As our world continues to speed up and get more complex, being able to access inner calm — particularly in the midst of crisis — is a critical skill. It can reduce stress, improve concentration and generate a sense of confidence. It also facilitates patience and enables you to handle daily affairs with greater ease and clearer judgment. That is true power.
Many people make peace conditional. In other words, they say things like “I will find peace when I make enough money,” or “I will feel peace when I work out the kinks in my relationship.” Peace becomes dependent on something external happening. In reality, peace is not as complex as one may think and it doesn’t have to be a distant goal. Peace is a feeling that can be experienced every day. Here are seven ways to experience a sense of peace right now:
1. Pause. Between your next text or tweet, pause. Get up and stretch. Go for a walk. Allow your mind to escape from the work at hand. Simply stopping for a moment, from whatever you’re doing, can help you come to the present – giving you a moment of peace. In fact, studies show that you will actually be more productive and creative if you take a break every 90 to 120 minutes. To maximize the pause, take a few deep breaths. Inhale completely to fill your lungs and then exhale slowly. You could even use a particular time of day, like sunset, to remind you to take a break.
2. Swap It. Our own thoughts can bring us out of a peaceful state. If your thoughts are moving into a negative zone, swap them out for more positive ones. Think of a saying, or affirmation, that you can use such as “All is working for my Highest Good, things are happening as they should” or “This too shall pass!”
3. Tune In. Listen to your favorite music. Studies show that sound can be soothing and induce calm. If you don’t have music with you right now, hum. The vibration will have an additional meditative effect. If you want to plan ahead, create a custom “chill-out” playlist that calms you down and load it on your mobile device. Focus on sounds with a slow rhythm and a repetitive pattern, or simply use music that reminds you of happy times.
4. Trigger It. Use a word, phrase or image as a trigger – or a reminder – to relax. If you don’t have something with you right now, think of an experience that brought you intense relaxation such as a vacation. Remember the feeling from the experience. One technique I have clients use is to write a word on a post-it note that triggers the memory and then post the note where you can see it during the day to “trigger” the feeling.
5. Shut It Out. Simply close your eyes. There is a breathing technique in yoga where you close off all of the senses. Closing your eyes is the first step by reducing visual distractions and allowing you to better focus your attention inward. Studies indicate that closing the eyes is the simplest way to change your state of mind. To deepen the experience, visualize a place or image that feels peaceful to you. To go even further, close off your ears as well!
6. Smell It. Certain scents, like lavender, are calming. It’s also been found that when you slow down to smell something, you tend to breathe more deeply which slows your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure. If you don’t have a soothing scent with you right now, find some flowers or go to a bath and body shop and sample their natural lotions. You can even go into a grocery store and sniff a coconut or green apple, which have both been found to be soothing.
7. Forget About It! When a situation arises that rubs you the wrong way, acknowledge the feelings and then let it go. Holding on will simply hold you back from your joy. Letting go will help you be in the present.
Peace is a choice. In any given moment, you have the freedom to choose how you want respond to a situation. In yoga we talk about “toning the nervous system” just like we tone muscles in the body — through repetition. The more you practice relaxation techniques, the easier it will be to access calm. The consistency of practice is more important than the amount of time you spend. In this way, you can become familiar with the feeling of peace. Over time, peace can be a habit.
Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy is a Harvard-trained strategist, digital consultant and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She helps companies operate more efficiently and individuals live more effectively through her company Power Living Enterprises. A seasoned yoga/mindfulness teacher and executive/life coach, she is also an internationally-recognized voice in Personal Empowerment, Leadership and Health & Sustainability. In addition, she is the co-author (with her mom, Columbia University-trained journalist Janie Sykes-Kennedy) of Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master – an inspirational memoir on 96-year-old yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch.
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