We live in such a fast-paced world.
It’s a world that’s on 24/7 and a world in which we’re faced with a lot of negativity: crime, war, violence, arguments, drugs, ill health. There’s a lot to test our inner peace, and so often, it can be hard to remain calm in the face of the chaos that surrounds us.
I’ve studied mindfulness for many years, and as a result, I’ve honed the skill that is equanimity—something I’d never even heard of six years ago, yet something I now find is the most valuable skill I possess, as it helps me in all areas of my life and work.
Equanimity is the ability to remain calm in the face of chaos and to manage our reactions in the face of those who irritate us. It is a way of not letting what goes on in the outside world affect the stillness and calm we create in our inside world—our inner peace.
If life is feeling chaotic and demanding, and you’ve not seen your inner peace for a while, try some of these methods to restore some calm to your life.
1. Meditate. Our brains are on the go all of the time. With the evolution of our smartphones, we are connected 24/7 to a constant feed of information, opinions, and social connection. As a result, we’ve lost the small pauses in our day for our minds to rest. Even the few moments it takes to wait for an elevator or flick the kettle on to boil can now be filled with news headlines, social media photos, and the latest shopping deals.
Our minds are so important, because everything begins here; what we think becomes our world. What we think becomes how we feel—and that, in turn, becomes how we act. We do so much to keep our physical self well—gym memberships, diets, clothing, beauty products—but what do we do for our mind? The latest stats on anxiety, stress, and depression would say not nearly enough.
Meditation is one tool I swear by; it’s key in helping me find balance and building my mental resilience. It’s just 10 minutes a day, but it makes all the difference to how I feel, how I cope with challenges, and how sharp my brain is. It also reconnects me, with clarity, to my thoughts and feelings, which so often get lost in the busyness of our day. It keeps me calm and centered and is a bit like pressing the reset button for my brain.
2. Power off devices. In the modern age, we are overwhelmed with technology. It now dominates our homes and work, and it keeps us in touch with friends, families, and the world 24 hours a day. In the days before handheld devices, people could leave the office on Friday and not see their emails again until Monday morning. We would sit on public transport and talk to one another, rather than being buried in our devices.
My morning routine generally consisted of breakfast, whilst checking Facebook, my personal emails, and my work emails (although I was going to be in the office in under an hour). Then, I’d turn on the TV and watch the news—and a similar kind of routine would play out at the other end of the day, over dinner.
I recently did three months traveling, and I spent time living in yoga ashrams and Buddhist temples where there was no TV or internet. Surprisingly, I found I didn’t miss it, and it freed up so much of my time each day—time I’d spend enjoying my meal, being present, noticing the birds in the trees, and talking to those around me.
The most amazing thing was that when I returned to civilization and logged on to check the news, Facebook, and emails—I hadn’t really missed anything. But I’d gained so much more. I’d experienced fully what I was doing. I’d not been distracted by stories that didn’t matter or that would have a negative impact on my state of mind. My mind had become de-cluttered and focused, and I felt a certain clarity, which I enjoyed.
Equally though technology is critical for my business and staying in touch with friends and family on the other side of the world, it’s about balance. It’s less about the devices themselves and more about our relationship with them. Resolving to check them less, keeping them away from the bedroom (or the table at meal times), and having a detox day without technology are all great ways of disconnecting, so you can reconnect with yourself, your loved ones, and life.
3. Go for a walk in nature. Unfortunately, our reliance on technology has led to more sedentary lives and more time spent indoors. We are losing our connection with the natural world as a result, and we’re spending less time out in nature.
This is leading to an increase in obesity due to lack of exercise and an alarming vitamin D deficiency in many developed nations. Getting outside helps on both counts, but there are other advantages to being in nature. It gives us an important connection with the natural world that we are losing touch with.
These days, we spend so much time connected to our virtual world (or inside our offices or homes), we sometimes forget where we came from and what is necessary for our health. We no longer live off the land, and many of us are confined to cities living and working in concrete towers. As a result, we have lost touch of our connection with nature, which is vital for our health.
The connection we get from being in nature utilizes all our senses and brings clarity and focus, which is why sometimes when you’re struggling for inspiration in the office or to solve a complex problem, it helps to take a stroll to clear your mind and restore peace.
Time in nature is beneficial for those with depression. It enhances mood and self-esteem, and it reduces anger, confusion, and tension—and has also been linked to lower blood pressure, reducing pain, and strengthening the immune system.
This doesn’t mean we have to head up into the hills and go to live in a cave on the mountainside. It’s about stepping away now and then to take a break and reconnect with our natural world.
4. Be in the present moment. We spend a lot of time striving toward our future goals, planning our life and the things we want. When we’re not doing this, we’re often thinking about the past—things we wished we could change or things we’d like to have gone differently. Worrying about what people have said or what they may think, regretting our actions. This takes us away from the present—and, of course, that is life.
Life happens in the now, and if we’re not there with it, we miss it. Being present makes us happier, reduces our worries, and also means we can be a lot more aware of what is going on around us and be able to appreciate that. We are living life when we are present, and it’s a more peaceful place to be.
5. Be mindful. In our busy lives, we are often on autopilot. We get lost in the doing at the expense of being. (Like when you arrive at work and don’t remember the commute.) It’s when we are focusing on other things—and our mind has wandered—that we are not paying attention, and life passes us by. Being mindful is a great way to stay present.
In a world where multitasking is seen as a necessary skill, being mindful is the opposite. It means slowing down to focus on one thing at a time, one moment at a time. Full concentration, unwavering attention on one thing. This can be as simple as breathing mindfully and being aware of the breath.
We can do this whether we are sitting meditating, in the car driving to work, or in line at the supermarket. Mindful walking is one of my favorites, as there is no destination in mind; it is slow and deliberate, I’m not rushing from point A to point B, or lost in thought about what went on at work that day. I’m mindfully absorbed in the joy of walking, feeling the ground beneath my feet, listening to the birds in the trees, feeling the breeze in my face, watching the sun in the sky, and taking the time to (quite literally) smell the roses.
Through mindfulness, we can reconnect with our self and become healthier in mind, body, and soul.
6. Be grateful. Happiness is not about getting what we want, but loving what we have. Happy people practice gratitude. They appreciate all the small things along the way. Every day, they find something to be grateful for, and this brings a sense of peace.
Today, for me, it was the sunshine, getting outside in nature, and the beautiful dinner I cooked. When we learn to appreciate the small things—and be grateful for the things we’re lucky enough to have—it brings perspective on what it is we really need in life to be content.
Anyone can incorporate this into their daily life. A simple, everyday practice that trains the mind to look for the good reminds us of all the things we have to be happy about, and it puts us in a positive frame of mind to help see the silver lining in passing clouds.
7. Positive thinking. Our minds are such important tools; they dictate how we feel and act according to what we think. Negative thoughts make us un-peaceful and unhappy—yet, so often, we find ourselves exposed to negativity. For instance, when we watch the evening news, have arguments at work, feel resentment or jealousy toward others, or feeling like we’re not good enough or that life is too hard.
Our minds have a predisposition to think negatively. From an evolutionary standpoint, this helped us predict what bad things might happen, so we could figure out how to avoid them. However, in today’s world, it’s contributing to a lack of inner peace.
However, like any muscle, the mind can be trained. Using methods like practicing gratitude and positive thinking, we are conditioning our minds to think differently. We are training our brains and re-wiring our neural pathways, so that being positive becomes our default, and our minds can then go there by themselves, making them much more peaceful as a result.
Life will always have its ups and downs, and each day will bring new challenges, but despite what’s going on around us, we can learn to control what’s going on within us; how we deal with these challenges, how we train our minds, how we look after ourselves and build resilience, and all of this will mean we also restore our inner peace.
Author: Jess Stuart
Image: Instagram @elephantjournal
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social editor: Callie Rushton