When asked what was eluding him, a dear friend once answered, “A constant peace of mind.”
I had to chuckle a little and immediately replied, “Oh, is that all?” Nothing like setting the bar really high.
His response wasn’t unique though. I believe many aspire to a constant peace of mind, and I know many years ago I did. It was my definition of having made it. If I could only find a way to control my mind in such a masterful way, well, I would call that success.
There is only one problem with that fallacy. It’s impossible.
If you are reading this, you were born human. And we all, each and every one of us humans have one thing in common.
We were not born to experience a constant state of anything. That’s what makes us so dynamic and unique.
Being human means we pulse through emotional cycles. Any attempt to suppress or deny a certain percentage of those emotional cycles (the ones we are sometimes culturally encouraged to repress, like sadness, anger, or fear) unfailingly results in overt harm to the body, mind or psyche (most of which can be quantified scientifically) in the form of stress-related illness.
The goal is not to deny psychological cycles, like increased anxiety or depression (both increase in millions of people, directly correlated with this holiday season), but to move through them with acceptance and self-love, as well as skill.
We can’t control what emotions we’re cycling through any more than we can control the trajectory of the stars, or the weather. We can, however, control what actions we take through any emotional cycle. We don’t have to listen to the inner voice that tells us what actions to take when we know those very actions are likely what triggered the dark cycle to begin with, or could certainly compound it.
For example, when I go through a painful cycle (generally triggered by some collective or political madness), the first thing my inner voice tells me to do is sit on the couch and binge-stream some really dark shit on Netflix. I’m feeling incredibly low vibrationally, so of course my psyche tells me to match that energy (like loves like when we’re feeling low), with some well-reviewed series about a mass murderer or something equally disturbing. But I have come to know that listening to this particular voice only exacerbates my pain. I have also come to know that my own peace of mind can be restored by cultivating a different vibration through activities that speak to my heart, not my embattled psyche.
I’ll share with you my own 25 ways to create peace of mind formula that I call upon to work through my painful cycles, activities that create surges in serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine– powerful neuromodulators in the brain, responsible for feelings of love, hope, purpose, and peace of mind. The actual process of creating a list, a psychospiritual first aid kit, for when you’re feeling so low you can’t think straight (because that’s exactly what depression does) is healing and energizing in and of itself.
Creating Peace of Mind… Any one, or any combination of these activities are guaranteed to lift and restore.
1.) Read your favorite spiritual author. You know who they are. Just seeing their work gives you a little boost. Get cozy, grab yourself a cup of tea, turn on your Himalayan salt lamp and devour those good thoughts.
2.) Give yourself the luxury of letting some things slide. For a week or so while you tend to your psyche, pay close attention to only what feels good while also knowing what you need to heal. For example, you might think that drinking a whole bottle of wine with dinner might feel good, but also know full well that it is not what your body/mind/spirit needs to heal. Do what feels good and makes you stronger.
3.) Listen to a podcast. There are countless podcasts available in the vibration of motivation, healing, psyche, wellness, and spiritual connection. The key is to find a series that feels energizing and healing, something that puts a smile on your face. Find a comfortable spot to sit while you’re listening, or listen while you’re driving, or cooking, or walking the dog. Let yourself absorb the energy of the transformational words.
4.) Go outside. Even if it’s only for five minutes. Point your face to the sun (it’s okay if it’s behind the clouds), close your eyes, and breathe in the nourishing rays.
5.) Listen to music. Experiment, if you aren’t already fully aware of what you positively respond to, with the type of music that accelerates your peace of mind. Ask yourself what you need. Is it more energy? Is it stress-relief? Find the vibe of that, whatever it may be, in music form.
6.) Go for a walk. For me, this has to be in nature, somewhere beautiful. But any walk will do, any distance will do. It’s a natural pep-talk for the body.
7.) Watch something hilarious. Laughing is a hella powerful therapy. If you have to take a mental health day, only to watch back-to-back funny movies for hours on end, do so.
8.) Adopt a perspective practice. This means stepping away from the stress and intentionally seeing the big picture. The term, First World Problem can be a powerful reminder of the frenzy we sometimes spin ourselves into over the, frankly, stupidest things. We all succumb to this occasionally, none of us are immune. My perspective practice is to visualize myself on the moon, sitting in the darkness, in my comfy moon chaise lounge, looking down on myself from above. This never fails to rescue me from my own lower-consciousness spiral. I use moon images as screen-savers to constantly remind myself of the power of perspective.
9.) Go ahead, watch those Cat Videos! I may or may not have spent an entire evening watching YouTube videos of Teddy the Porcupine (I totally did!), squealing my way out of a deep, dark, burgeoning depression one night, shortly after the last presidential election. Watch here as Teddy tries his first acorn! (You’re welcome.)
10.) Find an uplifting hashtag on social media. Social media can be a dangerous place if you’re in a dark spiral, because there is so much opportunity to feed that vibration (like my instinct to watch scary television when I’m already down). BUT, navigated skillfully and with intention, it can be a beautiful place. I like to search for the hashtags, #Whimsy, #Kindness, or #PositiveVibes on Instagram. If I only have a few minutes and I need a quick smile, this is an easy uplift.
11.) Step away from the news. For as long as you need to. Don’t apologize to anyone. Until you feel healed enough and get some energy back, you’re only going to gravitate toward the stuff that further knocks the wind out of you. To take positive action, you need a certain foundation of peace of mind. It’s okay to recover before you get back into your action place. Not everyone is built to be a warrior standing on the front lines of activism. There are plenty of things you can do that you were inherently built for, that will be equally important in the healing of this country and this planet. Find what that is for you.
12.) Step away from the sugar. When you’re feeling stressed it is likely that your endocrine system will be yelling, “Give me cheap forms of energy!” in the form of pasta, bread, candy, and pastries (I almost put myself in a sugar coma with the leftover Halloween candy this year). Brace yourself to make a different choice. Sugar makes nobody stronger. There are countless studies that prove that our gastrointestinal health is directly related to our psychological well being. Sugar has been directly linked to higher frequency, intensity, and duration of anxiety and depression.
13.) Find a furry therapist. Get on the floor and let your dogs pounce all over you. Sit with your kitty on your lap and listen to her purr. Go visit your friend’s horse and kiss that big silky nostril (way more therapeutic than you’d think). Find a shelter that encourages play time with the animal babies waiting for their new homes. I don’t care who it is, find a non-human member of the animal kingdom and listen to what they have to say to you. I mean that literally. We don’t spend nearly enough time conversing with animals.
14.) Use essential oils. While I was recuperating this summer after an intense surgical experience, my husband bought me an essential oil diffuser. Listening to its soft fragrant mist whir out of the bamboo cylinder was a delight to my senses. Scents are built to either energize or relax you. Find one that you feel you need and bring your oft-neglected olfactory system into your peace of mind healing.
15.) Try mood-boosting color therapy sunglasses. I am so not kidding, these babies work. Plus they’re just plain fun to wear around the house.
16.) Find your version of meditation. Certain versions of meditation are not for everybody. Meditation is so personal and some find that a more movement based practice, like yoga or qigong, is more useful for them. The point is, there are myriad forms out there for you to experiment and play with. There are too many scientific articles to cite which point to a direct correlation between a more consistent peace of mind and a regular meditation practice. Mindfulness allows us to witness our passing cycles without agonizing over them. The Zen saying is, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional,” which is an internal knowing that we strive for in our meditation practice.
17.) Reach out to a friend. I am notoriously bad at asking for help. I’m supposed to be the professional here. I’m the one that people turn to when they need psychospiritual help. I can’t ask for it myself, right? So. Wrong. This is such a classic pattern with those in any healing profession. I have learned to come out of the introversion shell I retreat to when I’m hurting and send out the S.O.S. This is a work in progress for me, but I’m definitely trying. I see improvement (yay, me!). I hope you make your own progress here, because it’s that important.
18.) Explore. The brain loves novelty. There is nothing more energizing than taking a day off, hitting the open road (or the meandering trail) and experiencing a new location, a new mountain range, a new restaurant, a new park, a new ecosystem…!
19.) Pray. Ask the universe to help you. Ask God, if you use that terminology. Ask the Ancestors. Ask the Archangels. Ask your spirits. Ask your power animals. Ask your favorite tree. Ask your beloved family member who has crossed over. It doesn’t matter to whom you pray, just hold nothing back when you need help. There are forces waiting to help you, but you have to ask. They’re aggravatingly polite like that (says the person who hates to ask for help).
20.) Create a soothing ritual. For me, I use a candle placed on my altar filled with sacred and beautiful spiritual objects. Lighting it immediately strengthens my peace of mind. Ritual is so important and in our busy world it is too often overlooked. The mind/spirit/body/psyche immediately feel cared for when they begin to recognize the purpose of a ritual as pure nourishment and love, nothing more.
21.) Journal. I think I’d be a raving lunatic if I couldn’t journal. Right now I’m having a pretty bothersome carpal tunnel flare-up in my dominant hand and holding a pen is impossible. I can feel my brain unraveling (okay, maybe just fraying a little). Write. It. Down. There is nothing so soothing for an anxious mind. Get yourself a journal you love and a pen that practically writes by itself and purge your thoughts. It has been found that using a keyboard does not offer the same healing effects as a pen in hand connected to paper. Unplug and start writing.
22.) Find an uplifting blog. If you don’t have time to read a book, then find one article a day to read during your lunch hour. Let it be something that you feel you learn from, something that soothes you and energizes you at the same time.
23.) Clean out a closet. Decluttering can have an enormous effect on your well being. Donate stuff to a charitable cause and you’ve just doubled the self-healing power.
24.) Focus on what’s right in your world. Not on what’s wrong. Force yourself to create a list in your mind every morning, and throughout the day. For example, what’s right in my world right in this moment: I have a good brace that’s helping me type through carpal tunnel. My dog Koda is lying by my side and his happiness is so apparent. I love what I do so much, I’m doing it on a Saturday. I’m warm… Try it again in an hour. Try it several times throughout the day, just focusing on what is working right now in this moment, in your life. It’s not even so much what you’re grateful for, though that’s a powerful exercise in its own right. It’s about what is working, what is right, what is not causing you stress in this moment. This is a brain exercise to create intention in the brain to focus on what’s functioning well. If we do this we distract our amygdala from constantly scanning for dangers, which is what it’s designed to do, but can really stress us out if we’re not careful.
25.) Create a visual, or a symbol for your own peace of mind. You can close your eyes and ask your highest consciousness to show it to you. It generally will produce an image for you fairly immediately. Remind yourself of this image frequently throughout the day. Tell yourself this image is a symbol of your healing, of your self-compassion, of your rapidly increasing peace of mind. It will start to create tranquility in your mind, almost immediately.
I invite you to create your own list of behavioral medicines like this for you to dip into whenever you need a little extra love and comfort. Or, use mine. I won’t mind. When your peace of mind increases, mine does too. That’s also a delightful human trait. We’re all in this together.
Also, please, if you need anything that this list can’t help you with, never hesitate to ask me for help.