“Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.” ~Brian Tracy
There was a time when I thought peace was a destination, in much the same way I imagined I’d eventually arrive at happiness or success.
It seemed like something I needed to chase or find—definitely not something I could experience without dramatically changing my life.
I needed to work less, relax more, and generally revamp my circumstances and relationships in order to be a peaceful person.
Despite seeing peace as an endpoint, I also saw it as something passive; after all, that’s why I was so stressed: I had so much to do.
I’ve since realized that peace is always available, and like any desirable state of mind, it requires effort, even if that effort entails consciously choosing to be still.
Sure, our circumstances affect our mental state, but they don’t have to control them, not if we make tiny choices for our well-being.
Admittedly, it’s not easy to choose peace when we’re going through tough times. I still go through periods when I get caught up in worries and stresses, and it can feel like that’s the only available response to things that have happened.
But it’s not. There are countless things we can do to create peace of mind, both in response to events in our lives, and proactively, everyday.
If you’d also like to develop a greater sense of peace, you may find these suggestions helpful:
1. Take five to ten minutes for a simple seated meditation.
2. Take 100 deep breaths, counting “and one,” “and two,” and so on, with “and” on the inhalations and the numbers on the exhalations.
3. Take a meditative walk, focusing solely on the physical sensations of walking—the earth under your feet, the swing of your hips.
4. Find a guided meditation on YouTube and let it lull you into a blissful state of presence.
5. Practice alternate nostril breathing. Hold the left nostril down and inhale through the right; then hold the breath. Release the left nostril, hold the right one down, and exhale through the left. Now start on the left with an inhalation, exhaling on the right. This is one set. Do up to five of them.
6. Write down everything that’s weighing you down mentally and then burn it as a form of letting go.
7. Write down everything you’ve learned from a difficult experience so you can see it as something useful and empowering instead of something to stress you out.
8. Tell someone how their actions affected you instead of holding it in and building resentment.
9. Call someone you’ve denied forgiveness and tell them you forgive them.
10. Apologize for a mistake instead of rehashing it, and then choose to forgive yourself.
11. Engage in a little art therapy; grab some crayons, markers, or paint and put all your feelings on the page.
12. Create a peace collage. Include images that make you feel relaxed and at ease. (Google “peace collage” and you’ll get lots of ideas!)
13. Meditate on your favorite peace quote and then write it in calligraphy for framing.
14. Take a walk with the sole intention of photographing beautiful things that make you feel at peace, like a tree with colorful autumn leaves.
15. Write a blog post about what gives you peace of mind. (This has been a calming experience for me!)
16. Get up and dance to your favorite song, focusing solely on the music and the movement. Get into your body and get out of your head!
17. Take a long walk on the beach, focusing on the feel of the sand between your toes and the sound of the crashing waves. Cliché, but highly effective!
18. Go for a bike ride in a scenic part of town, and immerse yourself in the calm of your environment.
19. Take five to ten minutes for stretching, syncing your breath with the movements (or if you have an hour, visit a local studio for a yoga class).
20. Declutter a cluttered part of your home, creating a more peaceful space.
21. Muster compassion for someone who hurt you, instead of wallowing in bitterness, which will make it easier to forgive them and set yourself free.
22. Set aside some time to actively enjoy the good things about the present instead of scheming to create a better future.
23. Create a list of things you love about yourself instead of dwelling on how you wish you were different.
24. Focus on what you appreciate about the people in your life instead of wishing they would change (assuming you’re in healthy relationships).
25. Recognize if you’re judging yourself in your head with phrases like “I should have” or “I shouldn’t have.” Replace those thoughts with, “I do the best I can, my best is good enough, and I’m learning and growing every day.”
26. Start reading that book you bought about dealing with the challenge you’ve been facing.
27. Schedule a date with yourself, a time when you don’t need to meet anyone else’s requests, and do something that feeds your mind and spirit. Go to a museum or take yourself to your favorite restaurant and simply enjoy your own company.
28. Sit in nature—under a tree, on a mountain—and let yourself simply be.
29. Be your own best friend. Tell yourself what’s on your mind, and then give yourself the advice you’d give a good friend who had the same issue.
30. Repeat some positive affirmations that help you feel present, peaceful, and empowered.
31. Tell the truth in your relationships. When we hold in our true feelings, we create stress for ourselves. Be kind but honest and share what you really feel.
32. Catch critical, blaming, or self-victimizing thoughts. Instead of ruminating on what someone else did wrong, express yourself and ask yourself what you can do to create the change you’re seeking.
33. Have fun with someone you love. Forget about everything that feels like a problem and do something silly and childlike.
34. Connect with someone online who can relate to what you’re going through and create a mutually supportive relationship by sharing and listening.
35. Let someone into your self-care routine—ask a friend to join a yoga studio with you, or invite your sister to jog with you on the beach.
36. Volunteer your time to help a charity you believe in. Put all your energy into helping someone else, and you will inadvertently help yourself.
37. Volunteer at your local animal shelter. Animals are naturally present, and it’s contagious!
38. Do something kind for someone else without expecting anything in return. If they ask what they can do for you, tell them to pay it forward.
39. Leverage your passion to help someone else (e.g.: if you’re an aspiring designer, design a logo for a friend). You get to get in the zone doing something you love; someone else gets support they need. A win/win!
40. Leverage your purpose to serve someone else, not for money—just because. That might mean helping them pursue their passion, or motivating them to reach their fitness goals. Whatever gives your life meaning, give it to someone freely.
As is often the case with these types of list, this can seem a little long and overwhelming. The important thing is that we do at least one tiny thing every day to create mental stillness. What helps you create peace of mind?
This post was originally published in 2012.