Feel like you’re completely losing your cool? You’re not alone. Our busy lives today create a recipe for “anti-calm” with a side of “how will I make it through this week without losing my mind?” How did this happen? The internet, especially social websites, may be the key culprit, causing us to constantly compare and contrast and question our lives. We begin to wonder if we’re doing the right job, making enough money, surrounding ourselves with the right people and on and on. It’s a never ending struggle between FOMO (fear of missing out) and being completely overwhelmed with our schedules.
Half the articles you read on the internet today talk about stress being a rampant problem in our society, so learning to control that stress can truly help us create our best lives. The good news is, there are a lot of great ways to carve out time (don’t tell me you’re too busy!) to practice self care in order to be more present, productive and successful in every aspect of our lives.
Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center // CC 2.0
1. Get to know the vagus nerve.
Yes, this nerve sounds like the name of a planet, but that actually may be fitting because our whole body revolves around this nerve. Vagus, latin for “wandering” is the epicenter for messages travelling throughout the body and organs to travel to our brain, therefore monitoring the key processes in the body, including mood. You may notice a different sensation in your body when you think of something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy, see someone you love, or practice compassion with others. Doing any of these things on a daily basis will help keep the vagus nerve happy and healthy and therefore decrease stress, inflammation and increase emotional stability.
2. Practice gratitude daily.
Regardless of how hard things get we all have something to be grateful for everyday! Remembering this may be a challenge sometimes but it’s so important to our health to practice gratitude daily. According to recent studies, “Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions.”
3. Ditch social media.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably tempted to ignore this one and skip right on down to forest bathing, that sounds much more pleasant. But wait, don’t skip ahead, this one is so important! Social media is causing us to go crazy. We are constantly comparing, judging, shaming, stressing and over thinking everything instead of being present and living in the here in and now. We lose focus on our own goals and get jealous of those that have more than us. The thing is, though, social media is not reality! We all have ups and downs, good moments and bad. That’s life– and is what makes our lives rich and teaches us important lessons. Try this: only check social media twice per day, once in the am and once in the pm and only for brief amounts of time. Also, remove all social apps from your phone to avoid mindlessly checking. I recently tried this and was amazed at how much more focused and creative I was able to be with all that freed up head space!
Image by Rudolf Vlček // CC 2.0
4. Go forest bathing.
Um, what? I know, I thought the same thing when I recently read about this one in a wellness trend journal and it really is as good as it sounds! Developed in the 1980’s by the Japanese, “Shinrin-yoku” is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” The Japanese have long believed that simply spending time in nature is the key to optimal health, and they’re right! Step one, go outside and be in nature, no technology allowed. Step two, lie down or sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breathe, allow the sounds around you to seep into your body, as if you were in a warm bath. Hopefully you’ll feel your stress levels drop and waves of relaxation role over you!
5. Heal your gut.
The link between your stomach and mind is key to calmness and emotional well-being. Scientists and naturopaths have been seeing and studying the tremendous connection between healthy gut bacteria and positive mood for some time, but it’s really only just becoming part of the mainstream vernacular in recent years. For instance, patients on SSRI’s for mood disorders are looking for alternate ways to ease stress and anxiety and doing so through probiotic supplements. When the intestinal lining is strong and flora in balance the bacteria can communicate with receptors in the brain and really impact our emotional well being and our sense of ease. The best way to keep these bacteria in check? Add in more legumes and leafy greens to the diet.
Remember when you were a teenager and kept a journal? If so, you can probably recall how it helped you work through life’s challenges while also acting as a place to process emotions and ease anxiety around daily life. Journalling is a great place to write down daily gratitude notes and personal goals to work towards. By doing so you’re much more likely to hold yourself accountable to reach the goals you set! Reaching goals makes us feel accomplished; leading to more positivity, increased desire to exercise and get out to meet new people, etc. Putting pen to paper is a win-win all around, and maybe you’re realize there is a writer inside you after all when you begin writing daily.
Image by: Caleb Roenigk // CC 2.0
Although we never truly stop breathing there are a lot of times throughout our day where our bodies became tense and breathing becomes very shallow and stagnant. This is a sure sign of stress and sometimes we don’t even realize it until we’re completely tense! We’re so “in our heads” that all we can focus on is the task at hand, or whatever disrupted our calm. In these moments, it’s important to immediately reconnect with the breathe. Taking full deep breaths can dramatically improve your sense of calm and wellbeing in only seconds!
Movement is an amazing way to reduce stress and increase calm in the mind and body. Start by finding the right exercise for you, this could be running, yoga, cycling, swimming, even crossfit (ouch) and think of it as a form of meditation. Make your exercise time a high priority and let it be a time to do only that one thing, letting go of other stresses and allowing the mind and body to release some steam!
9. Train your brain.
Ever tried forcing a smile and noticed that you immediately feel happier? Making your brain think that you’re happier than you are is the first step in making those feelings a reality. The same goes for regaining calm. If you are upset with someone, practicing compassion and changing your attitude around an experience with them can shift the negative emotions into a more positive response.
Hopefully most of these practices aren’t a huge burden on your life and allow you to shift your thought patterns and really open you up to feelings of positivity and contentment in your own life. Chances are, if you found the Spire blog you’re probably interested in finding more calm and well-being leading to increased happiness across the board.
Do you have a calming practice that you enjoy that didn’t make this list? If so, please share in the comments!