“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
You can’t find your keys and you’re late for work. Your children won’t go to bed and all you want is a few moments of peace after a long day. You’re stuck in traffic and late for an appointment. You don’t get enough sleep. Your laundry is piled up. You haven’t exercised in weeks. You may have a family member who is ill, or you are struggling with an illness. These personal scenarios can be part of our hectic lives and this doesn’t include the world’s troubles, like natural disasters, poverty and violence. So with all this chaos and movement how do we maintain any kind of inner peace or calm? Undoubtedly, it comes from within.
Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., author of Inner Peace for Busy People, writes, “Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace. Finding inner peace doesn’t require hours of daily practice. You don’t have to stand on your head or stare at your navel. All it takes is a little willingness and common sense. Life is a precious gift to be savored, not an endless series of chores to complete while you complain about being “crazy busy”.
Amidst our crazy busyness, creating inner peace isn’t easy. Life’s daily obligations such as work, caring for children, paying bills and maintaining a household can be draining. But, as the Dalai Lama reminds us, our primary goal in life is to be happy and avoid suffering. So even with our everyday stresses, the strategies below can help us achieve the goal of feeling happier and, at the same time, bring more calm to our lives.
Breathe, just breathe. Take a moment during the day to notice your breathing. This is one of the quickest ways to calm your mind and body. We tend to hold our breath and breathe shallow when we are under stress. We can even experience light-headedness when anxious because of erratic breathing. The right way to breathe is like a newborn, steady and from the belly, rather than the chest. This helps distribute oxygen more evenly throughout our bodies to feel calmer and boost energy. Try this 5-minute breathing exercise to reduce stress.
Practice being present. Ever hear of life happens while we are busy making other plans? So often, we are thinking ahead to the future. For example, you may get into the shower and think about all you need to do that day, increasing your stress level before you’ve even started the day. Instead, put yourself in the moment by feeling the hot water beading over your body. Smell the fruitfulness of your shampoo. Enjoy the feeling of the silky soap lathered on your skin.
When your mind starts racing, redirect it by using all your senses to immerse yourself in the moment.
Learn to say no. So many of us feel like we need to do things that we don’t feel like doing because we want to please others or avoid disappointing them. This is not necessarily a good thing. We also have a right to make ourselves happy. Of course, this doesn’t mean to make a commitment to see someone or go to a party and then back out. It means to politely decline the request, choosing authentically what’s best for you instead of what other people want.
Soothe and replenish yourself. When was the last time you indulged yourself? Got a massage? Went for a long walk? Watched a marathon of old movies or TV shows? Played a game of golf? Listened to music you love? Had a fun night out? Whatever leisure activities make you feel good, it’s important to take time for life’s pleasures. Even if it’s sitting for an hour with a hot cup of coffee or tea in your house or back yard thinking about life. We need to take ourselves out of our routines to feel re-energized, withstand the stresses of the day and give the best of ourselves to others.
Cultivate gratitude. Being thankful puts us in the moment by placing our attention on what’s good in our lives. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, has found in his research that practicing gratitude increases our happiness by 25%!
To help cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”, as they say, you can keep a gratitude journal to write down what you are grateful for each day, create gratitude affirmations or simply make a routine of silently saying what you are grateful for at the end of the day. There are many ways to practice gratitude that will help increase the peace and happiness you feel in life.
What strategy above do you think will help you most in your life? We’d love to hear for you!