I'm often asked how I stay so calm. For the most part I am, but if you ask my family, they'd say I have my stress moments! Truthfully, I do incorporate a variety of practices that support me so I can be at peace on most days.
1. I stop and smell the roses. Really! Often when I'm walking, even if it's only from the parking lot into a restaurant, if there are flowers I stop and admire them. It interrupts my brain chatter and brings pleasure to the moment.
2. I spend 5 extra minutes in bed each morning. We know from brain science that the early morning ‘fog' we wake up to is a time when creative ideas can appear. It's before you are fully conscious, so your intuitive ‘right' brain has the chance to send you some amazing insights if you are ‘listening'. Be sure to keep a pen and pad of paper on your night stand, otherwise the idea may float away as you make your way to the bathroom!
3. I do a gratitude check-in. I've created a habit of quietly saying what I am grateful for at random moments throughout the day. It reminds me that no matter what happens, there is always something I can appreciate.
4. I smile at strangers. It's an act of kindness, and it feels good too! In our fast-paced, hectic life we can forget to connect with others if only for a moment. It may feel a little awkward at first if you are a bit shy, but give it a try and notice what happens!
5. I stop and breathe. I used to sing in a choir, so I learned the benefits of taking a deep slow breath from the diaphragm. It's an excellent way to slow down, clear your mind, and detoxify all at the same time. Remember to exhale completely so you can rid your body of any ‘stale' air.
6. I leave my smart phone in another room for an hour or more. Studies show that the constant buzzing, beeping, ringing, and our urge to respond to said sounds, significantly increases our stress level, which in turn can increase our heart attack risk. I recently read that our urge to look at emails every few minutes actually intensifies our natural human tendency to scan for threats, thus keeping us in a continuous state of ‘fight, flight, or freeze'.
7. I eat chocolate. When studies first came out about the benefits of eating dark chocolate, I was elated! There is definitely something divine about this mood-boosting food. Enough said.
8. I pray. This is the most important thing I do each day. Whatever your faith journey, the spiritual, psychological, and physical benefits of prayer and/or meditation are undeniable. Incorporating this daily practice into your life even if just for 5 minutes will support you in many ways.
These are just a few of the many easy practices that can fill your reservoir of positive emotions. It will help you build the resilience you need to endure the tough times in life, allowing you to maintain calm when challenges come your way. I invite you to choose one of these at a time, and practice it each day. Once an activity becomes automatic, it takes very little brain effort to sustain it.
For more information about emotional resilience and other positive psychology topics, check out the work of Barbara Fredrickson: Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life.
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