My brain has a LOT in common with my Vitamix. It’s powerful, it can do lots of things, it can handle speed and pressure, but at some point, it all just turns into a pile of mush. Multitasking is a skill I’m grateful to have, but there are times when I really need to turn my attention to something, and have to focus hard to get my head where it needs to be. Whether it’s a to-do list so long that I can’t see the end of it, distraction from all the tabs open on my browser, or just a wicked crabby mood, sometimes I need to shake myself out of one state of mind and into another. I’ll share my techniques at the end, but I reached out to some of the people who inspire me on a daily basis to ask them the following question:
What practices, rituals, materials, or tricks do you use to clear your head of negativity or distracted thoughts? How—be specific—do you clear your mind?
I intentionally asked people who are often in situations where they have to perform, from beauty experts to yogis to musicians to bloggers. Whether you’re getting on stage to speak or sing, or going into a meeting, or meeting face-to-face with someone who needs your full attention, you’re never guaranteed that you’ll be in the right mood. Sometimes, you have to figure out how to get in the mood, and quickly. Below you’ll find some nuggets of wisdom and some practical actions for shifting your mindset. I LOVE the variety of answers they gave. I hope you do, too!
Elena is an endless fountain of gentle wisdom, from her yoga to her beautiful way of appreciating and savoring all the details around her. She radiates peaceful, true beauty from a place so deep inside that I’m not sure it would matter what she used on her skin - nothing could stop Elena from glowing. Step into her light whenever you get the chance - you’ll start glowing, too.
"Breathing is the one and only way I use to clear my mind. A practice known in the tradition I study, known as sama vritti, helps me feel energized, yet calm and centered. It's a practice with which I begin almost every day, which I use while I’m emailing, listening, even interviewing and teaching. Sama vritti is a simple, potent practice that balances and revitalizes, creates harmony in my body, nervous system, and mind. To practice it, patiently establish a rhythm where your inhale and your exhale become even in duration. Inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts. Slowly and steadily, build to five counts. Then perhaps six. Then, to refine it even further, insert a little empty pause just after the inhale, and when that's easy, after the exhale as well. Take one, two or even five minutes there.
Notice how much the pace of your entire body has slowed down. Then notice how quiet and spacious your mind feels."
Rose-Marie has paved the way in the green beauty industry, leading by example with her uncompromising standards for ingredient quality and exceptional product performance. If you’re lucky enough to have a few minutes with her, you’ll come away feeling more powerful for it.
“Thanks so much. I have learned to let negativity go by literally not indulging it. I let go by breathing it out of my system - meaning, going for a jog or running up stairs or simply doing a meditation. I am learning to let things go but I am also learning to not be a wallflower and not speak up. We all have a point of view and mine is just as important as anyone’s else’s.
Lisa is a Boston girl living in Atlanta, and has been by my side telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth as we both allow our natural gray hairs to come marching in strong! She’s smart, candid, and she does great makeup and skin tutorials on her IG feed. Oh, and she’s incredibly funny.
"This is so hard for me because I am an over-thinker by nature. The one thing that helps me is distraction - it sounds cliche but I love yoga for that. And I just started listening to audiobooks which is a great way to close my eyes and unwind at night. There is something about being told a story that is innately nurturing."
Kathryn is my favorite food blogger of all time. I started out as a fangirl, but after doing an event together and a few partnerships, I consider her a friend. Her blog is the source of countless meals in my house - healthy vegetarian meals that are totally achievable and get two thumbs up from my kids every time. Cookie is her dog, and possibly my spirit animal.
"So, distracted is kind of my way of life but I’ll try to come up with a good answer.
When my mind is churning with negative thoughts or general overwhelm, nothing helps more than taking my dog, Cookie, out for a long, brisk walk. I always seem to come back with more clarity and energy than before.
If I’m being hard on myself, I try to treat myself with the compassion that I would offer a friend. This is somehow easier, once again, after a change of scenery and/or some physical exertion. Simply going outside often reminds me that there’s a lot more to life than the problems I’ve been dwelling on.
Lastly, if I have too many to-do items in my head, I write them all down in Evernote (my note-taking app of choice). Then I determine the top priorities for the day, based on the long list, and focus on those. That way, my mind is at ease because I no longer have a million things running through my head, and I know I’ll get to them later if they are truly important. Staring down a long list all day, every day, only leads to more overwhelm. I physically write down the short list because it makes me feel like I’m already taking a step in the right direction!"
Kathryn is a beloved yoga teacher whose truth-telling, unapologetic style of communication has helped her students tap into their most authentic selves. She and her wife, Kate, host a podcast together, and often share their busy, hilarious lives on Kathryn’s Insta stories.
"The tried and true works best for me: a yoga (or workout session) followed by a 10-minute meditation. The activity distracts me from what bothers me, and then I’m in a better headspace to slip into meditation which allows me to declutter my head of negative talk."
Liz was the food editor at Mind Body Green for years, and is now the author of multiple amazing books and the host of the Liz Moody Podcast.
"Meditation is the number one way that I clear my mind. I do a Vedic practice for 20 minutes every morning and I swear I can feel the gunk in my brain breaking off and falling away. Other than that: I love turning on great music and dancing and singing around my apartment. You can’t do that for more than a minute and maintain a bad mood."
May is a pillar in the green beauty community, creating products that top the charts in luxury, efficacy, and sheer beauty. She’s a gentle-but-driven fellow entrepreneur, and another silver sister in letting her gray strands shine naturally. Her kind nature and sweet spirit infuse everything she does, including her gorgeous products. Also, she owns a very large pig.
"There is a practice called "shaking" that I use to interrupt negative thought patterns, break through stuck-ness, or simply release pain or tired energy from my body, mind, or emotions. The idea is simple, plant your feet solidly to the ground, and shake the rest uninhibitedly. It feels a little silly, and that is part of the point - freeing up expectation and letting go, starting with our physical body. Try even for thirty seconds and you'll feel a shift. Go all out for twenty minutes and you'll step out in a new kind of light.
You can find video demonstrations online and more information by searching "tantra shaking practice". Here's a great blog post that offers both."
Rod is an internationally renowned yoga teacher, and a treasured friend. I attended a workshop of his and he asked the following question of us: “What lessons are you tired of learning?” That question alone was worth the price of admission.
"I am not sure that I have any “tricks” as such. My capacity to clear my mind of negativity, doubt and distraction is really a three-parter: preparation, intention and action. In brief, if I do not prepare for these moments before they happen, I won't be able to pull myself out of them, when they do. Preparation for me means consistently (daily) taking some time to focus my mind, i.e. meditation, relaxation or the like. This way I teach myself to be able to choose what I pay attention to and to be less at the mercy of mind’s capacity to wander, often non-constructively.
Second is intention. In short, what helps me prevail over spinning mentally in the wrong direction is knowing what I can control––so much of fear is about experiencing the dread of the uncontrollable. So, if I understand what makes me truly happy, that is as free as possible from attachment to outcome, I can get away from being fearful and vulnerable to stress.I realized a long time ago that the key to this for me was authentically dedicating myself to uplifting and empowering others (more on this in a minute).
The last thread is action. This means that if and when I notice stress or or non-constructive feelings arise, I focus. It almost doesn’t matter what it is, any object, for instance, just go to it and lock down for a moment. Once there, I access or recall the work I did to “prepare” (step one) and choose to embody it. Finally, with my mind more in the present., I take my focus off of myself and put it on my intention––“authentically uplifting and empowering others." That’s it. When I stop thinking about me and step into my intention, I am home free."
April is one of our favorite editors in the wellness game, and an expert in all things beauty and health.
"To clear my head before a big day or in any high-pressure situation, I close my eyes and say a quick prayer. Not only for the desired outcome, but also to express gratitude for my life and the privilege of being in the position I’m in. It helps me feel instantly grounded and calm. I also like to dab an essential oil like lavender on my pulse points, which has an instant relaxing effect."
Favorite. Blog. Ever. I’ve been reading A Cup of Jo forever, and I never tire of it. It covers everything from parenting to books to culture to food to wellness to careers, and the writing is sharp and clever. If you ever need a rabbit hole to distract you from the outside world, dive into A Cup of Jo. And Joanna, I’m still waiting for a date with you in NYC.
"In my twenties, I went to a wonderful therapist. I kept getting stuck on certain moments — worrying obsessively about something I did at work or something I said at a party. She told me about the "Grand Canyon trick," where you picture the enormous space and imagine that it holds your life. Over there is your fourth birthday party, over there is your college roommate, over there is the bike ride you went on last week, and over there are your future children and grandchildren. Keep picturing all of your life, the big and small things. And then drop in the thing you're worrying about — oh, well, I was awkward at a random work dinner. WHO CARES?! It suddenly feels so small and inconsequential and fleeting. What a brilliant want to put things in perspective, right? Fifteen years later, I still use the Grand Canyon trick whenever necessary, and it works like magic."
Gordy is a longtime friend in the music industry, whose career we have been lucky enough to follow. The Band of Heathens’ music topped the Americana charts this year, and is the perfect companion for a long drive or a Sunday gathering with friends.
"So I’ve been thinking about how I escape the pull of negativity and distraction in my work and I realized I have two main areas of work, and I treat those things differently for each area. If I simplify what we do, it mostly boils down to 1) live performance and 2) the creative work of writing and recording music.
For the live performance part of my life, it mostly comes down to focusing during the time leading up to show time. The day to day of tour life can ensnare you in lots of negativity and distraction, but as showtime approaches I try to set aside some time to focus on the evening’s show. I’ll review the songs we’re gonna play that night; I may review lyrics for any tunes we haven’t played in a while; I’ll envision the flow of the show and what special moments can be incorporated into that particular night; and finally, and probably most importantly, I like to take a few minutes to focus on why I’m there. I choose to go on the road with my band because I believe music is important in our lives and experiencing live music can heal and bring people together. Right now I think that’s more important than ever.
If there is anything particularly negative going on in my life I try to think about the one person in the audience that night that is having a much worse time than I am. I believe they’re there at the show to escape whatever is going on in their life, maybe to be healed a little bit to be able to move forward, and I think about how it’s my purpose right then and there to go out and tap into something musically that can seriously heal people. Music might be the only real magic we have and I try to not take that for granted when it’s time to go on stage.
As far as the creative side of my work writing and recording music, distraction is way more of a danger than negativity. In some ways I don’t mind some negativity because songs sometimes come from negative experiences. Distraction is the real danger. My friend Owen Temple and I like to joke that writing songs is 50 percent doing the work and 90 percent avoiding the internet. There are more distractions than ever that keep us from diving deep enough to get to the place where real breakthroughs can happen.
On that note, I’m gonna put this down and get back to writing a song!"
Jessamyn is an absolute powerhouse in the yoga world, and an advocate for not only body positivity, but for authentic self-love and acceptance. She’s got a sharp wit and she tells it like it is, and her teaching style is clear, no-nonsense, and incredibly kind. Take a class from her if you ever get the chance.
"My most effective practice for clearing my mind is to stop whatever I’m doing, close my eyes and take ten deep breaths. If I have more time, ten deep breaths can easily turn into 5 minutes of verbal silence, and more time is available I can easily spend upwards of an entire afternoon in silence. This doesn’t really make the thoughts go away- it’s more like reminding myself that it’s ok for all of my thoughts to be present and it’s ok for my expectations and reality to vary wildly from one another. It’s basically like taking as much time as is needed to tell myself: “It’s Ok. You’re Ok. I love you.” Something that can be very hard to remember when I’m concentrated on experiencing negativity."
Hi. That’s me. This is going to sound like a commercial for Osmia, but when I need to clear my mind, I return to my senses. Because I'm a border collie stuck in a human body, I can get a little crazy if I stay in my head too long. When I need to get out of my head and push the reset button, I do so by getting back into my body through one or more of my senses. When possible, I use exercise to reconnect me with my senses - going for a run outdoors taps into sight, smell, hearing, and touch instantly. If I need a faster fix than that, I'll make a cup of herbal tea with a little honey, listen to an album that grounds me, or get out one of my favorite essential oils and inhale deeply for about a minute. For concentration, I love rosemary or basil. If I'm feeling sad, I'll use pink grapefruit. If I'm moody, I'll reach for clary sage. And if I'm scattered, vetiver helps me collect myself.
With love and a clear head from us to you,