Recently, I received the following pointed inquiry from a pal: I need some advice on how to relax a mind that over-thinks.

Hmmm. Let's see . . . Have you thought about illegal substances? How about gratuitous sex with strangers? Perhaps you might try copious amounts of good, old-fashioned alcohol. Too potent? What about vats of Chunky Monkey ice cream?

Plenty of people seem to find these mind-numbing methods to be highly effective.

[Insert dramatic clap of thunder, floods, fires, and the sound of a Tibetan gong awakening us all back to reality].

Sorry, friends; despite the mainstream popularity of the aforementioned options, there's really only one way to authentically quiet an anxious mind: Go directly to the source, and meet your mind on common ground. Distract it or impair it with outside influences, and the issues never really go away. They simply abate a little, then return as agitated as ever, perhaps even more so. Thus, here's my best shot at a holistic, productive, and accessible antidote to quelling the kookiness in all our heads . . . Whether it's racing thoughts before bedtime or an inability to relax without being hit by a tranquilizer dart, there is hope. Like anything, the ability to "still the fluctuations of the mind" gets easier with practice, and it also happens to be the fundamental purpose of yoga and meditation, as cited in the Yoga Sutras.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my stillness-seeking friend is a former professional baseball player who knows a thing or two about practicing a skill until the point of proficiency. I like to remind athletes (and non-athletes) that they already know how to meditate. We all do! If you've ever had the feeling of being completely absorbed in a particular activity, from throwing a fastball to watching the steady flicker of a campfire, you intrinsically possess the skills needed to slow down your thoughts. Meditation, when done regularly, trains your brain to become quiet. I should mention that you won't stop thinking altogether; however, you will, eventually, find long spaces between your thoughts. In these spaces, you will discover previously unimagined levels of restfulness, peace, and balance.

Here's how: Sit comfortably; crossed-legged on the floor or upright in a chair are easy options to start. Set an alarm, egg timer, or stopwatch for 5 minutes (you can increase the duration as your focus improves). Close your eyes. Rest your hands in your lap, touching all ten fingertips together; your hands will form a tepee shape. You might also try yoga mudra (thumb and pointer finger touch, rest the backs of your hands on your knees, palms face upward).

Whenever you get distracted, antsy, bored, irritated, or tired, return to the steady flow of your breath. A helpful tip is to count your breaths, one at a time, without breaking focus or sequence. Be sure to sit up tall, and let your hands anchor your attention in your mind's eye. For another meditation exercise, with more heart-opening properties, click here.

Another trick of the trade that I find very helpful is my own, on-the-go version of aromatherapy. This method of achieving stillness or, at the very least, a brief reprieve from your hectic head games is incredibly simple. In short, invest in a few essential oils that prompt you to breathe deeply, smile, or hearken back to a childhood spent running through grassy meadows, filled with rainbows and fluffy bunny rabbits . . . You get the idea- an aroma that calls forth pleasant images and feelings. I recommend lavender, in particular, or if that seems too feminine, try rosemary or sandalwood. I love peppermint as well, but bear in mind, peppermint is a lively scent that is certainly calming but has more awakening properties than the others. Feel free to use it, although it might be better suited for the daytime, when you need an energy boost. Simply open the tiny jar or vile in your car, and leave it uncapped in the cupholder en route to a big meeting, or place a few drops in one palm and rub your hands together. Before bed, try dabbing one drop on each temple. The sense of scent is powerful, capable of transporting us to other places and times. Pick a few fragrances that trigger an instant unwinding in your brain- the way fresh cut grass does or the smell of the ocean. Use as needed.

Finally, I am a huge advocate of bodywork as a way to release the pressure valve in your dome. If you don't have a stellar massage therapist, find one. Never tried acupuncture? Give it a whirl; it can't hurt. (Seriously, the needles are like wisps of hay; you barely feel them). Plus, insurance companies often offer stipends to help cover treatments. Also, certain places, particularly in today's economy, have sliding-scale pay structures, so peace of mind can be a financially-blind benefit.

There, now, don't you feel better already?

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