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How do you make time to step back and really think?

How do you solve the questions in your life when your mind feels cluttered?


What do you want to explore next?

It can be easy to forget what your mind is capable of when you get stuck in the day-to-day grind of routines, commutes, and trying to remember that work-life balance is a thing that exists.

In other words: Life gets hectic.

Is there anything to do about it? For Michelle Collins, she throws on her shoes and heads outside. I mean, she's not called "The Running Astronomer" for nothing.

Michelle uses the sky and her feet to see the big picture.

As a prestigious Hubble Fellow at Yale University, Michelle's job is to study what's going on in nearby galaxies and try to make sense of our very complicated universe. She has to think about big questions like, "what is dark matter?" or "will we ever be able to settle on another planet?" and as you can imagine, there's a lot to consider.

Running clears her head and helps her to see things in a different way. She thinks up new questions she knows she won't always find an answer to, but that doesn't stop her from trying.

Taking moments for yourself can actually move you closer to a goal.

Here are five things to try (out of many) when your thoughts become too cluttered.

1. If you're working, switch locations. Instead of feeling trapped at one desk, take your work with you somewhere new, or at least get up and move around.

2. Physically throw away negative thoughts. Write them down and chuck them in the trash can. Richard Petty from Ohio State University led a study and found that: "At some level, it can sound silly. But we found that it really works — by physically throwing away or protecting your thoughts, you influence how you end up using those thoughts." How about that!

3. Meditate. Meditation can seem intimidating, but don't let the "am I doing it right?" thoughts stop you. The benefits of the practice seem endless, and now Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.D., and Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., are looking at the practice as a therapy to reduce pain and everyday anxiety.

4. Embrace mental downtime. Turning it off can be just as important as turning it on. From Scientific American:

"Downtime replenishes the brain's stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life."

5. Take a run (or a walk!) The University of British Columbia ran a study that found when you get your heart pumping and your body sweaty, the part of your brain associated with verbal memory and learning grows. YOUR BRAIN GETS BIGGER. This can only result in you being more awesome. Michelle Collins knows about that.

When you can find ways to step back and clear your mind, that's when the magic happens.


Whether you run or write or stare at your ceiling, making time for yourself to clear your mind is a big factor in your productivity and overall well-being. The question is: What do you want to learn next?

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