You know those people who radiate a sense of calm, who make you feel more relaxed simply by being in their presence? I've always envied those people, those who don't seem to have a racing mind, a constant need to be somewhere other than where they are. (In all honesty, that's one of the reasons I started this site — a desire to be more present, to keep calm in the face of any situation by not dwelling on the past or fretting about the future.) Unfortunately, staying calm and relaxed doesn't come easy to me.
Even though I spend much of my time doing "relaxing" things (like reading), I still have a tough time keeping a sense of calm. Since the concept of keeping calm is something I really admire and I would love to embrace a more relaxed, easy-going attitude, I came up with a list of six tricks for bringing my attention back to the moment and focusing on a more serene state of mind.
PUT ON THE PRESSURE.
Sounds like the opposite of what you'd want to do to keep calm, right? I'm not talking about putting mental pressure on yourself (we all have enough of that!). I'm talking about the physical kind of pressure. Putting pressure on the right places on your body can help ease tension and help create a sense of calm. I'm sure there are tons of key, calm-inducing pressure points, but I recommend starting with this easy one (especially since you can do it almost anywhere!): Using your thumb, apply pressure to the place where your palm meets your wrist at the base of your little (pinkie) finger. Gently massage that spot for two minutes. Even if the whole pressure point thing doesn't do it for you, taking a two-minute timeout can help put your mind at ease.
INDULGE YOUR INNER ARTIST.
A few months ago, my boyfriend's mom introduced me to the concept of Zentangle, which is basically a kind of meditative drawing, in which you create art by repeating patterns over and over again. It's the kind of thing anyone can do — so no "I'm not artistic!" excuses — and it truly does help to create a sense of calm. Because you're not necessarily worried about what you're creating (all of the patterns somehow seem to create beautiful things, without even planning ahead!), you're able to just create without the stress of how it will turn out. It's also a great opportunity to get in a meditative-like zone, in which you're concentrating so hard on the patterns that you're not worrying about the day-to-day stress of your life.
SWITCH OFF YOUR PHONE.
This is an incredibly difficult thing for me (and most people!) to do. We're all so connected to our electronic devices that it can be a challenge to separate from them, even for a short time. However, I've noticed that my phone (much as I love it!) often competes with a sense of calm. Because there's so much to do on my phone — Instagram! Texts! Emails! Pinterest! Feedly! Buzzfeed! — I'm frequently frazzled and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and inspiration found on the tiny little screen. I think there's a lot of value in staying connected, but there's also a lot to be gained from putting the phone down for a little while each day and focusing on what's happening in real life. Focusing on the present moment truly helps create a more calm mindset.
GIVE P.M.R. A TRY.
Whenever I have trouble falling asleep, I almost always use Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) to relaz myself. It's a simple activity that's all about squeezing and releasing your muscles to get your body into a more relaxed state. First, you start at your toes, squeezing the muscles there for 5-10 seconds, releasing for 15-20 seconds. Do this for each muscle group from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. And don't forget about the little muscles (like fingers and brows!). After you've squeezed all of your muscles individually, tighten them all together at once and hold for 5-10 seconds. This always helps me feel more relaxed and it's pretty easy to do almost anywhere (like, say, the bathroom at work?) to achieve a bit of serenity.
INHALE YOUR CALM.
When I was a kid, I had a lavender eye mask that I bought at Bath & Body Works. I'm not much of a scent person (I don't wear perfume and I usually dislike when others do), but I loved putting that little silky eye mask on before I went to bed, inhaling deeply to relax myself with its lavender aroma. Lavender in particular has a calming scent, and you can find it these days in all sorts of products (like this and this and this). Pick up something lavender-scented and inhale it when you need an instant hit of calm. Chamomile, sandalwood, jasmine, and rose are also said to have calming effects. There might also be scents that are calming to you — ones that remind you of childhood or a loved one — that could work well to help calm you whenever you're feeling stressed.
TAKE A RELAXING WALK.
Talking a walk is a great way to literally step away from stress and find a calmer state of mind. Even if you don't walk far, just getting away from your desk or home for a few minutes can help you feel more at peace with yourself. If possible, try as hard as you can not to think about whatever's worrying you or stressful when you go for a walk. Instead, strive to pay attention to the world around you, observing what you see from a neutral point of view. Ideally, it's most helpful to take a walk completely in silence, but if, like me, you find that a bit dull, put on the Relaxing Walk Playlist I created on YouTube while walking to direct your mind to a more tranquil place.
A great way to cultivate a sense of calm in your life is by getting to know yourself better. You can discover more about yourself and what matters to you by downloading a copy of Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.