Many of us live with a level of persistent low-grade stress that becomes so normalised that most of the time, we don’t even realise it’s there.
While we might not be displaying obvious signs of stress, cortisol—the hormone associated with stress—wreaks havoc on our mental and physical health over the long-term. Therefore it’s important to make time to clear our minds and bring some peace into our lives, even if we’re not feeling particularly anxious.
Here are 11 suggestions you can use to make your mind calm and peaceful.
Make time to meditate
Meditation has a number of positive effects on mind and body. It’s also deceptively hard, which is why many people try it once or twice but struggle to make it a regular habit. Meditation helps combat the physical and emotional affects of stress and has lasting benefits that affect your productivity, as well as your ability to relax. Set aside time to meditate for just 10 minutes a day over the next week or two and experience the benefits for yourself.
Focus on gratitude
When we’re facing a series of challenges, it can be easy to slip into tunnel vision and focus on what’s going wrong at the expense of noticing what’s going well. Even taking the time to write down just three things each day that we feel grateful for can help reinstate a balanced perspective on our day-to-day experience.
Notice internal judgements
While many of us fear judgement from others, the harshest criticisms we experience are often self-inflicted. Nothing clutters and stresses the mind like internal self-judgements, so pay attention to your thought patterns and notice when your inner critic rears up. Being aware of these thoughts as they occur is the first, and most important, step towards replacing criticism with calm.
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Once we are able to notice our self-criticisms and judgements in the moment, we have a chance to practice self-compassion. This means acknowledging and accepting reality, and extending the same kind of compassion to ourselves that we would to a good friend in our situation. In doing this, we stop measuring ourselves against different standards compared to other people.
Distance yourself from negative self-talk and beliefs
We can’t necessarily stop ourselves experiencing negative self-talk and beliefs but we can distance ourselves from them. Using the phrase “I notice that…[I’m judging myself harshly for forgetting that file this morning]” whenever we identify a negative self-judgement or belief helps us see these beliefs for what they really are: opinions, rather than facts.
Setting routines might sound like a recipe for boredom but it actually helps instil a day-to-day sense of peace in our minds. When we have set routines, we have less decisions to make during the day. This frees up space in our minds for bigger, more important tasks.
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Keep a journal
Journaling is a great way to get our thoughts out of our heads and onto paper. Writing down our most pressing thoughts and worries each day has a similar effect to talking to someone about them. By making time to journal, you’re giving yourself the chance to process your thoughts and feelings, and to express them in a safe, private space.
Create a to-do list
Similar to journaling, writing down your tasks and projects helps clear your mind. If you find that various activities and reminders keep popping into your head and distracting you from the task at hand, a system like Getting Things Done can help increase your productivity and your mental calm.
It’s a well-known fact that exercise augments our sense of mental well-being. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercising for just 10 minutes can release endorphins, pain-killing chemicals that help induce a state of mental and physical peace.
Finally, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. What helps one person find peace and calm might have the opposite effect on the next. As you go about your day, notice the times when you feel most at ease and make note of what you’re doing at that time. Experiment with the methods above, as well as your own suggestions, and create your own list of activities that help your mind find clarity and relaxation.