The “Mind Release Switch” That Can Quiet Your Racing Thoughts

From time to time, I like to dedicate an issue of my Sound Health e-letter to answering questions from my readers.

Here’s one I often get:

“Jim, my mind won’t ‘turn off.’ How can I quiet my thoughts so I can sleep/focus/relax/feel normal?”

First, let me start by saying that it’s normal to have scattered, racing thoughts every once in a while—especially if you’re experiencing high levels of stress.

But if it becomes constant, this mental chatter can have a negative effect on your everyday life in multiple ways…

It can drain your energy, interfere with your ability to concentrate, impair decision-making abilities, heighten anxiety, dampen your mood, and disrupt sleep… just to name a few.

That’s why I wanted to take the time today to teach you a simple but powerful “mind release” technique that can help put you at ease and in control of your health.

Helping your mind take the slow, scenic route

Cultures from all over the world have been using mind release techniques for centuries to calm thoughts and promote connectedness.  

One particularly effective mind release technique is mantra chanting, where focus is brought on by repeating a specific word or phrase. (Interestingly, in Sanskrit—the original language associated with yoga—“man” translates to “mind” and “tra” to “release.”)

Chanting a mantra can be spiritual in nature—like saying the rosary aloud or repeating various phrases during certain types of yoga practice.

But it can also be used as a thought pattern interrupter. It acts as a “mental detour,” re-routing the fast pace of your thoughts to a slower, calmer “scenic route.”

The science behind mantra chanting

One of the reasons chanting works so well to slow a racing mind is because it stimulates your vagus nerve.

All self-generated sounds (especially elongated sounds, as in the case of chanting) activate this nerve.

And the vagus nerve plays a crucial role in keeping your body’s nervous system in balance.

When your thoughts are racing, it’s a clear sign that your sympathetic nervous system is in full effect. This part of your nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, and it signals your body to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. And as I’ve explained before, when levels of these hormones are elevated for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to all sorts of disastrous effects in the body.

The solution lies in activating the other branch of your nervous system: the parasympathetic system. The parasympathetic system—also known as the body’s “rest and digest” system—helps offset stress and restore calm within the body.

And research shows stimulating the vagus nerve helps activate the parasympathetic system.

In a moment, I’ll tell you how to stimulate your vagus nerve with mantra chanting. But first, let’s take a look at some research on the remarkable effects of this simple, pill-free technique…

Help boost mood, memory, and more

In a study from 2012, researchers found that participants who chanted mantras for 12 minutes per day for eight weeks increased blood flow to the brain and improved cognitive function.

These study participants also reported:

  • Decreased levels of fatigue
  • Enhanced mood and well-being
  • Greater visuospatial and verbal memory
  • Reduced stress and anxiety

And research from 2017 and 2018 found that chanting mantras helps the left and right sides of the brain to synchronize, which can help improve brain function and reverse cognitive decline.

So if you’re looking for a safe and reliable way to relieve your racing thoughts, chanting is certainly worth a try.

Turn on your “mind release” switch

The great thing about chanting is that you can do it yourself, anytime you like. Here are some simple steps to help you get started:

  1. Choose your mantra. Your mantra can be something spiritual, like repeating a holy name or word (like “amen”), or some other personal meaningful phrase. Or it can be as simple as a resonant sound (like “om”), or even just a hum.

    Here’s a soundbite of one of my favorite Tibetan mantras, “om ah hum”—also known as the “mantra of purification.”

  2. Make yourself comfortable. You can sit or lie down, keep your eyes open or closed—whatever you prefer.

  3. Take a slow, deep breath in.

  4. Breathe out while vocalizing your mantra word or phrase in an elongated manner. Vocalize your mantra for the entire duration of the exhalation.

    Here’s a soundbite using the sound “om.”

  5. Perform four to eight repetitions of your mantra word or phrase. Then pause and note how you feel.

    Your mind should feel clearer and your body more relaxed.

    For an even deeper sensation, consider a second round of four to eight repetitions.

For the most powerful and protective brain benefits, you can eventually work up to performing a 12-minute chanting practice, like the participants in the study I mentioned earlier.

As science is continuing to discover, many of the techniques used by our ancestors pack some powerful science-backed benefits. No wonder they’re still being used centuries later!

Sometimes, we need to go back to the basics and rediscover the healing systems that exist within each and every one of us. Chanting is a perfect tool to help you do just that.

P.S. If you’re looking for even more natural, sound-based ways to calm your mind, build up your resilience to stress, and protect your brain, you might like my Donovan Sound Solution. Click here to learn more or give it a try today.


SOURCES:

Dudeja, J. (2017). Scientific Analysis of Mantra-Based Meditation and Its Beneficial Effects: An Overview. International Journal of Advanced Scientific Technologies in Engineering and Management Sciences. 3(6): pp. 21 – 26. Retrieved from: ijastems.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/v3.i6.5.Scientific-Analysis-of-Mantra-Based-Meditation.pdf

Moran, S. (2018). The Science Behind Finding Your M antra and How to Practice It Daily. Yoga Journal. Retrieved from: yogajournal.com/yoga-101/mantras-101-the-science-behind-finding-your-mantra-and-how-to-practice-it

Mozz, A. et al. (2012). Effects of an 8-Week Meditation Program on Mood and Anxiety in Patients with Memory Loss. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 18(1). Retrieved from: liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acm.2011.0051

Raypole, C. (2020). Have Trouble Meditating? Try Mantra Meditation. Healthline. Retrieved from: healthline.com/health/mantra-meditation#benefits

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.