how to meditate when your mind is racing

How to Meditate When Your Mind Is Racing

Racing thoughts seem to hit at the worst times, like before bed, during meetings, or when your spouse is telling you about their day (guilty).

We all know the frustration of trying to calm a mind that’s going at 100 mph.

Fortunately, through a lot of practice, personal experience, and plenty of research, I’ve learned some effective techniques and tips that can help you overcome a racing mind and reap the benefits of regular meditation practice.

In this article, I’ll share evidence-based insights on the most practical meditation techniques, including deep breaths, body scans, visualization, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and more. Plus, you’ll get step-by-step instructions on how to practice each technique.

By following these techniques and tips, you can calm your mind, reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration and focus, and enhance your overall well-being. Ready to dive in? Let’s get started.

Why Do Our Minds Race?

how to meditate when your mind is racing: a person wearing a box on their head with brain written on the front and someone dropping the word "idea" into the box.
How to meditate when your mind is racing

A racing mind can often feel overwhelming and is usually the result of multiple factors. This phenomenon involves a surge of thoughts that seem to rapidly move or ‘race’ through your mind.

Constant Processing of Information

Our brains are always active, processing information in the background. At times, this processing can result in an overflow of thoughts about past events and upcoming tasks, which can lead to a racing mind.

Stress, Anxiety, and Worry

These three emotional states can significantly contribute to a racing mind. When we are stressed, our brains produce more cortisol, a hormone that keeps us on high alert, potentially triggering racing thoughts. This state of alertness initiates the stress response and activates our sympathetic nervous system.

Lifestyle and Environmental Factors

Certain lifestyle and environmental factors can also contribute to a racing mind:

  • Lack of Sleep: Insufficient sleep can lead to an increase in racing thoughts.
  • Caffeine: This stimulant can cause our thoughts to race, especially when consumed in excess.
  • Overstimulation: Excessive exposure to technology and media can overstimulate our minds, leading to racing thoughts.

Personality Traits and Mental Health Conditions

Some individuals may be naturally predisposed to experiencing racing thoughts due to their personality traits or underlying mental health conditions, such as ADHD or bipolar disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

In extreme cases, a constant feeling of restlessness, indicative of a racing mind, may be a symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This mental health condition, affecting around 3% of the adult population, involves persistent feelings of stress and anxiety for more than six months.

Recognizing the reasons behind a racing mind can aid us in managing anxious thoughts. Methods such as meditation can provide inner peace and serve as effective techniques to alleviate this issue.

Why Is It Difficult to Meditate When Your Mind Is Racing?

how to meditate when your mind is racing: woman holding her head in her hands
How to meditate when your mind is racing: Why is it difficult?

It’s common to experience a racing mind during meditation. Our minds are naturally active and like to wander.

When we try to quiet our thoughts, they only get louder and more annoying. It’s like a dripping tap at night, when the rest of the world is quiet the sound of an empty mind can be deafening.

The modern world doesn’t help. It’s full of external distractions, which can make it challenging to focus and relax during meditation. TikTok has gained exponential growth because it shows short and constantly attention-grabbing videos to keep you hooked.

We used to be happy to wait for a letter to arrive in two or more days, then after 1983 (the year the internet was invented), we became frustrated when it took more than 2 seconds for our email to send.

Meditation Techniques to Calm Your Mind

how to meditate when your mind is racing: woman by a lake and mountains

There are several effective techniques that can help calm a racing mind during meditation:

1. Mindful Breathing

Focusing on your breath and slowing down your inhales and exhales can create a sense of calm and relaxation in your body and mind. A popular mindful breathing method is the 4-7-8 Breathing technique:

  1. Empty your lungs
  2. Breathe in for a count of four
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven
  4. Breathe out through the mouth for a count of eight
  5. Repeat 3 – 4 times or until you find calm

2. Body Scan Meditation

Scanning your body from head to toe and focusing on each area with mindful attention can release tension and relax your mind.

Try to explore every detail, how does it feel, what is the temperature, is there any contact between your other limbs or your clothes?

3. Visualization

Imagining a peaceful and calming scene or image in your mind can create a sense of calm and tranquility in your body and mind.

There are tons of videos on YouTube if you’re struggling to create a scene on your own.

You might want to help a struggling YouTuber and watch the ZenGuided visualization meditation video here:

4. Mantra Meditation

Repeating a word, phrase, or sound can help you focus and calm your mind, quieting your thoughts and finding inner peace.

There’s often the misconception that mantras are religious or spiritual, but mantras can be as straightforward as focusing on what you want and saying it out loud. Think Dorothy “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

5. Somatic tapping

I’m gonna level with you…when I first heard about somatic tapping I thought it was a little bit woo-woo for my liking. But there is ongoing research to validate the effects of tapping, and there is a growing community that swears that it works.

Somatic just means ‘relating to the body, especially as distinct from the mind.’ There are several types of somatic exercises that can help with stress and anxiety, and somatic tapping is one of them.

It is said to work by bringing your attention to the body and improving the mind-body connection.

6. Mindfulness Meditation

Being fully present in the moment and observing your thoughts without judgment can cultivate a sense of calm, happiness, and awareness in your mind. It can be tough at first, but the following tips should help.

Related: 9 Different Types of Meditation: Find the Right One For You

7. Yoga

how to meditate when your mind is racing - woman in yoga pose

Incorporating yoga into your meditation practice can help calm the mind keep you in the present moment, and manage racing thoughts.

Yoga combines physical postures, breath control, and meditation, making it a powerful tool for mental and emotional well-being. Practicing yoga regularly can complement your meditation practice and contribute to a more balanced and focused mind.

8. Guided Meditations and Meditation Apps

If you’re struggling with racing thoughts during meditation, guided meditations or meditation apps can be a helpful resource. These tools offer guidance, structure, and support, making it easier to focus and relax during meditation.

Some popular meditation apps include Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer, each offering a variety of guided meditations, courses, and features to help you develop a consistent practice.

Tips for How to Meditate When Your Mind Is Racing

how to meditate when your mind is racing: woman meditating by a pool

Here are some helpful tips for meditating when your busy mind is racing:

  • Set Realistic Expectations: Meditation takes time to develop, so start slow with short sessions and gradually increase your time as you become more comfortable. It can be as little as five minutes to start and then slowly increase the time.
  • Find a Comfortable Space: Meditate in a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be distracted by external noise or interruptions. And if there isn’t somewhere quiet to sit down, listen to some gentle music or white noise to drown out distractions. You can use a cushion or chair to make it more comfortable.
  • Choose a Time That Works Best for You: Some people find it easier to meditate in the morning when their minds are fresh, while others prefer to meditate at night to unwind. Experiment with different times of day to find the one that works best for you.
  • Focus on Your Breath: Using your breath as an anchor during meditation can help you stay in the present moment and focused. When your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  • Be Patient and Persistent: It’s normal for your mind to wander during meditation, especially when you’re first starting out. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember that it takes time and practice to develop your meditation skills.
  • Embrace and Observe Your Thoughts: Rather than trying to suppress your racing thoughts, observe them without judgment. This exercise can help you develop a greater sense of self-awareness and understanding.
  • Try Different Techniques: Everyone is different, and what works for one person might not work for another. Experiment with different meditation techniques and methods to find the one that resonates with you and helps calm your racing mind.
  • Practice Regularly: Consistency is key when it comes to meditation. Aim to practice daily or several times a week to reap the most benefits and develop a consistent meditation habit.

Related: How To Meditate: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

The Takeaway

Meditating with a racing mind can be challenging, but with practice, patience, and the right techniques, you can learn to quiet your thoughts and find inner peace in the present moment.

By incorporating these tips and techniques into your daily routine, you can improve your mental and emotional well-being, reduce stress and anxiety, and develop greater focus and concentration.

Remember that meditation is a journey, and it’s essential to be patient and kind to yourself as you learn and grow in your practice. With consistency and dedication, you can transform your relationship with your racing thoughts and cultivate a more mindful and balanced life.

FAQs

Start with short sessions, such as 5-10 minutes, and gradually increase your time as you become more comfortable.

It’s normal to have thoughts during meditation. Instead of trying to clear your mind completely, focus on your breath or meditation technique and bring your attention back to it whenever your mind wanders.

Yes, regular meditation practice can help train your mind to focus and remain calm, which can carry over into other areas of your life.

Try different techniques, such as deep breathing or visualization, to find what works best for you. Additionally, practicing regularly can help you develop your focus and concentration.

While it’s possible to meditate lying down, it can be more difficult to stay alert and focused. It’s generally recommended to meditate sitting upright with good posture.

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