“There was a time when I thought that peace was a destiny. In the same way, I imagined that I would eventually reach happiness or success.”
It seemed like something I needed to chase or find, it was definitely not something I could experience without drastically changing my life. I needed to work less, relax more, and generally improve my circumstances and relationships to be a peaceful person.
Despite seeing peace as an endpoint, I also saw it as passive; after all, that’s why she was so stressed: she had so much to do. Since then I have come to realize that peace is always available, and like any desirable state of mind, it requires effort, even if that effort involves consciously choosing to be still. Sure, our circumstances affect our mental state, but they don’t have to control them. Not if we make small choices for our well-being.
It is true that it is not easy to choose peace when we are going through difficult times. I’m still going through periods where worries and stress catch me, and it may seem like that’s the only available response to things that have happened.
But it is not. There are countless things we can do to create peace of mind, both in response to events in our lives. And something important, all this proactively, every day.
If you want to develop a greater sense of peace, you may find these suggestions helpful.
1. It takes five to ten minutes for simple sitting meditation.
2. Take 100 deep breaths, counting “and one,” “and two,” and so on, with “and” for inhalations and numbers for exhalations.
3. Take a meditative walk, focusing solely on the physical sensations of walking: the ground under your feet, the sway of your hips.
4. Find a guided meditation on YouTube and let it lull you into a happy state of presence.
5. Practice alternating breathing from the nostril. Hold the left nostril and inhale through the right; then hold your breath. Release the left nostril, hold the right nostril and exhale from the left. Now start to the left with one inhalation, exhaling to the right. It is a series. Do up to five of them.
6. Write down everything that weighs on your mind, and then record it as a way to let it go.
7. Write down everything you have learned from a difficult experience so that you can see it as something useful and empowering rather than stressful.
8. Tell someone how their actions affected you instead of holding them back and generating resentment.
9. Call someone you have denied forgiveness and tell them you are sorry.
10. Apologize for a mistake instead of repeating it. Then choose to forgive yourself.
11. Participate in small art therapy; grab some pencils, markers or paint and put all your feelings on the page.
12. Create a collage of peace. Include images that make you feel relaxed and comfortable.
13. Meditate on your favorite peace quote and then write it in calligraphy to frame.
14. Take a walk with the sole intention of photographing beautiful things that make you feel at peace, such as a tree with colorful autumn leaves.
15. Write a blog post about what gives you peace of mind. (This has been a relaxing experience for me!)
16. Get up and dance to your favorite song, focusing solely on music and movement. Get into your body and get out of your head!
17. Take a long walk on the beach, focusing on the feel of the sand between your toes and the sound of the waves. Cliché, but highly effective!
18. Enjoy a bike ride through a picturesque area of the city and immerse yourself in the calm of your surroundings.
19. Take five to ten minutes to stretch, synchronizing your breathing with movements (or if you have an hour, visit a local studio for a yoga class).
20. Fix up a messy part of your home, creating a more peaceful space.
21. Compensate for compassion for someone who hurts you, rather than wallowing in bitterness, which will make it easier to forgive and free yourself.
22. Take some time to actively enjoy the good things of the present instead of intrigue to create a better future.
23. Create a list of things you love about yourself instead of thinking about how you would like to be different.
24. Focus on what you appreciate about the people in your life instead of wanting them to change (assuming you are in healthy relationships).
25. Recognize if you judge yourself in your head with phrases like “Should have” or “Shouldn’t have had.” Replace those thoughts with “I do my best, my best is good enough and I am learning and growing every day.”
26. Start reading the book you bought to address the challenge you have been facing.
27. Schedule a date with yourself, a time when you don’t need to fulfill someone else’s requests and do something that feeds your mind and spirit. Go to a museum or go to your favorite restaurant and just enjoy your own company.
28. Sit in nature, under a tree, on a mountain, and just let yourself be.
29. Be your best friend. Tell yourself what you have in mind and then give yourself the advice that you would give to a good friend who has the same problem.
30. Repeat some positive affirmations that help you feel present, peaceful and empowered.
31. Tell the truth in your relationships. When we maintain our true feelings, we create stress for ourselves. Be kind but honest and share what you really feel.
Catch critical, guilty or self-victimized thoughts. Instead of thinking about what someone else did wrong, express
32. yourself and ask yourself what you can do to create the change you are looking for.
33. Have fun with someone you love. Forget about everything you feel like a problem and do something silly and childish.
34. Connect with someone online who can relate to what’s going on and create a mutually supportive relationship by sharing and listening.
35. Let someone participate in your self-care routine: ask a friend to join a yoga studio with you, or invite your sister for a jog on the beach.
36. Volunteer your time to help a charity you believe in. Put all your energy to help another person and you will inadvertently help yourself.
37. Volunteer at your local animal shelter. Animals are naturally present, and it’s contagious!
38. Do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. If they ask you what they can do for you, tell them to pay it.
39. Leverage your passion to help someone else (i.e. if you are an aspiring designer, design a logo for a friend). You have to enter the zone doing something that you love; someone else gets the support they need. A win-win!
40. Take advantage of your purpose of serving another person, not for money, simply for serving them. That could mean helping you pursue your passion or motivating you to reach your goals. Whatever gives your life meaning, give it to someone freely.
As is usually the case with these types of lists, this may seem a bit long and overwhelming. The important thing is that we do at least one little thing every day to create mental stillness. What helps you create peace of mind?