Cultivate Inner Calm in 5 Minutes a Day
If life has you running ragged and often feeling chaotic or even out of control, this is a sign that you are very much a human being. For many reasons, life can be incredibly stressful, and stress robs us of a sense of balance and serenity. Take heart, for there is great news. You can create inner calm, and it doesn't have to be one more chore on your overwhelming to-do list. Here is a way to cultivate inner calm in just five minutes a day.
Despite How It Might Seem, You Can Increase Inner Peace
There's a lot going on in life that is beyond our control (while we can always take small actions to take charge of our own circumstances and passions, there is still a lot that we simply can't do a thing about). This can be frustrating and stressful. On top of this, your plate is quite likely very full. What is on your personal plate is unique to you, of course, but you're likely juggling many different roles and responsibilities, which adds a huge does of very unhealthy "gravy" to your plate, a glug of stress, worry, mood swings, lack of motivation, sleep difficulties, and a general sense of being frazzled.
In times of stress, anxiety, and other challenges, it truly does seem like we aren't in control of our own lives and our sense of self feels scrambled. This is a very human feeling and experience, and it happens for a very logical reason. The human brain and body are hardwired to react to stress. We have a built-in reaction to stress that you're probably familiar with: the fight-flight-or-freeze response. The way it's designed to work is the reason we feel chaotic or unmotivated (or both) at times:
- The brain constantly scans for problems, often subconsciously and without us actively realizing we're looking for problems. It's driven by a built-in negativity bias that is designed to keep us safe from harm--when we're aware of problems and danger, we can take action to keep ourselves safe.
- It constantly finds problems. Granted, they're pretty easy to find.
- As soon as it spots a stressor (that stressor could even be a thought or an emotion), it kicks the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) into high gear, and stress hormones flood our system, our breathing becomes faster and more shallow, the heart beats more quickly and often irregularly, blood pressure rises, and blood flow is diverted away from the core organs, and into our extremities, so we're ready for action.
- We experience the effects physically and mentally and often feel out of control (this doesn't mean we always act out of control or look out of control to others, but we definitely don't feel centered, calm, and balanced on the inside).
This is actually fantastic. Because the stress reaction and sense of overwhelm about external situations come from within us, so, too, do the quiet responses of inner calm and peace. (Do know that the stress reaction isn't a flaw, and it doesn't mean that you're doing something wrong to cause it. It is the way the human body is designed to function.)
How to Develop Inner Calm in 5 Minutes a Day
While this may seem surprising, you actually have access to your own autonomic nervous system (the SNS nervous system responsible for the fight-or-flight reaction, parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) responsible for calming down, and the enteric nervous system in the gut). Two of your main keys to your body's inner workings are your breath and your attention.
The simple act of taking slow, deep breaths turns off the SNS and activates the PNS. Paying attention to your breath keeps the PNS in charge.
- Close your eyes or focus your gaze on a single object.
- Breathe in slowly, perhaps counting gradually to six as you do.
- Breathe out slowly and completely, perhaps counting to eight.
- Turn your attention away from your thoughts and the stress around you.
- Listen instead to the sound of your breath as it comes and goes.
- Feel your ribcage and belly expand and contract as you inhale and exhale.
Breathing this way and concentrating on it is known as mindful breathing.
Taking slow, deep breaths when you're feeling anxious or stressed (and are either wired or unmotivated) gives you control of your internal system. This allows you to find the balance to deal with problems. Doing this on the spot is helpful, but for the most noticeable positive effect, make mindful breathing a daily habit.
Devote just five minutes every day to mindful breathing. You can do it while in the shower, during breaks between tasks, or set aside a dedicated time just for this. Spending a few minutes every day engaged in mindful breathing helps keep your PNS activated and you feeling inner calm. Also, when your SNS does rev up and spin you into fight-flight-or-freeze, and you begin to use mindful breathing to calm down, your body will more quickly and naturally return to its resting state because you've taught it what to do and allow it to practice every day.
While there are no true quick-fixes when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, gaining calm doesn't have to be one more lengthy chore you don't have time for. Use what you already have--your breath--and engage in mindful breathing for five minutes a day. You might just come to relish these breaks and take more of them. Starting with only five minutes, though, is a practical and effective way to gain inner calm with mindful breathing.
Peterson, T. (2021, March 17). Cultivate Inner Calm in 5 Minutes a Day, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, June 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2021/3/cultivate-inner-calm-in-5-minutes-a-day