Why have so many people made life so difficult for themselves? Living in a chaos that has become a normal part of their day-to-day life. They know they feel stressed and are worrying about their job, their family, their finances, and the future but they don’t know how to change things to allow them to live their life in a calmer way.
When we live our life full-on, without a minute to ourselves it is all too easy to become overwhelmed as we are always so busy getting on with each day and spending too much time firefighting all the little problems as they arise to stop and calmly reassess our life.
Our days are so full of the pressures of family, commuting, working and financial pressures that the next bit of unwelcome news or problem that needs to be dealt with can be enough to leave us feeling frazzled, helpless, and unable to cope.
When our daily life already seems to be full of worry and stressful thinking our mental health suffers and it does not take a lot to move the dial to overload. Like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
But wait a minute, why are we living like this? Isn’t life meant to be enjoyable? Yet we always have too many upsets, bills, and family problems to be able to find what we are all looking for – a little bit of peace and calmness among the turmoil. A little oasis of peace that allows us to deal with life’s situations in a detached and controlled way, instead of jumping into every situation both feet first and fire hose ready to put out the next fire.
Everyone tries to find peace and tranquillity in the midst of all this chaos and each person will use whatever they have always used to seek a little relief from the humdrum of daily life: alcohol, food, shopping, smoking or perhaps you go to the gym, read or even finding peace in the church. Whatever you do, all these things have one thing in common, they are something outside of us, they are something we are using to make ourselves feel better but none of htese things solve the problem of why we felt stressed in the first place.
Yes, it is true they all have the ability to change how you are feeling in the moment, they all bring some relief in different ways, but they do not solve the problem of why we do not feel content and at peace all the time, even in the midst of a daily crisis.
“You can make your life as easy or as difficult as you choose to make it”
Any book on mindfulness, Buddhism and spirituality will tell you to look inside yourself for the answers, but what does this mean and how do you do this?
They will tell you not to try and analyse your mind to find the answer, but to look for a feeling. You already know what this feeling this, you may not have recognised what it was you were feeling at the time nor why it felt so good. There are times in everyone’s life when they feel good without artificial stimulants. Perhaps you have been on a holiday and one day you just sit and find yourself watching the world go by, maybe you are watching the waves of the ocean ebb and flow or a view of undulating mountains far in the distance and you feel, for a short time, a peacefulness that seems to penetrate into every part of your mind and body. Right there in that moment surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty of the nature you stopped all your thoughts. There were no should have, could have, would have about the past and there was no crystal ball gazing on the potential problems that may arise in the future. Right there at that moment you felt at one with nature, and your mind was free of thought.
For that moment, as you sit there being a part of nature, it is all there is, and you feel a calmness that you want to hold onto forever. If only you didn’t have to return home to your daily life and all the problems and worries that you have left behind for that brief time.
Why can’t it always be like this? The answer is it can if only we would let it. If only we would allow all those worrying thoughts to just float away and allow a calming space in between the thoughts to come through.
How do we set out on this pathway to peace and tranquillity?
- Recognise your thoughts for what they are, they are not part of you. They only become part of us when we grab hold of them and start to chew on them like a dog with a bone. If it helps you then name them before you send them on their way:
- That’s the past – I am no longer interested, I am only going one way in life, I am letting that thought go.
- That’s the future – I do not have a crystal ball, so I have no way of knowing what will happen in future, I am letting that thought go.
- That’s self-criticism – I do not listen to negativity anymore, off you go
- That’s judging other people – I do not do that anymore. I focus on my life and let other people live their life how they choose.
When we name our thoughts we shine a light of awareness on them, and as thoughts don’t like to be seen, it is easier to just let them go. As you start to do this, you will find it easier and easier to notice any negative thoughts as they arise and just walk away from them. Let them know in no uncertain terms that you are not interested in those types of thoughts anymore.
2. Get out in nature and spend just 5 minutes looking at a plant or a tree and just imagine everything about it, how it came to be there, how it grew, what it has seen, all the colours and textures of the leaves, the aroma. Recognising its beauty and realising that you are part of that wonderful nature that is all around us. It is not Nature and us, it is only Nature, and we are all a part of the same universe.
3. Get curious again, like a child. See everything around you as if for the first time. Go for a walk somewhere new, eat in a different restaurant, read a book by a new author, watch a different type of TV show, buy a magazine about a hobby you have never tried, or try a new recipe with ingredients you have never eaten before, go on holiday to a new place. Get off that treadmill you have created for yourself and start living again. Stop doing everything the way you have always done it, day after day. Taking the same route to work, parking in the same place, buying the same lunch, going home to watch the same TV shows, eating the same things, and drinking the same drinks, on and on every day a repeat of the day before. Is that it? Is that what you want your life to be? If you don’t make the changes then no one will make them for you. Get curious and discover all the wonders of this fascinating world.
4. Ask yourself “What is right about my life right now” and think of the positives in your life. Stop thinking of all the things that are wrong. This changes your focus of attention to all the things that are good abour your life and when we think of all the positives in our life it is hard not to feel better naturally. If you catch yourself thinking of all your problems, switch your focus of attention to all positive things that are part of your life at this moment. Even if is only a warm cup of coffee on a winters day; having a roof over your head; having the ability to take a walk ourside. All the little things add up to a whole lot of goodness.
5. When you think about the future stop thinking of all the things that could go wrong and switch to thinking what if it all works out ok. A large part of our everyday stressful thinking stems from worrying about the future and all the catastrophes that lie ahead as we examine in minute detail everything and anything that can go wrong. Catching yourself doing this and recognising that these worries are just your imagination and that nothing bad has happened yet. Plan for the future as best you can and then just allow it all to unfold. Deal with problems if and when they arise. What is the point of all this needless worry over something that may never happen?
6. Next time you go for a walk instead of marching it out and concentrating only on the number of steps you want to do and the finish line, take the time to look at the trees and plants you see, and how many varied species of plants can you identify? How many birds and butterflies can you see? Stop and breathe in the fresh air and notice the beauty that is all around you. Explore, don’t always take the same route day after day, find new pathways and new things to see and always stay curious. Keep the mind fresh and interested in what discoveries you will make today.
Peace and tranquillity will come when we recognise that all those worry loops and stressful thinking are of our own making. We are taking our thoughts seriously instead of watching them come, recognising them for what they are, just a thought and then letting them float away. When we do this, we allow that lovely feeling of being at peace with ourselve to come through.