like you’ve got too many browser tabs open in your brain? Read on to find out how to clear your mind before meditation.
What is Meditation?
First up, what even is mediation anyway?
Meditation is the practice of paying attention to your body and breath and taking a moment out of your day to be mindful. It’s been practised for thousands of years and it’s only relatively recently that science has started to find its many benefits.
There are many different types of mediation including:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Walking meditation
- Visualization meditation
- Mantra meditation
Benefits of Meditation
There’s a whole host of benefits of meditation, including:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved memory: including working memory and short-term memory
- Improved blood flow to the brain
- Improved self-awareness
- A stronger immune system
- Better concentration
- Better sleep
- Lowered blood pressure
Are You Supposed to Clear Your Mind While Meditating?
When we think about meditation, most of us imagine someone sitting crossed-legged with a smile on their face and not a thought in their mind.
But that isn’t the only way to meditate. In fact, some forms of meditation involve a lot of thinking.
Instead of clearing your mind entirely, meditation is more about focusing on the right things: like your body and breath instead of your worries and to-do list.
Plus, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. Yes, the aim is to be more mindful and present. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong if you find yourself getting distracted every now and again.
The bottom line is, even if you struggle with overthinking, you can still meditate.
How to Clear Your Mind to Meditate?
Ready to sit down and meditate? Here’s how you can clear your mind first.
1. Take a Deep Breath
Yes, you’re sitting down to breathe, but before you begin your official meditation session, take some preparation breaths. This will help bring you into the present moment and calm your body and brain.
Take three deep breaths, making a conscious effort to slow your breathing.
2. Notice Your Surroundings
It’s easy to get caught up in anxious thoughts or even just daydreams, but you can help clear your mind by noticing your surroundings.
Try using all of your senses and listing:
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can hear
- Three things you can feel
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste
Even just picking out a few things in the room you’re in can help.
3. Let Go of Expectations
You’re not a machine. You can’t just clear the browser tabs in your brain and immediately clear your mind.
Especially if you’re new to meditation, it’s going to be hard to focus, and you may find yourself drifting off and getting distracted every few minutes — or even every few seconds.
And even if you’re a seasoned pro, there are still going to be times when your mind feels cluttered or you can’t seem to concentrate.
But don’t be so hard on yourself. When you notice your thoughts have drifted off, simply pull your attention back to your breath, your body, or whatever you’re meditating on.
You can also try meditating for shorter amounts of time at first, and building up to longer sessions.
4. Meditate When You’ll Have the Least Disruptions
You can’t have an empty mind when you’re phone is *dinging* with notifications, kids are running in asking to play, and your boss is expecting you on Zoom any minute.
Give yourself the best chance of clearing your mind by choosing a time and place to meditate when you’ll have the least distractions.
That could mean first thing before the rest of the household gets up or during your lunch break in the local park.
5. Prepare Your Environment
Before you sit down to meditate, take a few minutes to prepare your environment. You could tidy the space a little, put on some relaxing music, light a candle, open the windows for some fresh air — whatever helps you feel calmer.
This will also act as a signal to your brain that you’re about to meditate, telling it it’s time to slow down.
6. Do a Calming Activity Beforehand
You wouldn’t expect yourself to fall asleep in three seconds flat, or a car to come to a dead stop at the lights. In both situations, there’s a gradual slowdown. The same can happen before meditation.
If you find your mind is racing when you sit down to meditate, try adding in a five-minute buffer beforehand where you start slowing down in preparation.
During this time you could:
- Put your phone in do-not-disturb mode
- Take a few deep breaths
- Tidy the room you’ll be meditating in
- Make a cup of green tea
- Read or listen to calming music
- Doing some gentle stretches
Another activity you can do just before meditation to help clear your mind is journaling.
This can be especially useful if you find your mind is racing with anxious thoughts or you keep going over your to-do list for the day.
Grab a notebook or open your favorite notes app and write down whatever thoughts come to mind.
Getting them all out of your head and onto the page can help you feel calmer.
8. Go Out in Nature
Got some extra time before you meditate? Go for a walk around your local park or sit in your backyard for a few moments.
Research shows being in nature can decrease stress and improve your mood. And even just six minutes spent watching a nature video can help you feel more restored.
9. Do a Body Scan
A body scan is a type of meditation, but it can also be a quick activity you do before any meditation session to help slow your thoughts. It gives you something to focus on while slowing your breathing.
Here’s how to do a body scan:
- Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
- Starting with your head, notice how each body part feels.
- Move slowly down your body, from your head to your arms to your legs.
- Breathe deeply and slowly as you do this.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice
They don’t say practice makes perfect for nothing. The more you meditate and the more you actively work on slowing your thoughts and being mindful, the easier you’ll find it.
Try building meditation into your daily routine and being consistent with the practice.
11. Experiment with Different Types of Meditation
If you find you can’t clear your mind for certain types of meditation, experiment with other styles.
You might find you can slow your thoughts more easily when you do box breathing, for example, or a walking meditation as you have something to focus on that stops your mind from racing.
Once you’re more experienced, you can come back to the meditation styles you found tricky at first.
Hopefully, these tips will help you go into your meditation session with a clearer mind. Getting ready for bed? We’ve covered how you can clear your mind and sleep here.