Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

5 Tips for Mental Space

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1. Meditate somehow

I meditate in the morning while doing some light yoga. I found sitting and meditating was physically uncomfortable after I was done. I have fairly significant arthritis in my knees, I need to move around in the morning to loosen up. Sitting still doesn’t work well.

As for my mental state, I work to find a way to clear my mind. Usually this is just breathing, but really I just want to take a moment to appreciate I exist. If I acknowledge my mental state, outlook and life before starting anything, I feel significantly better. This means in the morning, don’t check email or even attend to others. Put your own oxygen mask on first, each and every morning.

2. Surprise yourself

Getting a reminder to stop and take a moment to mentally regroup can be really valuable. Unfortunately, set times tend to not work so well. Surprise yourself at a random time. I built a feature in TDP purely for this. Schedule a Mindful Check at a random time during the day. Take a moment and simply pause, record how you feel.

And you can’t say you don’t have time. This literally takes 15 seconds. Try it now. Breathe in for 6 seconds, out for 6 seconds. In the next 3 seconds find that one word that describes how you feel. Write it down. I just did it, and my word right now is eager. Every living person can spare 15 seconds, you aren’t dead yet, right?

3. Clean your desk, literally or figuratively.

At the end of every day, clean your desk. Put everything away. If something is dangling, outside of its “home”, don’t end your day until it’s home. This is an approach with two benefits.

First, it establishes the end of the day. After you clean your desk the day is over. Your mind has a real, physical cue to move on. It says, very clearly, “I am completing my work today.”

Second, and this only works for literal cleaning, the morning feels better when you sit down to an organized and clean desk. There isn’t a moment of chaos when you try to ramp up. Things have been put away so you know where they are. You don’t need to scramble to find anything. I’m a highly disorganized person, but I can typically remember exactly where something is. This isn’t about that, it’s about a fresh start every day. It’s about that first moment, the first impression about the day.

4. Find a 5 minute hobby

My very favorite mental-space generator are 5 minute hobbies. Just little things that take less than 5 minutes to start, make progress on and then clean up and put away. My current hobby is wire sculpting. I’m not very good at it, but each interval I get a little better.

I focus intently on some small thing, releasing my mind from the task at hand. I had to find specific hobbies, which have some constraints. It can’t be on a computer, no screens allowed. It can’t be mindless, either. If it doesn’t engage my brain, it doesn’t work.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows focusing your mind on an enjoyable activity has substantial benefits to your cognitive capabilities. These activities may even increase willpower and reduce mental fatigue. If it’s mindless, you may actually increase fatigue.

5. Commit to a habit

Want to be more mentally calm? Commit to it! You have to practice anything to be good at it. You will suck at first, just like my wire sculptures.

Practicing will make it easier, but it’s also hard to practice. Pick a time every day to review and think about your mental state. Maybe combine it with the end-of-day desk cleaning routing.

Without scheduling it and maintaining, it will be very difficult to continue.