6 Manly Ways to Settle Your Mind

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 29, 2009 · 94 comments

in Health & Sports

relax2Source: Life

The modern man often leads a rather harried life. There are exams to ace, bills to pay, diapers to change, and annoying co-workers to contend with. And unfortunately, we all too rarely carve out pieces of our day in which to defuse our stress and settle our minds.

Every man needs interludes of quiet and rest, not just to think through what’s been going on in his life but also to not think at all. Just to quiet his mind and be in the moment and feel his cares fall away. Traditional meditation is a great way of doing this. But I’ll level with you; I don’t have the self-discipline to sit still for long periods of time concentrating on my breathing. And I actually find it easier to get into a meditative state when I’m doing something repetitive with my hands. These repetitive motions give the brain a little something to do while the rest of it takes a break. If you’ve ever had a great idea while in the shower, washing dishes, or brushing your teeth you will recognize the wisdom in this.

Activities that keep your hands busy with simple, repetitive movements are some of the best ways to settle your mind, find peace from your worries, and gain inspiration in your decisions. So here are 6 manly ideas for getting a little more zen in your life:

Shining Your Shoes


Source: Life

Shining your shoes can seem like a chore, but as many of you discovered during our 30 Days to a Better Man Challenge, the task can actually be quite therapeutic. There’s something about the smell, the tools, and the technique that makes the job really satisfying. Seeing your dingy shoes transformed into shiny masterpieces acts as a nice metaphor for life; a little elbow grease can turn any mess around.

Fly Fishing

flyfishSource: Life

While all fishing can works wonders on your sense of well-being, no type does it better than fly fishing. Fly fishing combines a quiet peaceful outdoors setting with the unstoppable de-stressing power of rhythmic casting. If the sound of your line whipping back and forth doesn’t put you into a zen-like state, nothing will.

Playing Catch

catchSource: UpNorth Memories

A lot of us haven’t picked up a baseball glove since we aged out of Little League. But just because you’re not involved in an organized game, doesn’t mean your glove should sit in the back of your closet. Just playing catch can really relax you and is more fun than you remember. Whenever Kate and I are blogging and have writer’s block, we put on our gloves right there in the office and throw the ball back and forth. It really helps.


whittlingSource: Life

Gramps did it and so should you. Men’s hands were meant to create, to turn ordinary objects into something special.  And whittling is just the manly craft of woodworking writ small; all need is a stick and a pocketknife. Start practicing and soon you’ll be making your very own chess set.

Chopping Wood

chopSource: Life

This is something I got to do for the first time while in Vermont this summer. I have to say, it was an incredibly satisfying experience. There’s something about swinging that heavy axe and the great feeling you get when it hits the log with a crack, splitting apart the wood. I’ve still got a ways to go in being able to consistently split the logs all the way through in one swing, but even my neophyte attempts were good for the soul.


boxerSource: Gavin James

Whether it’s jogging down a country road or pumping iron, working out is a well-known and unbeatable stress reducer. It not only keeps you hands busy, it engages your whole body while your mind goes somewhere else. With your blood pumping and your testosterone increasing, the irritations of your day are released with your sweat. Some people love having a workout partner, but I personally like to be alone and totally inside my own head. Studies have shown that working out outdoors greatly increases the stress reducing benefits of exercise, so get out to a park and move your body.

What do you do to settle your mind? Let us know in the comments.

{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robert D. July 29, 2009 at 2:31 am

Maintaining and shining my shoes is a meditation habit I picked up in the military. I still do it today. I also like to clean my firearms to clear my mind. It’s mechanical and necessary. It’s also another habit I picked up in the military. My firearms are in pristine condition. Pounding the heavy bag is another favorite. Good article. I like it.

2 Torrey July 29, 2009 at 2:37 am

I can’t help but notice that many of the examples involved some physicial activity. It is important for guys to get the blood pumping not only settle your mind, but keep worries away. Battling diseases, poor health and lack of stamina will no doubt bring worries to the forefront.

3 Chris Franklin July 29, 2009 at 3:28 am

Excellent article. How about covering something about whittling? I’d like to try it out, but what type of wood would I need?

4 Eugene Niemand July 29, 2009 at 4:00 am

I have also found that polishing shoes (might I add this is no ordinary rub on buff up, but spit polishing/boning) takes any where from 45 minutes to 90 minutes and relaxes me and my mind. Something else I have found also works just as well is having a nice slow and relaxing wet shave, with a double edged razor, or if you don’t have on a normal cartridge razor works just as well to pass the time. Besides the relaxing qualities it is also rewarding, you get a sense of achievement and you feel good about yourself for being neat, tidy and in tip top condition.

5 Oliver Ruehl July 29, 2009 at 6:28 am

Hi all,

Good suggestions!

Today I have a great passion that I use to unwind: Photography.
When I need peace of mind I go out and take photos – it really helps to slow your mind down and actually learn more about the place your are living in.

Kind regards

6 Thad July 29, 2009 at 6:29 am

Anything outdoors is good for the mind … whether you are digging in the garden, walking the puppy, or just sitting in the sun … men were made to be outside.

7 thehuhman July 29, 2009 at 7:49 am

I agree with Oliver. For me too, one of the best ways to completely de-stress and recharge my batteries is indeed, photography. Especially so… while outside, surrounded by nature. I sometimes, get completely lost while exploring the simple beauty of a flower. The uniqueness of a flower and its hidden power, is explained very well in Eckhard Tolle’s “A New Earth”.

8 Bobby July 29, 2009 at 7:55 am

Golf is another good way to settle yourself down (if you have the patience to do it). For men with less time or money, I’d say a great way is to hit a bucket of balls at the driving range. Work on your swing and your short game while taking a load off. Plus, there really isnt any better feeling than busting out the driver and pounding down the middle of the range after a tough day. Golf is a game that you will only get better at through practice, and by going to a range on a regular basis you will be able to make notable improvements in your game.

9 epidion July 29, 2009 at 8:06 am

I agree with Bobby. In fact, I’m off to play a 6:30am round before work.

10 John July 29, 2009 at 8:36 am


From working out your aggressions on the weeds, to the relaxing repetitive work of the spring digging, to the fresh air outdoors, to the mental exercise of planning your crop rotation and harvest, to the satisfaction of providing food for your family, it’s a terrific way to be unwind. Throw in that you get to acquire and maintain an esoteric bunch of tools, and you’ve got everything the manly man needs. If your garden’s big enough, you get to be generous giving fresh veggies to your friends or even to make some cash at the farmer’s market.

One caution: although the throaty roar of the rototiller will try to seduce you with the short-term appeal of its manly power, not only do you lose the meditative relaxation of digging by hand, but it’s actually bad for the soil in the long run. (Google “tiller pan” to see what I mean.)

11 Ken July 29, 2009 at 8:43 am

Running does it for me. George Sheehan called it free association where your mind can wander where it will. Some of my best ideas have come while running. If I’m upset with something that happened during the day, it usually dissipates after a run.

12 mantic59 July 29, 2009 at 9:08 am

I took a cue from the movie “Oh God!” and found routine hygene activities–showering, shaving, brushing teeth–can be quite calming.

13 Terry July 29, 2009 at 9:23 am

These are all great ideas.

Something else I’ve found that works well for me is to visit a monastery, even for just an afternoon.

There’s a great Benedictine monastery near Hulbert, Okla. Whether you’re Catholic or not they’ll welcome you. My blood pressure drops 20 points just driving through the gates.

14 Mike Anderson July 29, 2009 at 9:42 am

A couple of weeks ago I finished a long-distance, solo, bicycle ride from Maryland to my Birthplace in Nebraska (a little over 1600 miles). The long days of nothing to really think about but the occasional burst of scenery and the constant maintenance of my cadence did wonders to restore both body and soul! (I think I’ll do it again next year, albeit a different track)

15 Mike Anderson July 29, 2009 at 9:44 am

P.S. If anyone is interested I did an on-line journal of the trip at http://tinyurl.com/mynetour

16 CoffeeZombie July 29, 2009 at 9:46 am

I like mowing the yard for physical activity. It gives me a couple things: 1) time to let my mind relax and use my body some, and 2) a sense of having accomplished something tangible. I mean, you look out on a yard that was, once, a foot high, and it’s now nicely cut, and you know you did something.

Then, of course, there’s mountain biking, when I just need to put my body through the gauntlet. ;-)

Finally, some days it’s nice to just sit on my porch swing enjoying a glass of whiskey. :-D

17 Eric July 29, 2009 at 9:51 am

Along the same lines as exercise, I submit 2 additional ways to relax your mind (depending, of course, on if your are somewhat skilled at either of these, otherwise, it may be stressful for you as your struggle to do them correctly):

1) hit a bucket of golf balls at the driving range
2) armed with a handful of tokens/coins, go to the batting cages and hit baseballs/softballs

18 Luke July 29, 2009 at 9:56 am

All good, I especialy like the ideas of shoe shining (though I’m not for it myself) and whittling. What I do and I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned, is sharpen my knives. It’s a good skill that takes practice to develop as you mentioned in a previous articles and it’s one in which we take pride in my family. My father and many uncles are all renowned for carrying blades you could comfortably shave with. I’m getting there myself and it’s this drive for the perfect edge that lends me focus in sharpening my knives. The slow repetative motion, the soothing sound of the scrape and the focus required to get the angle and preasure just right make the rest of the world just drift into the background.

Warning: Many people have told me there’s no sense in carrying a knife that sharp. The sharper it gets, the more likely you are to cut yourself. Furthermore, sharpening the same knife over and over needlessly will cause undue wear to the blade, so switch it up now and again. Also, always let your wife know if you’ve sharpened the kitchen knives. If she’s adjusted to using a duller knife she may be more careless than she aught to be with a sharp one. Not to mention digging around in the bottom of a sink full of dirty dishwater only to discover a razor edge jumbled in with the silverware. OUCH!

19 Julian July 29, 2009 at 10:10 am

I’ve heard playing darts settles the mind, what say you fellow AoM readers?

20 Jayson July 29, 2009 at 10:17 am

For me meditation is the key to settle my mind.


21 Thomas July 29, 2009 at 10:33 am

A good mix of activities much the same as I have read here in the suggestions are ideal. Depending on the season of year and the availability of time usually dictate times of stress release.

The one notion I am adamant is exercise; yoga, the gym, kayaking, golf, bowling, a brisk walk or hike. Mixing it up keeps it from becoming mundane. But never confuse yard work or other chores with exercise. It lulls us into believing we are really exercising.

Reading (traveling without leaving) is constant assuage from stress , as well as taking care of the yard and garden. No need to hire someone. It is my therapy session.

Most important is getting away only if it is up the road to a B&B, a long weekend at the shore, or a Las Vegas trip with the lads. A change in scenery is essential.

22 Dallas July 29, 2009 at 10:37 am

I enjoy hitting a bucket of range balls, but it tends to get me too focused on improving my golf game & gets me a little too pumped to settle my mind. I tend to think about all the aspects of my swing & club selections. It’s a good distraction, but to really settle my mind at the range I find putting to be the answer. I focus on my breathing & making that smooth pendulum swing. For me, putting is quite a bit like meditation….not to mention “drive for show, putt for dough.”

23 The Plainsman July 29, 2009 at 10:44 am

I admit that after my younger years of wondering why my Pops could fish for so long, I am becoming more adept and addicted to fly fishing lately. Last weekend while out fishing for trout on a small Colorado stream, I couldn’t help but get relaxed, stop and look around. The stream cascading over fallen logs, the small canyon through which the water flowed, the hawk up high watching my every move–it really did something for me and has me longing to go back (especially while toiling in the office).

I must try whittling again and I have longed to play catch.

24 Brian July 29, 2009 at 10:44 am

@ Chris – I would start with a stick of bass or balsa because it is soft. My neighbor always carries a stick of cedar with him. It is also a softer wood and has the added benefit of smelling nice.

I like puttering around in the garden. I also shoot skeet (clay pigeons), which causes as much frustration as relaxation, but I reload my own shotgun shells to save some cash. A very relaxing endeavor as it requires attention, but is also somewhat repetitive, something that all these examples above include.

25 Eric July 29, 2009 at 10:52 am

My two favorite hobbies have always been art and music. Lately I’ve fallen more to the music side, and for me nothing is more calming than playing a familiar song (or letting your mind wander and writing something brand new). Doing something with both sides of your brain while engaging your hands leaves very little room for anything else.

26 R. Scott Buchanan July 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

Akin to shining my shoes, I find folding laundry to be quite calming. It’s a small effort to impose order on a disorderly (but sunshine-fresh) universe.

27 Marcus July 29, 2009 at 11:45 am

I’ve found that grabbing a bucket of water and washing a car by hand is really helpful. After that a nice cool shower to ease yourself back into life.

Writing an entry in a journal is also nice

28 Kavan Wolfe July 29, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Shaving. As in, the old fashion way with a straight razor, brush and a good shaving soap or cream (not that crap you get in the supermarket).

29 Roger July 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Great article, many of this suggestions work for me, one of the thing that relaxes me, even though I don´t smoke as a habit, is having a good cigar, cigars are always associated to some kind of success or victory.

30 Jared July 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Pushups. Lots of pushups.

31 Santa July 29, 2009 at 12:39 pm

How about just grabbing a magazine and spending an hour on the toilet.

32 Glenn Thomas McCrea July 29, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I find writing your thoughts in a journal by hand to be quite nice. It’s calming and lets you slow down the pace of your thoughts. Follow that with a nice run for some great mind relaxation.

33 Jason July 29, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Everyone here has good suggestions. I can relate to the gardening and shoe shining. Someone mentioned smoking a cigar. Smoking my pipe is a nice way to relax after puttering around with my herb garden.

My greatest means of unwinding, however, has to be wrestling with my sons. Three of my six kids are boys (9, 7, 3) and they love to rough-house with daddy. Not only does it help me unwind after a rough day at work, but it teaches them some of the finer bits of sportsmanship and helps build their growing muscles.

I guess that’s what you call manly multi-tasking!

34 Adam July 29, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I wash my car. Depending on the time I have and how quickly I get lost in it that can include a wax and a detail as well. Like shining shoes, it gives visual evidence of time well spent.

35 Uberhack July 29, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Two words: Heavy bag.
Punching and kicking the bejeezus out of the bag is very cleansing. There’s nothing more satisfying then the perfect “thwunk” of a well-executed thai kick.
A good session of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great brain tonic as well.

36 Andy July 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Throwing playing cards across the room into a tub.

37 RYAL July 29, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Sharpening my pocket knive is an old favorite.

38 sameer July 29, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I recommend some meditation to balance the mind. I took a 10-day course meditation course and it is the hardest (and the best) thing I’ve ever done. Check out the intro video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2PZRKqbOUE. You can register for the course at http://www.dhamma.org.

And it’s totally free. Yes sir. Free.

39 Caleb July 29, 2009 at 5:39 pm

I enjoy puzzles a lot. The Rubik’s Cube is a personal favorite of mine, but I find that large, more traditional puzzles are very relaxing when you focus on them. Keeps the hands and mind busy. As a bonus, you can always team up on puzzles with friends, family, loved ones.

When I’m particularly stressed, I also enjoy a really good run. When I’m running, it’s just me vs. my body, which is a battle I understand and enjoy. Gets my mind of things in a hurry, and leaves me feeling great afterwards.

40 West Breedlove July 29, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I’m with CoffeeZombie. Mountain biking, cutting grass, glass of single malt…to which I’d add smoking a cigar, and riding a Harley.

41 Andrew July 29, 2009 at 7:13 pm

A couple years back, my dad and I took the motorcycle rider safety course together (over two weekends, one of which happened to fall over Fathers Day!). Even if we don’t go far, getting out and covering ground on the bikes with my father is a simple and centering kind of joy.

42 Johan July 29, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Hiking, there’s something so special about walking out in the forest, alone preferably but with friends too. Just walking and listening to all the birds and other animals, who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of Big Foot, or at least a deer!
Either way, you’ll feel at peace with yourself, and the nature!


43 Stoneburner July 29, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Time at the target range or hunting, even when you don’t see a single solitary critter, are great for me. I also enjoy horseback riding, be it a leisurely ride through the woods or pitting my wits and skills against a horse in training; I’m either letting my mind “wander where it will,” as was stated earlier, or focusing on a rewarding challenge that pushes other anxities, fears, etc… out of the way for a while.

44 Doug July 29, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Quality music is the best way for me to settle my mind. An hour of the Well-Tempered Clavier results in a well-tempered Doug.

45 Adam July 30, 2009 at 1:05 am

I also find music a great way to settle down. Being a music student, I find something very comforting about taking out my horn and running scales and exercises for an hour, starting slow and speeding up slowly. Accomplishing a goal, developing a skill, making yourself physically stronger, it’s a great way to build a sort of zen.

In addition, there’s something nearly hypnotic about the click (or beep) of a metronome, a sound that typically instills dread in the heart of many a musician, but after countless hours, sometimes I find myself turning mine on and just listening to the beat as I do other work.

46 Chris | Martial Development July 30, 2009 at 1:39 am

One of the best-kept secrets in traditional meditation, is that you can do it standing upright. In fact, this is a healthier option for people with sedentary jobs.

Did I mention it also improves your health, and your fighting ability at the same time? Incredible, but true.

47 William July 30, 2009 at 5:12 am

I like this article. I love splitting wood. I’ve been doing it since I was eight, and as adult life crept up on me, I became much more appreciative of it.
The swing of the heavy axe, the need to develop skill and an eye for just where to strike, trying to balance a piece of wood, and the fantastic, but small triumph of making the log literally fly apart is the best stress relief.
It’s all about being able to do something that requires skill, but also provides a place for exertion and fresh air.
My second favorite activity is (believe it or not) car maintenance and repair. I have an older car that wasn’t maintained for quite a while, and lots to fix. It’s a great way to give yourself short term, achievable goals.

I’ve been looking for something to take more time, and I think I’ll take up whittling.
Bicycling is also a great activity – exercise and entertainment.

Thanks for the article, and for giving some credit to splitting wood.

48 Kent Houston July 30, 2009 at 8:12 am

Great article. I have been a “tinkerer ” if I may use that word for a long time. I find it very relaxing and mind clearing. While splitting wood for me is a seasonal chore that I look forward to every fall I do enjoy it. I keep several simple projects going in the garage all the time. They range from restoring old lanterns that I collect to building bird houses. I also find that browsing the flea market every chance I get is very settling. This also afords me an opportunity to look for the things I collect. Thanks again.

49 Justin July 30, 2009 at 10:16 am

My personal favorite is target practice with my traditional longbow. The feel of the leather grip and string, the tension of the draw, the concentration required for aim… It is a great way to clear the mind. The worst part is finding a place to do it. After that, running or biking. Inside or around the house, I like to garden (succulents and herbs) and cook.

A sharp knife is actually far SAFER than a dull blade, especially in the kitchen, where the weight of the knife should be doing the work, not the person. Dull blades require more pressure to make the initial break though the object. Not applying enough pressure will cause the knife the slip instead, which is where cuts come from (disregarding those from lack of attention / carelessness). Any knife should really be as sharp as you can get it. Just be sure to protect the blade, for both its sake and yours!

50 Canadian July 30, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I’m with Terry. Though I do not have a monastery nearby (You Tube has a few), Gregorian chant is healing for heart and mind.

51 Greg July 30, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Having a variety of hobbies helps me stay excited about building time into the day for clearing my mind. I might hit the tennis court, the bike trails, or the books. Sometimes a pipe or cigar with some tea, coffee, or beer does the trick — but the men that we are, we know to practice moderation with these substances. Even a short walk does wonders for clearing my head.

52 mike July 30, 2009 at 8:25 pm

The most manly way I have found to settle my mind is to pray to God.

53 Gerard July 31, 2009 at 8:14 am

For me:
Riding for a whole day on my mountain bike up hills and down trails. “The path to enlightenment is a singletrack” (according to Mountainbike action mag.)

Another is hitting PR’s in the gym. Ive found that a 300+ lbs barbell on your back and in your hands forces you to focus every bit of mental and physical effort to not getting crushed.

Birdwatching is also a very relaxing, rewarding, and worthwhile activity.

54 Beau August 1, 2009 at 12:29 pm

When the opportunity presents itself, I enjoy canoeing to a small undeveloped island in the middle of a lake or river. Spending a couple of hours there doing nothing but exploring, thinking, observing, and even napping recharges my batteries like nothing else. There is something about the sense of being literally cut-off from the rest of the world that allows me to more fully appreciate the moment. During these times, the outside world is easily put out of my mind. I’ve found nothing more transformative and refreshing than this; except perhaps having your wife accompany you ;)

55 tom August 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I have been practicing bikram yoga for the past couple of years and find that the routine and ritual nature of the movement with this type of yoga along with the physical demands of the heat in the room totally clear my mind. I am drained and invigorated at the same time. I highly recommend it for anyone but have noticed that men take to it more readily than they some of the other types of yoga.

56 Jeremiah Richards August 2, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Wash and Wax Your Car
Start by gathering all the sponges, brushes, old manly Tee’s, buckets, and special tricks your old man taught you about how to do a very good detailing job on the family vehicle. You will need some power tools of course so get your shop vac ready to go. Next, open all the doors and truck and gut the thing. Put all the contents in a bin and sort it out later. Just as every man should have certain items in his pockets or briefcase – there are certain items that belong in every man’s car. (This would be a good article for later) Next, clean the inside and outside thoroughly, and let your mind wander. I always like to put on an favorite classic rock CD, or something mello like Jimmy Buffet or Bob Marley. Now that the car is clean and you have a sense of accomplishment, give it a good wax by hand of course. Power tools are more fun, but it’s nice to have a task to do with your hands. Bring your kids out to work with you or just have your wife or best bud sit beside you in the shade and shoot the breeze while you work. To finish off the task, buff the care and stand back and admire your handiwork. If you time it just right, sit back next to your loved one and have a nice cold beer together. It is a time honored relaxing job, that is guaranteed to relax your mind and give you time to reflect on life for a while.

57 Nubclub August 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

I enjoy fritterin’ around in the garage. Just sorting it all out and then finding a place to put it all. Just me against the stuff. It’s great!!!

58 DaveR August 3, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Several years ago a fella at a gym said to me “People at work don’t understand it when I tell them that lifting weights is relaxing. But I tell you what, hold 400 pounds above your face and tell me that your mind doesn’t clear real quick!” Works for me.

59 David Wisdom August 3, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I play guitar to ease my mind. If i am angry, i start out playing really loud and gradually get softer and softer as i calm down

60 Alex August 5, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Shining my shoes is a great way to take the edge off. As a bonus you spend less money on replacing them because they well maintained.

One of the things I like to do to ease my mind and unwind is to maintain the appearance of my vehicle. In addition to being a relaxing way to pass the time, being familiar with the car and keeping it tidy can help you spot problems or mechanical issues before they get out of hand.

61 Darin August 5, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I grew up on a family farm. Most modern farming activities in the field (e.g., plowing, disking, cultivating, mowing) require enough of your attention that it is hard to relax, let the mind wander and contemplate the universe.

There still is one, however, that works – raking hay. I prefer a small open-air tractor, with my favorite being a John Deere 3020. I’d get further in life if I spent more time raking hay.

62 Gerodread August 6, 2009 at 2:00 am

Splitting wood is my favorite way to level myself. No matter my mood it always makes me feel great. 2:00 AM while the wood is still perfectly frozen, sounding almost like a shattering rock piercing through the frozen slumbering air… It’s beautiful.

63 Timm Burr August 7, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Everyone is forgetting the most primal and important way to settle a man’s mind: Sex! It’s just as much exercise as some of these examples and the endorphin release alone is sure to relax even the most wound-up psyche. And I think it’s safe to say it’s a pretty manly endeavor, too.

64 Scott August 8, 2009 at 2:02 am

Edmund Price’s Science of Self-Defense. I carefully page through a book from just after the Civil War and wonder who owned this before me, did it sit on a shelf, or did they practice this pugilism out there in 19th century America. Punching the bag in my backyard with Price’s seven hits and seven blocks feels like a meditation on American manly culture.

65 samuel welsh August 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm

the bible, time with the wife and kids should also be mentioned.

66 John August 17, 2009 at 9:42 am

Cutting and splitting firewood definitely helps clear the mind of everything else. Especially if you’re holding a full tree length in place and there’s a chainsaw running a few feet in front of your face. Tell me you’ll let your mind wander then.

But the one thing that I enjoy that hasn’t been mentioned yet is just sitting on the porch or in your yard with an iced tea or a glass of lemonade and watching the world roll by. You get to catch up with your neighbors, look at the wonderful yard that you’ve been cultivating, and enjoy the shine of your car sitting curbside. The drink doesn’t matter, but the point is that after you spend all of your time and energy working in the yard, cleaning and maintaining your car, and working out, it’s time to relax and admire your accomplishments.

67 Dave Tindell September 7, 2009 at 12:40 pm

All good suggestions. I especially enjoy chopping wood. I’ve resisted my wife’s desire to replace our wood-burner stove with a gas stove just because I like wood. I like stacking it, chopping it, hauling it, burning it. There’s something elemental about it. And when the power goes out on a cold northern Wisconsin winter morning, and the gas fireplace won’t light because there’s no electricity for the switch, you’re glad the wood-burner is still there.
Also, martial arts training. All week long I wait for Friday. I get to work early, leave early and go to a fellow black belt’s karate dojo to train with him. We work out together for an hour, then I work out with his students for another hour, and finally my wife joins us for his 1.5hr kickboxing class. It’s a terrific way to wash away the grunge of the work week and get the weekend off to a rollicking start. Plus it keeps me in good shape.

68 Scottso September 12, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I would add brush your teeth for the full two minutes with a Sonicare toothbrush, for some reason I find that very relaxing.

My significant other thinks I’m nuts, but I like to do a load of laundry, compeltion factor!

Plus unlike her I throw everything in the machine together. o

69 eduardo October 14, 2009 at 4:09 am

cleaning and pruning my garden and bushes, getting rid of the weeds of the grass. making look all the plants manicured and watering and perhaps fertilizing them later.

washing my car by myself starting on the exterior, while at times, depending on my mood, listening to my favorite oldies.

all this has to be done outside and in a calmed manner.

70 Hayley November 1, 2009 at 9:57 am

Watching a certain type of man chopping wood sure relaxes me.

71 Dennard January 7, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Reading and walking around outdoors are the two most common things I do to settle my mind. I’d love to try fly fishing, though.

72 John Oswald January 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Another good technique is cleaning weapons; productive in multiple ways.

73 Johan January 15, 2010 at 9:39 pm

When I was in college, I worked at a local university maintaining the campus grounds. It was then that I first experienced the zen of cutting grass at the ripe old age of 18. It seemed that no matter what life was throwing at me at the time; whether it be grades, girlfriends, or paying rent, I could always find peace in the hum of a small engine and the precision of maintaining straight rows. Now, 16 years later, every time I pull the cord on a mowing machine, a nostalgic peace comes over me as I settle back into an all-forgiving state of mind.
Splitting wood is my winter time activity. Although I do no possess a fireplace, I do own a wood splitter and a chainsaw which by now I feel is an extension of my own body. I find satisfaction in splitting wood and providing friends and family with the resulting product. The zen of wood splitting is rewarding not only by the action itself, but also by the end result. On a particularly stressful day, I will split wood from dawn until dusk. I find satisfaction in the exertion and sheer exhaustion of the whole process.

74 Billy Street January 18, 2010 at 6:38 am

This is a very interesting article, and I’ve enjoyed the comments too.

For me a slow old shave is a nice way to unwind. Cooking a big meal with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer also really does it for me – there’s something great about preparing it all, getting involved with the dish, and producing something delicious at the end as well which is so satisfying.

And oddly – reading this artlice and comments has been quite calming and settling – just thinking about all of these activities works!

75 Yasha Varga January 19, 2010 at 9:21 am

Did anyone notice that the picture of the person whittling was carving towards himself?

Carving Rule #1 – NEVER carve toward oneself!

Otherwise good article.

76 Hugon February 23, 2010 at 5:41 pm


77 Sean March 15, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I’ve been teaching myself how to play the piano

78 Zachary Ray June 15, 2010 at 7:10 am

Personally I find tearing up the ice on my hockey skates for an hour quite peaceful and cleansing. My trivial problems seem to fade away as I skate circles around the rink. However this activity my be less relaxing for a beginning, but through time and patience speed and grace will come.

Of course a cold beer and a Burrito from a local hole-in-the-wall can replenish the soul too.

79 Sam June 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Exercise. It increases blood flow and releases endorphin — which is a natural stress and pain reliever. We’ve all heard of a runner’s high I’m sure, but any kind of strenuous exercise can achieve this. Personally, when I’m stressed I like to push myself beyond what I would normally do, but even doing a routine exercise can help prevent stress and relieve some of it.

80 Austin July 9, 2010 at 12:14 am

The best way i have found to settle my mind is to go for a walk through the park, or just around town. Avoiding main streets and busy, high populated areas are good because you have time to just think and relax. Its the best thing I’ve done in a long time, I highly recommend it!

81 Nick July 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

Sitting outside listening to baseball on the radio. The combination of a the broadcast’s slow and methodical pace, the hum of the AM station, and being outdoors among God’s creation puts me at peace. A little buzz from a glass of single-malt doesn’t hurt either.

82 Mark P. July 29, 2010 at 11:41 am

For me, the shooting sports have been therapeutic. The smell of the burning powder, the sound of the brass hitting the ground, the target falling to the dirt (I’m all about recycling those old soda cans) there is nothing like it for me.

83 Doug Sears Jr. July 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Along the lines of what Zachary Ray said, I also find a lot of stress relief in skating and in hockey. I am trying at the moment to find a good net and an artificial surface so I can fire pucks for probably hours on end in my driveway.

Tending to the gear I have is also something that soothes me. Drying the gear out, making small adjustments or alterations, relacing my skates, etc. I am hoping to get a job in a pro shop and learning to sharpen skates as well.

Another big hockey related one for me is to re-tape my stick. I’m one of very few recreational hockey players who retape before every skate, and it’s very relaxing as I tear off a ripped and puckmarked tape job and start over, getting a perfect, smooth toe wrap, then melting a little wax on the bottom of the blade.

84 Ricardo July 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

A great read. I find, now and again, a good banishment of a white Russian to be extremely therapeutic and relaxing. The changing rhythms and alternating thoughts helps to clear away the stress of the day! Certainly able to put me into a meditative state of mind.

85 Sal July 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I love lifting weights..it is a total confidence builder/stress reducer. It helps release a NATURAL *heroin* called endorphins. I think for most people when we get out of work we say to ourselves *Im too tired to workout* BUT if we just suck it up for a few weeks our bodies will start to adjust and become conditioned again. I worked in a warehouse for a few years and it was very physical work, yet at this time in my life I actually started to study more about bodybuilding and lifted 5 times a week for 2 hours/a day! I saw results.

I whittled some at 12, but it is appealing to me now that I read this article simply because it may help with and coordination and mental concentration. It is peaceful. Plus, nothing like creating someting thats yours! Catch is REALLY cool! lol.

Ive never really chopped wood, but more and more articles have been showin about it. So, I think, from what Ive read, I will start! Awesome article. Thanks!

86 alan July 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

You leave out enjoying a pipe. This is a marvelous little aid to peace & contemplation, and it is correlated with better short term memory and perception. And, by the way, pick up the Surgeon General’s Report from 1964, which notes that pipe smokers overwhelmingly tend not to inhale, and that the statistics for pipe smokers who don’t inhale (as opposed to cigarette smokers trying to migrate to pipes to kick the habit, who tend to inhale) indicate that pipe smokers live longer than *nonsmokers*. All the later studies of pipe smokers include the 10-20% of pipe smokers who are using them to get of cigs, and who–unlike most pipe smokers–inhale, so the stats are skewed. The SG 1964 report still made distinctions.

87 Dan July 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm

i personally prefer rock climbing

88 Matthew Benedict July 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I would love to see more on whittling. My dad gave me a whittling knife a few years ago and I have no idea where to start.

Also I much prefer to work out alone. My body is occupied but my mind is free.

89 Eric August 1, 2010 at 12:03 am

I have found exersizing while listening to music to be very stress relieving. If I feel anger or sadness, I use that as fuel for a solid workout. The pursuit of physical exhaustion always puts perspective back into my life and I can see the benefits in the mirror.
Also, sketching and painting can literally hold my mind hostage. Art allows me an opportunity to experience the freedom of creation, and the hours just melt off the clock. I can get lost in a peice of paper for unhealthy and uninterrupted amounts of time. When I emerge from my trance like state, my mind is energized and I find it a lot less stressful to deal with life.
Lastly, a nicely rolled blunt or an ice cold beer on a Friday night shared with a few friends seems to make cares dissappear. Though, this can have a negative effect if not enjoyed in moderation. In my opinion, there’s a Line to observe which dictates whether substances help a man relax and de-stress, or whether they can cause a man to neglect responsibility and cause more stress.

90 Ian December 14, 2012 at 12:40 am

Just the other day I discovered a method that works better than anything I have tried before. My girlfriend taught me how to solve a Rubik’s cube (she is much smarter than I) a week ago; and now that I have memorized all of the necessary algorithms for solving the puzzle, I can clear my mind in a matter of minutes. Solving the cube requires just enough focus to solve in an efficient and timely manner, that all of my other worries melt away.

91 Sugapablo October 28, 2013 at 7:33 am

If you’re a musician, there’s nothing like playing music to get your mind in order. The world melts away when I’m playing guitar.

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