At first, I wanted to title this post “Practices to Master your Personal Psychology”, but then I gave my head a shake. The words “practice” and “master” don’t belong together here, because the tips I’m sharing to develop your personal psychology are just that: practices, not masteries. They’re meant to be done regularly, with the open-ended goal to expand your mind.
As you read through these practices, consider which one would best fit into your season of life right now. Which one speaks to you the most? In which direction do you want to stretch your mind? Start by choosing one practice that you can commit to regularly, and build on from there.
Meditation has become much more mainstream, but it has been used for thousands of years as a way to quiet the constant chatter of the mind. I used to meditate daily as part of my morning routine, but I’ve added new things to my routine and meditation seems to have fallen away. I’m noticing its absence and the quiet, peaceful start to the day that it brings. I definitely need to find a way to get back into the habit!
Meditation involves sitting quietly and observing the movements of the mind. After a period of time, the mind starts to quiet down and becomes less busy. With consistent practice, you will find that you’re less reactive during other parts of the day; you’ll be able to monitor and control your thoughts more efficiently. The peaceful mind stays with you, and it’s lovely.
If you’ve never meditated before, it is challenging in the beginning to know what to do with all those swimming thoughts, and how to both control them and not control them at the same time. Guided meditations for beginners are a big help because they keep you on track and let you know when the time is up. I like to use the Chopra app, though I know there are many others out there.
If you’re curious about meditation, read more about my experience with it from many years ago.
I love that most yoga instructors remind you each class that it is a practice, and mastery is not expected. You are encouraged to listen to your body while also asking it to do hard things. Yoga is a practice of body movements that combine breath, concentration, balance, flexibility, and physical stress. When the movements come together, you find your body and breath flowing together.
The combination of concentration, breathing, and physical exertion is perfect for subduing the mind because it’s often not possible to fully achieve the poses if your mind is wandering. I find yoga is best as a regular habit because it doesn’t require much conscious thought.
Here are some beginner poses to try, to see if yoga could be for you.
The third way to develop your personal psychology is through mindfulness. Mindfulness can take many forms and there are many mindfulness practices you can try, including yoga and meditation. Simply, mindfulness involves being aware of the present moment throughout the day.
We have been conditioned to be good at multitasking, but asking your mind to be in five places at once is exhausting. Give your mind a break, and be in the moment for a while. Instead of doing the dishes and ruminating over tomorrow’s to-do list, just do the dishes. Feel the water on your skin, the smell of the soap, and the slipperiness of the plates. When you’re eating breakfast, you’re just eating breakfast. Focus on all of your senses surrounding the activity.
The more mindful you become, the more you’ll notice how much time you actually spend with your mind elsewhere (usually the future), and how it contributes to feeling scattered and overwhelmed.
Jon Kabat Zinn is a big name in mindfulness, and he’s contributed to a lot of research showing the positive impact that mindfulness can have on your health. I’ve done a few of his courses and I highly recommend them.
Most of us, myself included, have a decreased ability to concentrate. I’m going to guess that the internet and smartphones have a lot to do with it, too. They’re designed to keep our attention, which means our attention often isn’t on what’s going on around us or within our own thoughts.
Limiting screen time is one strategy to reduce how much time we spend on screens, but that won’t bring back your ability to concentrate. Rather, you need to spend time literally practicing concentration! Lucky for you, scientific research shows that we can’t concentrate intensely for much longer than ten minutes, so this is a short practice that you can integrate into your day. Choose something, and simply focus on it: a candle flame, your breath, or the tip of your nose for example. You could also choose any of the other four practices to integrate with your concentration practice.
Did you know that your passions help develop your personal psychology, too? If you can find something that you can focus on with single-minded intensity, you don’t have time or space to engage with negative thoughts, emotions, or what you’re going to do tomorrow. Engaging in a passion is one of the most effective ways to control the mind and remove destructive or destructive tendencies.
A passion overcomes the challenges of willpower because you’re driven to see it through. Not everyone has an all-encompassing passion, but if you do, lean into it! And if you don't, why not try something new? You never know what you might uncover.
Everyone can benefit from all of these practices, but some might not be realistic for you right now, and that’s okay. Choose the one that feels right, and commit to doing it every day. You will be surprised what consistency can do for your mind.
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