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7 Tips to Help You Develop a Quiet Mind

Learning to quiet your internal chatter can help with anxiety and depression.

Key points

  • The Quiet Mind style of meditation involves entering a state of consciousness characterized by a lack of self-talk and mental imagery.
  • Entering a Quiet Mind state of meditation results in the inhibition of the Default Mode Network in the brain.
  • Prolonged practice of the Quiet Mind style of meditation can result in reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The Quiet Mind Style of NeuroMeditation is characterized by a significant reduction of internal self-talk and mental imagery. It can often lead to feelings of spaciousness and quietude, as if the mind is empty or has momentarily stopped its typical parade of stories and narratives. This state of meditation is, in some ways, the stereotype of meditation and is epitomized by styles such as Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Zen (Travis & Shear, 2010).

This style of meditation primarily works by inhibiting the Default Mode Network (DMN) in the brain. The DMN is made up of several brain regions that work together to create our sense of self or identity. This network is activated any time you are engaged in mental activity that involves thinking about yourself (remembering, planning, judging, etc.). Not surprisingly, the DMN is active much of the time as it is difficult to have any thoughts that do not involve “you” as a central character. However, when we think too much, the DMN becomes overactivated, leading to rumination and brooding. Consequently, learning to quiet these regions of the brain can lead to significant relief and a reduction of symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.

Public Domain, John Graner, Neuroimaging Department, National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20889, USA.
Key Regions of the Default Mode Network
Source: Public Domain, John Graner, Neuroimaging Department, National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20889, USA.

For most of us, finding this Quiet Mind state is extremely difficult, and sustaining it for any length of time can feel impossible. In this post, we offer a few tips and tricks for developing your Quiet Mind practice. Note: These tips are adapted from Meditation Interventions to Rewire the Brain by Dr. Jeff Tarrant.

  1. Do not try to get rid of thoughts. Simply attempting to push thoughts out of your head almost never works and results in over-efforting, which is the opposite of the desired state.
  2. Relax. We are a mind/body. You will not be able to relax your mind/mental activity if you cannot relax the body. Try starting your practice with stretching, yoga, or a progressive muscle relaxation exercise.
  3. Recognize that you already know what this state feels like. Whether you realize it or not, you have had moments when your internal world has been quiet. These moments may be fleeting or imperfect, but they exist. If you can recognize the moments you already experience a Quiet Mind state, you can learn to lean into those experiences, allowing them to naturally develop.
  4. Give yourself something to pay attention to. By directing your attention toward negative space, the mind will naturally become still. Notice the silence between sounds, focus on the darkness behind the eyelids, imagine the vastness of space or the night sky.
  5. Be patient. In the research literature, this style of meditation is referred to as Automatic Self-Transcending. This name directly indicates the importance of allowing the process to emerge. It is an automatic process that will happen as you relax into it.
  6. Don’t expect perfection. Unless you are a professional meditator, it is unlikely that you will achieve any extended time with absolutely no internal images, thoughts, or self-talk. That’s OK. When you recognize something distracting your mind, simply acknowledge it and return your attention to the emptiness.
  7. Start slow. The research is clear that the benefits of meditation occur only through consistent practice. Begin with brief meditations gradually increasing to 20 minutes per day.

While the Quiet Mind style can be beneficial for many people and many concerns, if this type of practice becomes too challenging or leads to significant discomfort, please consider seeking an experienced instructor to help you move through challenges and identify the most appropriate meditation style for your needs.

References

Tarrant, J. (2017). Meditation interventions to rewire the brain: Integrating Neuroscience Strategies for ADHD, anxiety, depression and PTSD. Eau Claire, WI: PESI Publishing and Media.

Travis, F., & Shear, J. (2010). Focused attention, open monitoring, and automatic self-transcending: Categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist, and Chinese traditions. Consciousness and Cognition, 19, 1110-1118.

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