Almost everyone has heard the saying “mind over matter”, but how easy is it to actually implement that into everyday life?
For some people it can be a daunting task. But fortunately training your mind using special techniques to overcome problems and manifest results is very doable for even regular joe’s and jane’s like us.
What is Mind over Matter?
The mind in this context refers to your thoughts, beliefs and intentions. And matter is the physical body and the environment. Mind over matter therefore means your mind having influence over your physical body and environment. Some call it willpower. Some say it’s mental strength and resilience. You could even say that mind over matter is putting intention into action, and committing to it no matter the adversity.
Mind over Matter Examples
- Accomplishing a physical challenge, such as climbing Mount Everest
- Rags to riches – having born into poverty and acquiring wealth through different means such as starting a successful company, or pure hard work
- Overcoming a major physical illness
- Learning anything new, such as mastering how to play the guitar
- Staying calm in moments of adversity
11 Proven Mind Over Matter Techniques
Although there are a number of people who think that meditation is nothing more than sitting quietly, studies have shown that it’s incredibly advantageous to our mental and physical health. That’s because when you meditate you’re working towards changing the state of your mind and body.
In this fascinating study, a group of 12 volunteers were trained on the Wim Hof method, which includes meditation. After training, the participants underwent an experiment to create inflammation in the body normally inducing flu-like symptoms. Compared to the 2nd group who were not trained, the trained volunteers experienced:
- Fewer flu-like symptoms
- Lower levels of pro-inflammatory indicators
- Higher plasma epinephrine levels
The results were remarkable – the trained group was able to voluntarily activate their sympathetic nervous system, creating less negative physical symptoms vs. those who had no training.
Simple Breathing Meditation to Instantly Relax
You can see for yourself how a simple meditation technique can relieve stress, anxiety or any discomfort you may be feeling. This method is called Box Breathing. It’s also named the Navy Seal breathing technique – a method they use to help them prepare for challenging missions.
- Close your eyes.
- Inhale for a count of 4.
- Hold for a count of 4.
- Exhale for a count of 4.
- Hold for a count of 4.
- Repeat for 5-10 minutes.
Even a short and no-frills meditation like the Box Breathing is effective because it reduces or eliminates fear-based thoughts, which in turn influences the body. Physiologically, the body experiences lower stress hormones, decrease in blood pressure and heart rate.
Even a few minutes per day can help you achieve calmness, clarity and give you a better sense of self. Why is this important? From a relaxed state, you are more focused, have expanded awareness, and are mindful so you can overcome challenges, or at the very least make wise decisions or create a sound strategy to attain your goals.
Another technique to be successful at mind over matter is to visualize. Visualization tells the mind and body what you want as a desired result or goal. In order to do this effectively, you must not only be specific and detailed, you also have to feel as if you’ve achieved the goal. Visualization tricks the body to respond as if a desired goal has already happened and naturally the body follows what the mind tells it.
This study, conducted by University of Texas and The Cleveland Clinic, was to determine strength gains through mental training. Volunteers were asked to imagine flexing one of their biceps for 15 minutes a day, 5 times a week, for 6 weeks. Results showed that the group who trained using internal imagery gained muscle strength of 10.8% vs. -3.3% of the control group who did no training. It’s not a surprise athletes use mental rehearsals to gain an edge on their competitors.
Try it out, let’s say you have a toothache and can’t get to the dentist until the morning. Practice deep breathing like the Box method, and visualize yourself with less pain and try to feel what it’s like without the ache – you’re calm, you sleep well, you feel great.
You can do the same if you’re nervous about presenting in front of a crowd. Beforehand, visualize yourself speaking with eloquence, with a smile on your face, your body language is open and approachable, and the audience is loving your presentation. You also feel excited, confident and empowered. If you visualize a positive outcome, the likely result is positive.
The key takeaways are to do your visualization regularly, in detail and with gusto!
3. Set an Intention
By focusing on your goals and putting all your attention to achieving them, you are much more likely to overcome obstacles. One technique to help you to get in the zone is to set an intention for the day. In the morning, find a few minutes for yourself, and write down what you want to achieve for that day.
The intention could be a small part of an overall goal, such as writing three pages of content for a novel you want to publish. The intention doesn’t have to be a physical manifestation. Some intentions could be:
- Today, my intention is to be open to new ideas and perspectives.
- I will focus on being more generous and selfless.
- I intend to be more productive and efficient.
- Today I am willing to be a better listener
4. Talk to Yourself
The dialogue you have with yourself is an important tool to achieving mind over matter. Positive self-talk can increase self-esteem and confidence, and get rid of negative and destructive thoughts and feelings.
When talking to yourself, the language matters. According to this report, it’s more effective if you talk to yourself in the 3rd person: “he”, “she” or your name.
Examples of Positive Self-Talk
Using the example of running a marathon, you could tell yourself: “Jen is strong, athletic and energized. She could run for hours without breaking a sweat. She crosses the finish line in record time.”
Going back to the presentation scenario, you could tell yourself: “Mark is a talented orator. He has the gift of gab. He knows how to engage and win over the audience. His audience loves him.”
Another example is to talk to yourself through a problem. At my old job, I often heard my colleague talk to herself as she’s coding a website build.
If you believe in yourself you’re more likely to push through your challenges.
Be your biggest cheerleader because no one else will be.
5. Change Your Habits
If you normally give up when things get tough or concede when you think that things won’t get better, you’re ripe for disappointment. Developing healthy and positive habits can make the difference in attaining one’s aspirations.
A habit is just a behavior practiced over and over again. Just as we develop negative habits, like eating crappy food, we can also create better and more positive replacements.
Practice the 21/90 Rule of Habit Creation
- Identify a goal, e.g. meditate every day.
- Commit to that goal. You can write it down or tell a friend.
- Create a plan to allow a daily meditation practice, such as block a certain time of the day to meditate; create a space where you can meditate easily; find a meditation app or any tools that can help your practice.
- Meditate for 21 days straight.
- Once you’ve established your meditation routine, do it for another 90 days.
6. Remove Temptations
Let’s say you get distracted easily, which prevents you from being efficient at doing a certain task, like writing a book. By removing all possible temptations to distract such as your phone, social media, Netflix, food, or even people, you’re likely able to focus better on your writing.
Another way of looking at this is the reverse – increase the temptations for the very thing you want to achieve, in this case writing. In other words, enhance the environment to be conducive for writing:
- Clean and declutter your place
- Find an area in your home with lots of natural light
- Have fresh flowers on your desk
- Play soft music in the background
- Open the windows for fresh air to come in
Exercise: Upping the Temptation to Achieve Your Goal
- Think of what you want to achieve.
- What can you do to make this goal more desirable to achieve. In other words, what ways can you set yourself up for success?
7. Practice Self-Affirmation
Self-affirmation is a form of self-talk. It’s a practice that is underrated yet it’s packed with benefits, including surviving adversity. Affirming something to yourself continuously is a technique to re-program patterns in your consciousness that don’t serve you. Although it may not seem like it will make a difference, it does and it works.
From experience, self-affirmation can be done in the first, second and third person. However, for the following exercise I found talking in the first and second person most effective.
Look in the mirror and say a positive statement about yourself or something you want to attain. Examples:
- “You’re looking gorgeous today!”
- “I love and accept you.”
- “You have healthy boundaries. You do not let others put you down.”
- “I’m in the process of loving my life.”
- “I am a magnet for abundance.”
One reason why mind over matter doesn’t work for a lot of people is because they can’t get over past failures or hurt. They believe that because things didn’t work out before, or that they’ve been scarred, they probably aren’t going to work out in the present or future. By ditching this way of thinking and focusing on what you can do differently, you are much more likely to see success with your willpower and mental state.
A powerful method to get over the past is to do forgiveness work. Forgiving yourself and those who have wronged you can release the tremendous burden that you’ve been carrying. Imagine the weight of anger, resentment, hatred and hostility that one feels toward the person who offended them. Pardoning past transgressions is freeing.
This study by Dr. Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet examined the emotional and physiological effects on participants when they ruminated on painful memories. What they saw wasn’t surprising: the participants experienced elevated blood pressure and heart rate, and they also sweated more. Emotionally, the subjects felt unpleasant, angry, sad and less in control.
- Think about a painful situation.
- Accept what happened. Can you find it in you to accept what has occurred? Can you identify how that incident has affected you?
- Recognize the lesson. What have you learned about yourself? Did you learn to create healthy boundaries? Are you more resilient? How did the incident change the course of your life in a positive way?
- Think about the person who has hurt you. Is it possible to see him or her as someone who acted from a fearful or hurtful place? Are you willing to recognize why that person behaved in that way?
- Ask yourself if you’re ready to forgive. If there’s resistance, are you able to say “I’m willing to forgive ___.” Sometimes the willingness will move you closer towards complete forgiveness.
The above exercise can be applied to self-forgiveness as well. Sometimes you may find more reluctance to forgive yourself than forgive others. In my forgiveness work, this was the case. What worked for me was that I never forced my readiness to absolve. I was patient with the process.
An important key to a forgiveness practice is to know that by forgiving someone, it doesn’t condone a negative behavior nor abandon boundaries, nor continue to have that person in your life. This work is to free yourself from your mental shackles so that you can live a life you’re meant to.
9. Make Your Bed
The simple act of making your bed in the morning can pave the way for the rest of your day. According to the book, The Power of Habit, written by Charles Duhigg:
“Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.”
A tidy bed is a task completed. This seemingly small job is motivational and encourages you to tackle other tasks. In my experience, an unmade bed is a distraction.
Aside from making your bed in the morning, what low-hanging fruits can you check off your to-do list?
10. Read Books
You can learn a lot from other people who have harnessed the power of mind over matter, and books are some of the best ways to collect that information. You might be surprised at the large number of books that are out there that can help you strengthen your willpower and unleash the power of your mind.
Reading biographies of those you admire is a good starting point. Human beings are great at following a role model or imitating. If you learn that someone has achieved a goal that you desire, your mind opens up to the possibility that you too can do it.
It’s common knowledge that exercise is a wonderful tool to increase physical and mental health. Physical activity improves your mental performance, decrease anxiety, and give you a much stronger willpower.
In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a connection between emotions and the body’s health. Feelings such as anger, worry and nervousness are associated with a specific organ in the body. For example, fear is stored in the kidneys, and anger is stored in the liver.
One of the methods to release stuck energy in the body is through movement such as the practice of Qigong. It’s an energy reset for your body, which in turn releases the negative emotions.
But any movement helps.
Movement Exercise to Release Fear
- Stand up
- Shake your arms and legs in any which way.
- You could also raise your arms up and down.
- You could walk on the spot or move your feet and legs that call to you.
- You could move side to side, in a swaying fashion.
- Do this for 5-10 minutes.
What’s in Store for Your Future?
The above techniques are not mutually exclusive. You can use one on its own, or some or all of them. What works for me is a combination of the methods.
“Mind over matter” no longer has to be a saying that you hear other people embrace or talk about. Instead, it can be something you actively practice to better your life and achieve your goals in the future. Try out the tips above to see what a difference they make for you and the power of your mind on a daily basis.
What do you do to achieve mind over matter? Share in the comments.
Writer and globe wanderer, who's interests not only take her to distant corners of the world, but also to undiscovered regions of her inner Self. Proponent of the practice of mindfulness, self-compassion, and gratitude, the trifecta of healing and being, to transform her relationship with daily life challenges.