Building Peace of Mind: Unveiling 5 Habits for Inner Calm

Building Peace of Mind: Unveiling 5 Habits for Inner Calm

In our bustling world, our minds often resemble a tempest, a whirlwind of concerns, tasks, regrets, self-criticism, and an overload of information.

Seeking solace, we grasp at quick fixes – a pill, deep breaths, or a Netflix binge – yearning to calm the chaos within. But peace isn’t an instant remedy; it’s cultivated through gradual change. Join me as we explore the journey toward tranquility, uncovering simple yet powerful mental habits that pave the path to inner calm amidst life’s turbulence.

I engage daily with individuals battling chronic stress, intense anxiety, and ceaseless worries. Remarkably, those who successfully attain a calmer, more tranquil state of mind traverse a gradual path — predominantly through small, consistent changes, particularly in their thought patterns.

Here, I present five mental habits paving the way for a more serene mind.

Embrace Everyday Mindfulness Over Meditation

While mindfulness meditation serves its purpose, I’m advocating for a more straightforward, more commonplace form of mindfulness.

At its essence, mindfulness involves anchoring your attention in the present, diverting it from dwelling on the past’s mistakes or the future’s uncertainties.

The mind is most agitated when flitting between past regrets and future apprehensions. Unfortunately, this tendency to dwell in mental time travel often evolves into a habit, almost an addiction.

In fact, many find themselves addicted to one or both forms of this unhealthy mental escapade:

  • Rumination involves incessantly brooding over past errors, failures, and missed opportunities. While briefly gratifying by falsely offering a sense of control over uncontrollable past events, it exacts a hefty toll: excessive guilt, persistent low mood, apathy, and, at times, spiraling into depression.
  • Worry entails compulsive, unhealthy fretting about imagined future perils. Like rumination, it creates an illusory sense of control, providing transient comfort. However, its cost is steep: chronic stress, anxiety, hypervigilance, fatigue, and sometimes, escalating into panic attacks.

Allowing your mind to wander amid the past and future sets the stage for a turbulent, noisy, and disorderly mind, even if it doesn’t culminate in significant mental health issues.

Yet, with practice, one can harness one’s attention and anchor it firmly in the present moment — this is mindfulness.

Consider this scenario:

You’re queued at the grocery store, held up by an elderly shopper ahead. Your mind instinctively veers towards worrying about missing your next appointment. Intercept this mental journey and redirect your focus to the ‘now.’ Let’s express gratitude for your relative youth and health or casually banter with the shopper behind you. The practice of redirecting your attention to the present fosters ordinary mindfulness.

The more one exercises this routine mindfulness, the better equipped they become to resist unhelpful worries and ruminations, anchoring their focus firmly in the present — a potent recipe for a calmer, more peaceful mind.

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” — Mother Teresa.

Set Lower Expectations, Cultivate Hope

Distinguishing between hopes and expectations can prove beneficial. Although both are natural, one disrupts peace of mind while the other facilitates it.

On the surface, hope and expectation may appear synonymous — both pertain to future desires:

  • “I hope to enroll in a prestigious college.”
  • “I expect a substantial work bonus this year.”
  • “I hope to evade the flu this season.”
  • “Your mother and I expect you to secure As and Bs in academics.”

However, a subtle psychological contrast exists between the two:

  • Expectations harbor the illusion of control; hopes do not.

Allow me to elaborate: When you anticipate an event, you’re banking on it. You hold a particular conviction that it will and should materialize. Yet, this level of certainty about the future is often unwarranted.

We feign understanding the future to alleviate our anxiety concerning it.

The habit of anticipating specific outcomes is a natural consequence of our desire for order and predictability in life — coupled with the relief from anxiety it provides.

However, it’s a fallacy. Many of these expectations inevitably lead to letdowns, resulting in frustration, anger, disappointment, confusion, and more — disturbing the peace of the mind.

Conversely, hope implies a lack of control or certainty from the outset. It’s a mere expression of desire without the delusion of control or certainty. Consequently, our emotional response is far less severe when our hopeful expectations are unmet.

To nurture a tranquil mind, avoid imposing expectations on others and the world. Recognize this tendency as a defense mechanism against life’s inherent uncertainties.

So, aspire for the best but refrain from expecting it. The outcome remains unchanged, yet your mind will express gratitude.

“I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.” — Bill Watterson.

Schedule Worry Time Deliberately

This might sound unconventional, but hear me out…

In my years of guiding individuals wrestling with chronic anxiety and incessant worry, this technique stands as one of the most potent tools when consistently practiced — the art of Scheduled Worry.

Here’s the rationale: Worrying often serves as our mind’s primitive but effective memory mechanism.

Allow me to illustrate:

Imagine yourself driving, spotting a phone number on a billboard you desperately need to recall. However, being behind the wheel, you cannot jot it down. How do you remember it?

You’ll mentally rehearse it repeatedly until you can pen it down upon reaching your destination.

However, this continuous mental rehearsal proves an inadequate memory strategy, consuming substantial mental bandwidth. Engaging in complex tasks while fixating on a random 7-digit number becomes arduous.

But it works in a pinch.

Looping thoughts in your head is your mind’s crude memory strategy. When vital thoughts linger, but your mind doubts its memory, it will bombard you with worries.

To curtail this mental bombardment, consider Scheduled Worry.

This technique involves dedicating consistent daily moments to deliberately worry on paper. Odd as it may sound, committing to this practice yields remarkable results. Acknowledging and jotting your worries signals to your brain that you know crucial concerns and possess a reliable system to address them.

Your mind learns to trust that you’ll remember and handle these significant issues, eventually minimizing spontaneous daily worries. Consequently, your mind embraces tranquility and calmness.

“I am an old man and have known many troubles, but most of them have never happened.” — Mark Twain.

Maintain a Self-Compassion Diary

Attaining peace of mind is implausible if you perpetually criticize yourself.

From a tender age, societal conditioning implies that we must adopt a harsh stance toward ourselves to thrive and contribute to society.

I label this phenomenon as The Drill-Sergeant Theory of Motivation: believing that we can achieve success only by being stringent and rigid in ourselves.

The conduit through which most internalize this motivational theory is via self-talk — the internal dialogue we engage in is surprisingly severe, judgmental, and occasionally, outright harsh:

  • “Why can’t I be more composed in critical conversations?”
  • “They probably think I’m incompetent.”
  • “What’s wrong with me? I’m terrible.”

Many individuals are oblivious to the constant barrage of negative self-talk. This incessant commentary of self-critique persistently chips away at our peace of mind.

Attempting to counter this negative self-dialogue often results in a futile struggle — arguing, distracting oneself, or endeavoring to expunge these thoughts. Paradoxically, the more effort invested, the more entrenched these thoughts become.

The outcome? A mind bereft of peace or calmness.

One cannot expect tranquility if the mind is consistently at war with itself.

The solution lies in gentleness.

Unlearning the deeply ingrained belief that severity and harshness represent the only acceptable ways to engage with oneself is imperative. Cultivating self-compassion — treating oneself as one would a cherished friend, realistic yet empathetic — represents a pivotal shift.

Enter the realm of self-compassion diaries.

Here’s how it unfolds:

Set aside a few minutes in the evening for quiet introspection with pen and paper (pairing this with Scheduled Worry works remarkably well!).

Reflect on the day and note down moments that didn’t unfold as desired. These instances could range from minor (forgot to hydrate adequately) to more significant lapses (lost temper at a colleague).

For each occurrence, visualize a friend confiding in you and envisage how you would respond. Pen these compassionate responses beneath each concern. For instance, if your shortcoming arrived late to work consecutively, your written response might convey understanding while emphasizing future improvement.

Your lifelong companion is yourself; why not foster this relationship positively?
— Vironika Tugaleva

Voice Your Desires

A significant source of mental strain emanates from the chasm between our aspirations and actions.

On a fundamental level, many harbor deep-seated fears and insecurities that impede us from voicing or pursuing our genuine desires — be they minor or monumental:

  • You’d prefer the spacious corner booth at the restaurant instead of the cramped central table. However, apprehensive of seeming assertive, you settle for the smaller spot.
  • Though uninterested in intimacy that night, fear of your partner’s resentment coerces you into compliance.
  • Despite aspiring to pursue a career in filmmaking, familial expectations and the fear of disappointing others prompt adherence to a path perceived as safe — opting for medical school.

Indeed, flexibility is essential, and self-sacrifice holds merit — prioritizing others’ needs above our own. However, habitually forgoing what truly matters out of fear proves detrimental to our well-being, creating a constant underlying unease — a feeling of living someone else’s life.

To nurture a tranquil mind, narrow the gap between aspirations and actions.

Stand up for your values. Summon the courage to pursue what you genuinely desire, whether advocating for a better table or relinquishing a secure albeit monotonous job to embark on your dream entrepreneurial journey. True peace of mind stems from aligning actions with values.

It’s your life — too brief to be spent evading fears instead of chasing aspirations.

Ask for what you want!

To foster a more peaceful mind, encourage superior mental habits:

  • Engage in ordinary mindfulness.
  • Elevate hopes while minimizing expectations.
  • Allocate time deliberately to worry.
  • Cultivate self-compassion.
  • Assertively pursue your desires.

These habits form the bedrock for a tranquil and serene mind, guiding you toward lasting peace amidst life’s tumultuous currents.