With a hectic career, family life and social calendar, it can be difficult to find calm amidst the chaos.
Whilst it might not seem like it, one expert believes calmness is all around us if you just know where to look – and finding it will be hugely beneficial for your health and wellbeing.
Sophie Golding has penned How To Find Calm – a collection of tranquil tips, soothing statements and relaxing activities to help reach a state of joyful and mindful serenity.
Here, she shares her top tips for finding calm in modern life…
The average human brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, which work together to create more than 100 trillion connections. Yet, despite (or perhaps because of) the brain’s complexity, many people encounter a common dilemma: we can get so caught up in our ability to interpret and process multiple scenarios and problems that we have difficulty noticing the silence – the silence behind our cognition, behind our constant internal dialogue and behind the tangle of automatic thoughts that can disrupt our inner peace. Learning how to move beyond the noise of the mind and enter that quiet space can help to restore your inner calm in an increasingly chaotic world.
We have perhaps as many as 70,000 thoughts every day. That’s a lot of thinking – and much of it is automatic. The first step to finding calm is recognizing that these thoughts are not facts: they are simply your mind attempting to interpret the world around you. Because of this, you don’t have to believe everything you think. A weight will lift from your shoulders the moment you truly know this.
ESCAPE MIND TRAPS
A mind trap is a repetitive thought pattern that can lead you into a state of anxiety – for example, constantly worrying about an upcoming event. By noticing this cycle and then reframing your thoughts, you can put a stop to the mind trap that’s ruining your peace of mind. Next time you notice yourself stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, do something physical to interrupt the pattern: hum a song or stamp your feet – anything you like. This physical distraction can give you a brief moment to mentally pause and “switch off” the cycle, before you consciously think about something else.
REALIZE YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS
This is a powerful realization and one that can be deeply calming. To begin, spend a little time noticing your thoughts. Really listen to that voice in your head. What is it saying? Often, it will be interpreting situations or simply narrating – detailing everything you see or hear, as well as chattering away about things you need to do or remember. It might be voicing your worries. It is constant – and it can become draining. Noticing this inner voice gives you the opportunity to step back from it. From this place of distance, it’s easier to accept the following: if you can notice your thoughts, then it means that you are not your thoughts. Every time your thoughts start to overwhelm you – or your inner voice gets too loud – spend a moment simply noticing them, without judgement, and reconnect with the silent awareness behind them. This is a place of true calm, and it is available to you whenever you wish to go there.
SILENCE YOUR INNER CRITIC
Do you find it difficult to silence your inner critic? Meditation, exercise, reading and yoga can all help to press the mute button – try a few of these options to find what works for you. Everyone is different – you’ll know you’ve found the perfect remedy when you start to feel peaceful and able to notice the silence within yourself.
OVERRIDE YOUR CURRENT THINKING
Don’t believe every thought you have. For example, the thought “I’m not good enough” is neither helpful nor true. When it pops into your head,
take a moment to think of some examples that prove otherwise.
CULTIVATE A POSITIVE MINDSET
Do you find that phrases such as “I hate Mondays” are the first to pop into your head each day? If you’ve slowly spiralled into a pattern of negative thinking, it’s time to start cultivating a more positive mindset. Start to challenge those negative thoughts, by reframing them in a more positive light. For example, do you really hate Mondays? It’s likely that good things will happen during the day, such as that first sip of hot tea or lunch with a friend. Focus on these aspects, rather than making sweeping negative statements, and seek out positive news stories to give yourself a boost.
MAKE IT A HABIT
The more you override negative thought patterns, the easier it will become. Of course, we all go through difficult periods in life, but over time, you will find it easier to adopt a positive mindset in the face of adversity.
Things you can do to help you switch off and unwind
MAKE TIME FOR SIMPLE PLEASURES
Scattering each day with small moments that make you happy is a fantastic way to escape stress. From using a zingy and refreshing shower gel, to wearing your favourite jumper, do something that puts a smile on your face.
HEAD FOR A WALK
Walking can do wonders for your mental well-being – in fact, regular walks are proven to improve your self-esteem and overall mood, as well as lowering stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression. Try a gentle stroll to calm your soul.
HAVE A LONG SOAK IN THE BATH
Slipping into a warm bath at the end of a long day is wonderfully restorative and peaceful. Add your favourite aromatherapy oil or bubbles and light some scented candles for an extra dose of calm.
GET LOST IN A GOOD BOOK
There’s nothing like curling up on the sofa with a page-turning novel to help you feel calm. Indeed, studies have shown that reading can help to reduce stress levels. So, go on – dive into a new or favourite book and get lost in its story.
HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX
Constantly checking online social platforms can be potentially damaging to your self-esteem, and leave you feeling more lonely and anxious. So have a detox, even just for one day each week, to reconnect with both yourself and others in a more genuine and compassionate way.
CREATE A TO-DO LIST
Writing down everything you need to get done each day, and then crossing it off the list once completed, can help you to feel less chaotic and more in control, as well as providing evidence of all you’ve achieved that day. Be realistic, though, to make sure you don’t overload yourself.
HUG A LOVED ONE
Physical contact is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and boost levels of oxytocin (the “love hormone”) in the body. A quick hug from a loved one or friend could be a great calming influence.
HAVE A LAUGH
Laughter can be the perfect antidote to a stressful day, relaxing the body and releasing feel-good hormones to create a natural high. Try watching a TV comedy or listening to a funny podcast, and enjoy a good belly laugh!
TRY MINDFUL COLOURING
Colouring is a wonderful way to unwind. There are plenty of adult colouring books available to help you become more mindful as you find your creative groove, so pick up those pencils and rediscover a childhood love.
Spending time barefoot can be incredibly grounding. Try going barefoot each time you stand in your garden, or when you visit a park or beach. Visualize yourself connecting with the earth and imagine any stress melting away.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to step outside and look up. What can you see? Perhaps it’s buildings – homes, office blocks, monuments or skyscrapers – rising up from the ground
where you stand; maybe it’s treetops, an interlacing of leaves and branches. What then? Can you see sky? Is it cloudy? Sunny? Take a moment to breathe in the ever-expanding space above you. Taking a short while to appreciate the vastness of the sky can sometimes put our own issues or problems into perspective, making us realize they are perhaps not as significant as we thought they were.