Everybody knows about stress. Too much to do, too little time, problems, issues, irritations and whatever else makes life complicated and frantic. But serenity? Isn’t that a very old-fashioned idea with no relevance in the modern world? Quite the contrary, it is essential for well-being and counteracting the damaging effects of stress on body, mind and soul. But how to practice it in a fast-paced life?
Meditation is an allocated time set aside for stopping, settling an overactive mind and establishing inner calmness. On the other hand, serenity is not something you practice for a limited time. It is a state of mind — tranquility of spirit — that carries through into a way of dealing with everyday life.
Developing or increasing serenity does not require you become a monk or nun and neither is it a luxury you cannot afford. If you choose to live life with quiet inner strength, you can start where you are right now.
Refresh Your Sense of Self.
You may be so busy or overwhelmed that all your attention is tied up with what you are doing. Running on automatic, you are just getting on with the demands of the day. In that state it’s easy to forget all about yourself. But you can break the hold of stress-inducing activities with small moments of remembering yourself. Tune into yourself and become aware of what is going on within you and how you act. Feeling your feet in contact with the ground will strengthen your presence.
Contain Emotional Storms.
Fluctuations in mood are a normal part of life. But drama and emotional turbulence are counterproductive and only increase stress. While significant emotions should not be denied and need to be understood, emotional upheaval about less important things can become a habitual response in the course of daily life. Instead of letting emotions run unchecked, witness your responses and discern what is really going on. Getting to know your triggers and practicing breathing in a calm rhythm will help you keep your cool.
Monitor Your Thoughts.
Everybody has a whole repertoire of stories they tell themselves about the events in their lives. When this repertoire is negative and automatic – catastrophising, black-and-white-thinking, overgeneralising etc – it sabotages success and peace of mind. Worse still, stories of anticipated calamities intensify worries, fears, overwhelm, irritation, frustration and other self-defeating emotions. Challenge your thoughts: Are they realistic and true? If not, what would be a more reasonable way of thinking about a situation? Are your thoughts encouraging or dragging you down? Do they increase or reduce emotional turbulence? Choose thoughts that are not caught up in drama but keep you in control.
Look for Solutions.
Dwelling on problems and focussing on things that are wrong or could go wrong seems so natural. It also opens the door to blame, recrimination, guilt, regret and generally a disturbed state of mind. None of it will bring about resolution or progress but consumes precious emotional energy without any benefit.
Not every problem can be solved. Some just have to be accepted. But it is quite rare to be completely stuck. There may be alternatives, options, ways around it or possible actions despite of it. Looking for solutions instead of dwelling on problems will help calm an over-aroused nervous system.
Flow with Life.
At its core, serenity contains a sense of trust that all is well just as it is. That can be difficult to accept unless you understand that each experience is telling you something valuable about yourself and the world around you, and that adversity contains the seeds for new treasures.
Going with the flow is not about drifting passively in life’s currents. On the contrary, it is the active acceptance of how things are and choosing how to deal with them. Instead of fighting circumstances, you see things objectively as they really are. You manage your expectations of yourself, your circumstances and other people. And you are comfortable with change and challenges, meeting them with psychological flexibility and resilience.
Cultivate a Peaceful Presence.
By adopting the value of serenity, you will be able to deal with life’s challenges in a calm and considered way. Instead of getting caught up in drama that only increases your stress, you meet the demands of living with an attitude of acceptance and self-directed action.
Enhance serenity by making time for Being, with moments where all Doing stops. Mindful awareness, reflection and meditation all help you do that. But you don’t have to sit cross-legged or chant. Simple activities like walking the dog, going for a swim, listening to gentle music or other forms of ‘me-time’ provide powerful opportunities to settle your nerves, regroup and refresh your perspectives. If you hold spiritual or religious beliefs, prayer, contemplation or tuning into universal energies will also help you do that.
Serenity might seem an old-fashioned value that has no place in a fast-paced world. But while stress is commonly understood as something imposed by external factors, stress is really the body’ and mind’s response to challenging circumstances. This liberates us to deal with life differently and choose tranquility of mind instead of self-defeating overwhelm.
Can you see serenity as something valuable and desirable? How could serenity be of benefit to you?