PROTECTING OUR INNER PEACE
In our noisy, busy, crowded, stressful world, we often find ourselves longing for PEACE and hoping to find it somewhere, anywhere. The answer is within us and we can tap into it, any time, anywhere.
“Peace is not something you wish for. It’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.” – John Lennon
My son Gus, 15, is really into The Beatles. A few weeks ago, while he was listening to them something touched me really deep when “Across the Universe” started playing, then the next song was “Imagine”.
I started crying and just could not stop. I was sobbing. Then laughing and sobbing. I realized that my heart was in so much pain.
With all that had been happening, I was consuming too much news and I was being affected by everything: pandemic, “quarantine”, our collective health, George Floyd, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, the election, cyberbullying. It was all taking a toll on me.
It all felt so surreal.
I was feeling depleted, exhausted, anxious, sad, unmotivated, depressed. I wasn’t sleeping well. I had no peace. I needed a break. I was out of alignment with my true self and I knew it.
My kids were looking at me for support, understanding, and guidance, so I knew I needed to get myself together.
I also knew that for me, the only out was to completely disconnect. I didn’t know for how long, just knew I had to.
I needed to find my inner peace again, and I was not going to stop until I found it.
What’s inner peace?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that peace is 1: a state of tranquility or quiet, free from disturbance; 2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; 3: harmony in personal relations.
Prof. Hugh Ward said that “Inner peace refers to emotional self-regulation and the ability to achieve a state of dynamic emotional equilibrium and competence”. (Ward, 2010, p. 48)
Inner peace is a state of calmness and emotional regulation despite the presence of stressors.
For me, inner peace is a state of calmness and emotional regulation despite the presence of stressors. In this state, I function well and effectively because I am able to control my feelings, I feel calm and aware of the present moment. I don’t overthink, overanalyze, or dwell over issues. This means, no waste of time, energy and attention to things that don’t matter allowing me to make better decisions for myself and others.
Finding peace and calm does not mean that we need to sit in lotus pose, find a quiet place, and meditate. It also doesn’t mean that we will become passive, boring, or even devoid of strong feelings. And lastly, it doesn’t mean that we will never have anxious or fearful thoughts again.
Rather, finding inner peace means that instead of getting anxious about a possibly uncertain future, instead of thinking negative thoughts and expecting the worst from the future, instead of ruminating and dwelling on the past and becoming tense and unhappy, we can choose to stay present, stay calm, aware of what’s really going on in the here and now and find peace by looking within, any time, anywhere, independently of external conditions or circumstances.
Peace, calm, and happiness: a connection
When we left to hike up Mt. Shasta I told my son I would go as far I could go – it was a very hot day at 96F!!!! and the air up there becomes rare. So I knew it was going to be hard.
At the head of the trail, he said he wanted to touch the snow. “That’s far!” – I said. But he was determined to go there. He left ahead of me, climbing over rocks while I followed behind, on the trail. I didn’t make it as far as he did in the 30-minute timeframe.
He called me when he reached the snow and said: “Mom, it’s exhilarating! There is nobody here, it’s so quiet and peaceful and I feel the happiest I can ever remember.”
It is said that peace, calm and happiness are associated concepts and their respective psychologies interconnected (Cohrs, Christie, White, & Das, 2013). When we feel peace we immediately feel a sense of calmness, and peaceful calm people report higher levels of happiness in general. Likewise, our positive experiences, personal well-being, and personal resilience may contribute to personal and interpersonal peace.
Benefits of Inner Peace
A constant sense of inner peace offers countless benefits. Among others:
* Increased intelligence
* Increased concentration, focus and memory
* Increased resiliency, inner strength and ability to handle difficult situations
* More patience, tolerance and compassion
* Freedom from stress, anxieties and worries
* Increased happiness and bliss
* Improved sleep patterns
* Improved immune system
And who doesn’t want all of that? I know I do!!!
Signs of Burnout
Now, the contrary of having inner peace is burning out. And that’s something I don’t want to face it again. I knew I wasn’t my real self, and it showed:
* muscle tension (on my shoulders)
* trouble sleeping
* feeling overwhelmed, drained, drowning
* feeling frustrated all the time
* sense of apathy and lack of energy
* alienation from activities and others
I had to do something, this situation could not be sustainable for too long.
How to find inner peace
Once I realized I was out of alignment, I had to get myself back somehow, and quickly because it was just not sustainable for me to continue feeling the way I was feeling.
The first step for me after I unplugged from social media and the news, was to pay attention to my thoughts and feelings and the vicious cycle they have created.
Deep breathing and meditation are strategies readily available to me, and everyone else really, that we can tap into at any time. And so I did. It was hard to sit in quiet because there were so many thoughts and feelings swimming around in my mind.
So I treated myself as I would a client and asked myself questions about my values. Going back to my values helped me calm my thoughts. I reminded myself of what I believed in, what I dreamed for myself, my family, and the world we all live in.
I reminded myself that my children were relying on me for support and guidance and that I wanted to be that support and guidance they hoped of me. That helped.
Getting in contact with nature is also another strategy that works really well for me. You would find me out in nature every day, sometimes up to 3 times a day. Anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours! I just needed to be in nature. I always peace when I’m in nature.
Deep in my thoughts, my values and dreams I finally calmed down and realized that the way I operate is not by fighting or hiding for that matter, rather it is by finding answers and solutions that will make a difference and cause change.
That’s how I function better.
My 6 strategies to find inner peace
We are all human here, and it’s normal to feel anxious, nervous, sad, or even depressed, but it is when these feelings linger for too long that we must tend to them.
We all have our own thoughts and values. We all handle issues differently and what works for me may not work for all so below I give you some suggestions here. Try them out and remember that you are your own person, with your own experiences and values, and whatever does not work for you or resonate, don’t do it, move on and find something better. Life is about trial and error, trial and learning.
1. Undertstand what you are thinking and feeling and why
Ask questions to yourself as you would to a friend or your child. Be kind when trying to understand what is upsetting you and what your thoughts about the issue are. Then focus your attention on what you can control and how you can make a difference.
“Why am I upset?”
“Why does it affect me so much?”
“What part of this issue I have control over?”
“What can I practically and actually do to change or improve the situation/issue?”
2. Be incontact with nature
I always find peace when I’m in nature, even if that means a quick walk around the neighborhood. And now scientists have found evidence that being in nature has an impact on our brains and our behavior. I helps us to reduce anxiety, stress and fatigue, increase our happiness levels, improve our attention capacity, creativity, and our ability to connect with other people.
3. Practice mindfulness and breathing
Our breath is always with us and it is a powerful tool to calm anxious thoughts and feelings and to shift our state of mind. It helps us stay present and quiet the mind, allowing us more control. When we feel more in control over the situation we feel less anxious and stressed.
Inhale through your nose as you count to four.
Hold that breath for a count of four.
Exhale through your mouth for a count of four or six or even eight.
4. Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude is another way to access that state of inner peace. When things are just not going the way we wished they were, looking at the positives and what’s working helps us cultivate gratitude and peace in the present moment.
Keeping a gratitude journal, whether is daily, weekly or even monthly can help you build the habit. Another tip is to smile when you wake up, smiling signals to your brain that things are good and that you are happy.
5. Practice acceptance and focus your attention on what you can control
Accepting the existence of issues that are out of our control is an important step to achieving inner peace. If they are out of our control it doesn’t really matter what we do, it won’t change them.
I found that the more I fought against the current reality, the more I was suffering. When I started focusing my attention to the things I could control, I was thinking of possible solutions and started feeling better and actually seeing positive changes around me.
6. Exercise regularly
Exercise makes us feel good and feel good about doing it. Regular exercise is good for the body, mind and spirit. Among its many benefits, exercising reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, increases endorphins making us feel happier, relaxed and optimistic, and a lot more. Even a regular 15 minute daily walk can do wonders to a person’s mood.
The route to inner peace and happiness is not difficult. It comes from simple lifestyle changes and persistence. From meditating a few minutes a day to taking a walk in nature, from practice deep breathing to maintaining a gratitude journal. It’s free and within our reach and control. If I could do it, you can do it too.
What brings you inner peace? And what action or strategy are you going to get started with?
I’ve canvassed the wide world web looking for easy and simple suggestions of actions for our daily busy lives, and here it is, “the list”. Download FREE! Enjoy!
With love and gratitude,
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