how to be calm

7 Steps to Calm Your Racing Thoughts

Photo credit: American Things

When you’re worried about something, your thoughts start chasing each other round your head and don’t let up. You run the same scenarios through over and over, as if practicing them would make them turn out right.

Sometimes they’re in the past, sometimes in the future, but in either case – worrying about them isn’t going to fix anything. It’s just going to keep your thoughts in a groove they can’t get out of, upset you, keep you awake at night, and limit your creative response to the situation.

So what can you do?

Here’s a simple technique for calming your racing thoughts down. It’s as easy as watching a movie (and much cheaper).

1. Imagine, first of all, that you’re in a movie theatre. Smell the popcorn, feel the fold-down seat under you, hear some relaxing music over the speakers. On the screen, there’s a peaceful blue sky. Just stare at it for a while, get lost in it, and absorb a little of its peacefulness as the orchestra on the soundtrack plays calm, peaceful music.

2. Now the camera dips down out of the sky into a busy city scene – and it’s speeded up. People and cars (probably a lot of yellow cabs – this is a New York kind of scene) are zipping back and forth on the streets, as the camera’s viewpoint gradually drops down until it’s in among the hurrying people. The soundtrack speeds up and it’s full of hooting horns and beating drums.

3. But you’re a bit detached still, just watching the movie, and it’s like it’s a movie of your racing thoughts. You’re just sitting back and watching them hurry back and forth as if they had somewhere to go. Where could they be going that’s so important? They don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

4. Now the movie’s slowing down to a realistic speed, and the music’s slowing too, and the camera is moving among the people, along the street, and you’re watching the cars go past and the people go past, still a bit detached. You’re watching a movie. Have some imaginary popcorn, it’s low-calorie.

5.  And as the music slows and becomes peaceful again, a lot more strings and woodwinds, the picture gradually dissolves into a scene of natural beauty. It can be whatever you like (it’s your movie), but I suggest lots of greenery and some gently moving water, maybe a waterfall, or a calm sea with gentle waves lapping on the beach. Have both if you like, why not?

6. And now the music is fading out and being replaced with the natural sounds of birdsong, moving water, and a gentle wind in the trees. The sky is a beautiful deep blue, calm and peaceful. And you’re in the scene now, walking around, enjoying the beauty and the calm. It’s an ideal environment.

7. And as you enjoy that scene, just gently press your finger and thumb together on whichever hand you like, and connect that feeling to the calm and the peace of the beautiful scene, the way it looks and feels and sounds and smells. And that’s your signal that you can use to return yourself to that same state of mind any time you want. If you find yourself on that New York street with your thoughts rushing everywhere, just press your finger and thumb and take yourself instantly back to the peaceful, relaxing garden. And enjoy.

Mike Reeves-McMillan is a hypnotherapist and health coach. He loves to connect ordinary people with the resources they need to become more integrated, healthier and happier. For more resources to overcome stress and calm yourself down, get his free guide.

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  • http://www.cultivatingheroes.com Jarrod – Cultivating Heroes

    When I have thoughts coming up unrelated to what I am doing I generally write them down in a ‘later’ column on a piece of paper. This usually takes care of it. If they are particularly persistant then I just solve whatever the issue is.

    Most of the time they don’t make it to paper and I immediately drop them out of my mind. Discipline of not engaging them.

  • http://www.tohami.com M. A. Tohami

    Hi,

    “If things go wrong, don’t go with them.” -Roger Babson

    Thanks for the nice post.

    Regards,
    M. A. Tohami
    Bestselling Author of The Pharaohs’ Code

  • http://www.successconsciousness.com Remez Sasson

    Good advice. Watching your thoughts with detachment always slows down the racing thoughts. People who practice meditation or develop their concentration ability find it easier to calm down the racing thoughts in the mind.

  • http://www.myspace.com/keatonmorris Bucky

    another little trick that works for me is closing my eyes (leaving them opened works too but not as well) and breathing very deeply and counting to ten over and over again in my mind. i’ll count with my breaths (one as i inhale, two as i exhale, three as i inhale, and so on). i usually picture myself slowly drawing out the numbers with an imaginary hand, or picture how they’d look on dice (ten is blank). i do this until my mind is calm. as an added bonus, this also really puts me into a mental creative zone and it gets really easy to write music.

  • http://www.virginbloggernotes.com Jean Sarauer

    I’ve tried this technique before, and it’s really effective with practice. My worry level has lessened a lot in recent years though. The older I get, the more I’m able to see that about 99.5% of the things I worry about never happen. I remind myself of this truth when that first little sliver of worry pushes into my mind, and that tends to force it back out again.

  • http://www.themillionairemindblog.com The Millionaire Mind

    Hey Mike, we have a saying at Peak Potentials- your thoguhts lead to your feeling, leads to your action, which leads to your results and your post really signifies that.

  • http://www.giantgreetings.ca Giant Greetings

    Nice post!

  • http://hypno.co.nz/blogs Mike Reeves-McMillan

    Thanks, folks, for all the comments and tweets – I’ve been out of town or I would have replied earlier. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    @Jarrod, yes, not engaging – what I call “being in the boat, not the river” – is a great way to let these thoughts drop out.
    @M.A. Tohami, great quote. (I’ll reply to your email shortly.)
    @Remez Sasson, yes, this is based on a meditation technique (like so many effective mind-management techniques).
    @Bucky, nice technique, sounds like an adaptation of a Zen practice – following the breath, counting to 10, when you realise you’ve counted above 10 you’re not paying attention…
    @Jean Sarauer, I wonder if the reason that your worry is lessening is because you are practicing this?
    @The Millionaire Mind, yes, totally.

  • http://CalmAndCool.com Lucky Balaraman

    Aw, and here I thought you were going to say that our thoughts are like cars going by on a busy street, and we are in actuality silent, motionless observers on the sidewalk. Oh, well… :-)

    • http://hypno.co.nz/blogs Mike Reeves-McMillan

      I do use that imagery as well, but I changed it up a bit this time.

  • http://educationflat.com Trag Lee

    Great insights! Thanks!

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  • Ted Behr

    Interesting post. I will give the process a try. The link to the free guide doesn’t seem to be working.

  • http://www.longevity-racing.com Rally Racing

    Thank you! I’m glad you are enjoying the posts and thank you for subscribing to my feed!

  • http://hypno.co.nz/blogs Mike Reeves-McMillan

    Ted is right, the link to the free guide isn’t working – just click my name above, you will see a signup box for the free guide on the upper left side of that page.

  • http://moviesberg.net/ rann
  • http://moviesberg.net/ moviesberg
  • Gfghjfhj

    And how exactly does this calm racing thoughts? Your pleasant blue sky will soon get eaten by my scattered brain. At least the popcorn was low calorie. 

  • ihatemymind

    this is rubbish, imagining all this fake scenery and music is ridiculous. the guy has no idea what he’s tallking about, this type of thought exercise will just increase anxiety and one’s mind wouldn’t get past step 1 without screaming bullshit and jumping to another track.

  • StevieG

    So here is my story. This actually happened to me just now. I read this entire thing from start to finish 3 times. I then followed the directions to the T. It took 45 minutes to get the last step, and just when I was completely calmed. I was laying on the beach, very surprised at how realistic I was able to make the feeling. I was looking into the sky watching the birds. Then a flock of birds flew over me and started to fly straight down towards me. I jumped up to get out of the way and when my eyes hit ground level I saw a ship barreling towards the shore line directly at me. Right before it crushed me, my eyes opened and my heart was racing. I don’t think this worked properly for me, and I am getting very frustrated with my current condition.

  • Nuno

    I totally disagree with all of you. If it’s not working it’s beacuase you don’t want or are not truing enough, because if you really try to relax and picture everything, evrety single detail, smell, touch… you will definetly de-race your foughts. it has been proved.

  • mot

    with a racing mind one would not reach the second paragraph without elevating your situation

  • Fred

    Not seeming relevant,If subject A had rushing thoughts,algebra,broken down,there would have to be a coping mechanism,I don’t see how imagining a trip to the cinema would have any effect?

  • Maureen

    This is a very creative motivation/visualization exercise; I love the movie theater setup, and how it involves imagining all the senses. I can see how this would be effective in quieting my mind … while I’m doing the exercise. However, I’ve tried similar strategies and as soon as the exercise is over, my mind goes right back to its frantic churning. The finger and thumb technique never works for me personally; probably because my mind tends to be more relentless than most.