Sometimes life looks grim during lean or difficult times. Our minds take advantage of that and go into overdrive on negativity, telling us we are the epitome of the starving artist, the irresponsible parent, the nasty friend, and so on. You feel lousy and lonely like you are slaving away at your computer with nothing to show for it.
Many writers, entrepreneurs and other creative people feel that way sometimes because we’re some of the most underpaid, under-appreciated people on earth. No matter how good your writing or how helpful your product is, your mind can start telling you you’re lame and not good enough. Soon or later you might start to believe that lie and falter.
If you allow your mind to continuously run amok and make mountains out of molehills without interjecting, things can get depressing in a hurry. If you don’t stop your mind from feeding you lies about how not worthy you are or about how the relationship between success and work is supposed to look like, you might go through your whole life knowing you’re talented but never quite feeling successful. You might forever wonder why things don’t (or didn’t) work out for you, and that can be crippling.
You can calm your mind and train it to see things in their true perspective, even if that seems difficult. Humans are very adaptable creatures. Never underestimate the resolve of the human spirit. To create a peaceful mind, you just need to revert to your original, natural state of harmony and balance. Remember, peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.
Here are some effective ways you can calm your mind when things don't look quite so good, and regain control of your outlook on things.
You might have the bubbliest personality ever, but you still won’t be lively all the time. Nobody is immune to low spirits or has it all figured out. We are all learning how to be better humans. We should, therefore, not be too hard on ourselves. You will make mistakes sometimes and that will make others (and yourself) feel bad. Others will likewise make mistakes and you will be hurt or offended or sad. Not everyone will like you, and you won’t like everyone because of differences in values. That’s an inevitable fact of life. It happens to all of us. The sooner you accept that, the more prepared and apt you will be to handle tough breaks. The realization (and acceptance) that you won’t always feel great all the time can take the emotion out of the situation and result in getting on better in difficult or lean times.
Learn to look at what’s upsetting you, setting you off or pushing your buttons and breath. Maybe it’s a missed opportunity, a client who’s too demanding, a contractor who regularly misses deadlines, or the guy who’s always teasing you or telling off-color jokes that makes your mind churn. Pause for a moment and take a deep breath to get a grip on your emotions or adrenaline rush. A deep breath can help you go to the intellectual part of your brain that’ll protect you from overreaction, thereby allowing you to proceed with a slightly more open mind and heart. You can also try taking a nap if you are terribly upset. Sleeping has a rejuvenating effect on the entire body, not just the mind, that can help you calm down.
Whenever you experience negative thoughts, anxiety or sudden bursts of sadness, pick a pen and paper and jot down those thoughts and what triggered them as clearly and succinctly as possible. The act of writing down your worries is calming and therapeutic. Review what you have written when you are up to it and ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. Oftentimes, worries, fears and doubts dissolve under scrutiny.
In other words, count your blessings. Studies show that when people pay more attention to the positive, it leads to improved moods due to a corresponding increase in their serotonin levels. An imbalance in serotonin levels may influence mood in a way that leads to depression. Simply shifting your focus to what makes you happy or what you’re thankful for redirects your mind to think more positively. Consequently, you will start to feel more peaceful since you no longer put so much emphasis on the negativity you perceive within yourself and elsewhere.
One technique that can help to redirect attention to the positive is mindful meditation. In addition to helping to ease stress, calm the mind and increase feelings of happiness, meditation can also boost your creativity. Also, try relaxation practices like yoga and tai chi or even a session of prayer if you are the religious type to calm your mind and reinforce that positive vibe.
This might sound cheesy, but it works. Anytime you feel distressed or anxious and your brain starts to tell you negative things like, “Nothing's ever going to work for you,'' or “You'll always fail” halt it by speaking a peaceful and motivational word or phrase of self-affirmation. Repeating a positive word or mantra of self-affirmation like, “I can do this”, “I will make it somehow” or “I am good just as I am” throughout your day counters any negative imaginations you may have in your head. Words carry a lot of meaning and power. They can make you feel peaceful, so use them to your advantage whenever you feel out of sorts.
Music plays a big role in how we interpret the world and even how we feel. Sometimes you hear a piece of music and it instantly transports you to a time and place when you were truly happy. Other times a song brings back a memory that you would rather not remember. Either way music is a powerful tool you can use to shape how you feel. Make a conscious choice on the music you listen to in order to find something that’s truly soothing, calming and uplifting to your spirit. It can feel quite awkward to listen to overaly positive music when you feel absolutely lousy. Mozart’s classics and Beethoven’s immortal music, for example, have helped many people calm their minds and bring back positivity into their lives–even if only for a while.
Get out there, and get some air and sun. Listen to the birds sing and reconnect with nature. It’s easy for writers and other self-employed people to lock themselves in their offices or studios and forget to go outside, then wonder why they always feel so lonely and stressed. Studies show that bright light exposure may help to increase serotonin levels in the brain and alleviate depression symptoms. Even if you only go to a nearby park on your lunch break, do it to strengthen your bond with nature.
Interestingly, gardening is also an earth-friendly way to tap into the natural environment. Getting your hands dirty in the garden can enhance your physical and emotional well-being and greatly benefit your mind. Soil contains a friendly bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae that increases the chemical compound serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps improve mood, ease stress and promote a stronger immune system. Mother Earth really can help you remember that we create most of the stress we feel in our mind and body by providing solace from the pressures and strains of modern society.
Forget about the hastened projects you have to hand in soon, the rushed bills you have to pay next week, or quick errands you have to run tomorrow. Our rushed lives and ever busy lifestyles are the cause of most of the stress we feel today. Most anxiety is caused by simply living in a time other than the one we have right now. When you let the uncertainty of the future that you haven’t even gotten to ruminate, it can cause you great distress and actually hinder you from doing what you ought to be doing right now to complete tasks and meet your goals in a proper and timely manner.
So, just slow down and live in the here and now. Let tomorrow take care of itself. You will cross all those bridges when you get there. Besides, allowing your mind to worry too much about the future that is not even guaranteed can be overwhelming. It can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, depression and other serious health problems. Plan for the future, but allow yourself to flow from one moment to the next, just as you did when you were a child. You will recapture that sense of true peace and hopefulness back in your life.
Image Credit: lululemon athletica/flickr
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by Daymond John
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