10 ways to detox your mind

Jane Murphy / 28 February 2018

Feeling anxious? Always analysing your relationships? Can't decide what to have for dinner? Here's how to relax and stop overthinking everything.

1. Take a deep breath

The simplest way to calm your mind is to learn to be settled in the present moment, according to personal coach Philip Storey. And it only takes two minutes: 'Find a quiet space and close your eyes. Breathe in for a count of four, hold that breath for four counts, breathe out for four, hold for four again – and repeat. Allow thoughts to come, then allow them to go. They are just thoughts. Clear your mind and bring yourself back into the present. Do this twice a day and you'll soon feel the difference.'

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2. Stand tall and smile

When you catch yourself overthinking, pay attention to how your body responds. That's the advice of body language expert Elizabeth Kuhnke, author of Body Language. 'For instance, you may find your shoulders are hunched, your breathing is short and shallow or your feet are jiggling,' she explains. 'Having noticed how your body is reacting, simply change what you're doing. Adopt the breathing patterns, posture and facial expressions you associate with being in a relaxed state – and notice how quickly your mood shifts.'

3. Eat like your grandmother

Constantly overthinking what food to buy and whether or not it's healthy? 'Just ask yourself one simple question: would your grandmother recognise it?' suggests nutritionist Fran McElwaine. 'If it's heavily processed or comes in lots of packaging, steer clear. When in doubt, go for natural wholefoods, fruit and vegetables that have been around for centuries, and avoid the gimmicky stuff that's only there to tempt you.'

4. Think of the flip side

Feeling negative? Flip it! 'The first step to banishing overthinking is to recognise you're doing it,' says life coach Gemma McCrae. 'The trick now is to consciously rationalise it, bring it into perspective or dismiss it totally – then replace it with something positive. I call this the “flip-side thought”. Always have a positive thought – such as something you're grateful for in life – up your sleeve to make you feel better.'

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5. Put it through the 'friend filter'

Most of us are guilty of being much harder on ourselves then we would ever be on our friends. 'So try putting everything you say to yourself through the “friend filter”,' suggests hypnotherapist and anxiety expert Chloe Brotheridge. 'Ask yourself whether you'd say this to a good friend. If the answer is “no”, change the way you're speaking to yourself so it's kinder and more supportive.'

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6. Remember 'good' is good enough

'Never allow “perfect” to get in the way of “good”,' advises Chloe Brotheridge. 'We're often looking for the perfect decision – whether it's what to buy at the supermarket or where to go on holiday. The truth is, nothing in life is perfect. But we can always make the best of our decisions by embracing them fully and accepting that “good” is enough.'

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7. Replace three small words

Overthinking can often lead us into a spiral of berating ourselves about things we should, would or could be doing. The result? Pontificating gets in the way of positive action. If something's genuinely worth doing, though, there's no 'should', 'would' or 'could' about it. 'Swap all three of these words for “will”,' suggests commercial psychologist Phillip Adcock. 'So “should try harder” becomes “will try harder”, and so on.'

8. Write a list of priorities

Writing a to-do list can simply be another way of stalling for time and setting yourself up for more overthinking. The key is to work out what really needs doing – and shelve the rest for now. 'Make a list of what is – and what isn't – a priority,' suggests psychologist Dr Marilyn Glenville. 'Tackle the priorities and ignore everything else.'

9. Stop the comparisons

Convinced you should be as slim as your best friend, as rich as your sister or as adept at gardening as your neighbour? Stop it! 'Self-nurturing begins with letting go of constantly comparing yourself to other people,' insists therapist David James Lees. 'If you can do this just for one day, you'll be amazed how it transforms your positivity and energy.'

10. Seek expert help

Finally, if you're caught in a spiral of negative thinking for any length of time, therapy may help you understand and challenge these thoughts. 'The roots of obsessive thinking or endless worrying can lie in unprocessed early trauma,' explains psychodynamic psychotherapist Deborah Wilson. 'Therapy can help access the original traumatic experiences, and process and make sense of them, so those feelings of panic and anxiety are reduced or disappear.' Speak to your GP in the first instance – or find out more from the British Psychoanalytic Council (www.bpc.org.uk).

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