We all strive to have a peaceful mind, full of calm thoughts and free from the buzzing of all that’s going on around us in the modern world. But how do we do it? In this article, we’ll talk about the science behind calming the mind and what can be done to feel a bit more at peace. These strategies will help you explore both the mental and physical ways you can calm your mind.
What Is a Peaceful Mind?
A peaceful mind may be defined as a state of calmness or tranquility that is free from worry, ruminative thoughts, or other types of busy, frenetic thoughts. Oftentimes, we spend too much time thinking—thinking about what’s to come in the future, what’s happened in the past, or even what’s going on right now. These are the times when we may crave a peaceful mind. We desire to rest our brains and just be present at the moment without the constant buzz of thoughts running through our heads.
Peaceful Mind, Peaceful Life
Our minds can feel anything but at peace when our phones snag our attention 24-7, we’re working more than is good for us, and we’re thinking about things like climate change, the economy, and the health of our loved ones. In the modern world, there is a lot to think about. Having access to all the news on our phones and computers doesn’t help. We now know all the ills of the world.
Luckily, there are still things we can do to calm the mind. We can start by spending less time on our phones. Whether the result is that we read less news, get fewer emails from work, or spend less time on social media, these can all help us have a more peaceful mind.
How to Have a Peaceful Mind
There is actually a pretty good amount of research on how we can decrease our distressing thoughts and calm the body. For example, we know that the body’s stress response includes sympathetic nervous system activation, and the release of hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (Charmandari, Tsigos, & Chrousos, 2005). All of these make us feel wired, and this makes it difficult to have a peaceful mind. That’s why some of the techniques we’ll discuss below target the body directly. Once we help the body calm down, the mind can more easily follow.
Exercises for a Peaceful Mind
A relatively simple way to start calming the mind is by using visualization. To try it, simply imagine yourself in a peaceful place. Some of my favorite peaceful places include an apple orchard, a mountain meadow filled with wildflowers, a cabin deep in the woods, or a quiet beach lined with palm trees. Feel free to choose one of these calm places or one of your own. While visualizing yourself in this place, try to look at the world around you. What do you see, hear, and smell? Often, I imagine hearing nothing more than a breeze or the rustling of a few leaves on trees. Ohhhh, the quiet is delightful. And the smells are soothing, perhaps flowers, trees, or fresh fruit.
If you can get your mind to imagine you’re in a place that makes you feel peaceful, your brain and body actually react as if you are in the place—you actually feel the emotions that would come up if you were actually in that place. That’s why visualization can be such a useful exercise for creating a peaceful mind.
2. Identify Cognitive Distortions
Our minds can get more easily agitated when we have certain, unhealthy thought patterns. For a more peaceful mind, it can be helpful to identify if we have any of these thought patterns so we can start changing them. Here are a few to explore:
Catastrophizing. Catastrophizing is when we expect the worst possible outcome for every situation. Undo catastrophizing by trying to think of good—or at least neutral—outcomes.
Minimization. Minimizing is when we downplay positive attributes, experiences, or strengths. Instead, try to appreciate the good things about yourself and your life.
All-or-nothing thinking. All-or-nothing thinking is when we view a situation as all good or all bad. It can be more helpful to recognize that it is good and bad in almost everything.
Overgeneralization. Overgeneralization is when we believe that one negative experience suggests that all our experiences will be negative from now on. To overcome this, try to remember that we all have good times and bad, and just because things are going poorly now doesn’t mean that they will always go poorly.
Self-criticism. Self-criticism is when we have negative self-talk. Try instead to talk to yourself in a compassionate way and remember that no one is perfect.
Activities for a Peaceful Mind
1. Do Things You Enjoy
Sometimes we get stuck in a clouded mind when our lives are dull, stagnant, or uninspiring. That’s why doing things you enjoy may help put your mind at ease. Doing fun things can help stimulate your mind so that when you are relaxing, your mind can fully rest.
2. Go For a Swim
Another way to calm the body is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Interestingly, immersing the body in cold water helps activate this system (Mourot et al., 2008). So if you’re feeling your mind racing, go for a swim in cold water or even take a cold shower. This can be a quick trick to induce a peaceful mind.
3. Get Outside
Perhaps one of the best ways to put your mind at peace is to get outside. Research shows that spending time in the wilderness, a park, or even your front yard may be beneficial for your well-being. The outdoors offers so many different things that can help soothe the mind—fresh air, sunlight, and breathing in the scent of trees are all of which are good for our health.
Try to spend at least 15 minutes outside each day. You could park further from work, go for an evening walk with a loved one, or just sit on a patio at a coffee shop. These small efforts can go a long way to helping create a more peaceful mind.
Deep Breathing for a Peaceful Mind
Deep, controlled breathing has been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is key in helping us de-stress and it is the counterbalance to the sympathetic nervous system—our fight or flight system. Deep breathing also can quickly reduce anxiety and promote a greater sense of calm. By taking a few deep breaths, we begin to tell our body that things are safe, and the systems that are overactive can begin to mellow. Try the exercise below to see how deep breathing affects you.
Peaceful Mind Techniques
Here are a few more techniques that may help you create a peaceful mind.
Most of us are really hard on ourselves. That’s why self-compassion can be a great tool for calming our minds. We might generate self-compassion by writing ourselves a self-compassionate letter.
2. Get More Sleep
Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system and contribute to higher levels of stress hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine. These hormones make us feel more anxious. That’s why sleep is essential for creating a more peaceful mind.
Quotes For a Peaceful Mind
If you’re in need of a little inspiration to help you start prioritizing a peaceful mind, here are some quotes that may help.
“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” — Dalai Lama
“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present.” — Lao Tzu
“Everything is within your power, and your power is within you.” ― Janice Trachtman
“Healing the world begins with healing yourself.” ― Anthon St. Maarten
“No other sound can match the healing power of the sounds of nature.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson
“Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.” — Lyndon B. Johnson
“You can start over each morning.” — Unknown
Final Thoughts on a Peaceful Mind
With all the buzzing stress we have to deal with these days, a peaceful mind can be hard to come by. Luckily, there are some things we can do to calm worries and put our minds more at ease. Hopefully, the tips provided here will get you started.
Article Credit: https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/peaceful-mind.html