Ancient Wisdom for Modern Minds
Calm is at a premium right now. Maybe it always has been. It’s no surprise that mental health issues peak in times of global crisis — and as of this writing, we are facing more than a few. The NIH reports that one in roughly 5 adults in the U.S. suffers from an anxiety disorder. It’s a figure that doesn’t give voice to the vast numbers of undiagnosed sufferers.
There may be no better time to cultivate a mental framework of peace-amidst-the-storm. Who knows when you might be needed to provide hope and guidance to friends, family, and community.
Protect your mental state with the following 10 tips:
1. Take NOTHING personally.
Maybe you’ve heard this before, but putting it into practice is an entirely different — and fruitful! — beast. Yoga wisdom says this: Someone can tell you you are the DIRT beneath their feet, and your reaction is rooted exclusively IN YOU! If you are bothered, it’s because you believe it could be true. If you’re 100% confident that you’re not dirt, the comment will sound silly and you’ll be able to laugh it off.
Keep remembering that people’s stuff is just that — THEIR stuff, not yours. If an emotional reaction rises in you, it’s because of something you need to look at or uproot IN YOURSELF.
Get solid. Get secure. Practice letting things bounce right off of you.
2. Assume the best.
Let’s say someone says something that sounds a little like a veiled insult, or something you’re not sure how to take. MAYBE you misheard it, but you’re pretty sure it was a putdown. Stop right there.
If there is any room whatsoever to find an interpretation that is beneficial to you or to the situation, then — dude — ASSUME the BEST. You have nothing to lose.
When you assume the best, you keep the vibe high. You stay in a non-reactive zone, which allows for more positivity and productivity. Bonus: You won’t have to carry around the brain detritus of an uncomfortable interaction.
Worst case, you reply to a veiled insult with a nonplussed, collected, smart, and forward-moving response. You’re the better for it, and you know what? So is the might-be jerk.
3. Give NO ONE the power to pull you out of yourself.
This one’s not always easy to implement. Take an example. Someone does a mean-spirited thing to you. It pisses you off, some resentment builds, and you feel it is only right and just to react in a way that will give them a taste of their own medicine. How else will the balance of karma and justice be restored??!
With this mindset, you inflict a similar mean-spirited set of words or actions as your perpetrator. Only fair, right?
Of course not, and here’s why.
Calm, kind people act calmly and kindly. Not just occasionally, not just some of the time, but as often as they can — especially when they’re tested! If you like being ornery and prickly, then by all means do you.
But if you’re interested in being the kind of beacon of fortified calm that the world needs right now, then know this: What separates YOU — the calm and kind person — from the mean-spirited one is that YOU respond gracefully and with love even in the face of an energy that is darker than yours.
Be YOU in all circumstances.
4. Develop a Zero-Tolerance Policy for Drama.
Drama has a way of seeping into our lives even when we claim to want to avoid it. At best, our subconscious patterns attract the life lessons we need to learn — sometimes in the form of dramatic upheaval.
In cases like this, it is possible to learn what we have to learn from the lesson and move on. It is also possible to spend many wasted weeks, months, and sometimes YEARS analyzing, reacting to, and unwittingly stirring up or perpetuating the very drama we hope to avoid. Learn to nip drama before it invades your head space. How?
Become the vigilant sheriff of your reactions. Offer no more of yourself — in the form of words, attention, and reaction — than is absolutely necessary to navigate your way through an emotional volcano. When you stop feeding the fires, you’ll be surprised by how quickly they fizzle out.
At worst, drama leads to straight-up toxicity, and you should have none of it. Read on.
5. Sniff Out & Snuff Out Toxicity.
Toxic drama can be as addictive as Pringles, or Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups if you’re me. What feels justified and rational at first can quickly spiral into a dark-energy abyss that sucks your time, attention, speech and action. Don’t let toxicity take you over! It’s icky and contagious, and it’s got to stop with YOU.
Know someone toxic? Feed them NO MORE of your attention than is absolutely necessary.
Find yourself pursuing toxic thoughts? Indulging in toxic gossip? Put the brakes on, forgive yourself, and redirect. Tend to your own self-care and place your energy on a trajectory that is in keeping with your goals and values.
6. Understand that you cannot take on everything.
Burnout is real. Pressures come at us from all angles. We want to perform optimally at work, keep a clean home, prepare delicious meals for loved ones, be a gracious host, a helpful daughter, caretaker, and on and on. But here’s a truth we do well to remember.
There will always be more to do.
There will always be some business that was left unfinished at the end of the work day, some home project that has yet to be tackled, some mess that is still sitting there, a total mess… you get the idea.
When we can accept that “done” is a moving target, we can relax a bit knowing that our pace and tone were more important than the end goal all along.
Bottom line here is: There’s always more to do. So what? Chill out. Do what you can from a place of steady, poised effort. Don’t kill yourself focusing on details and tasks that aren’t going to pull the world out of orbit.
7. Think of a calm (or serene or joyous) person you know, and imbibe their presence or their teachings.
Look, you’re YOURSELF, and that’s a beautiful thing. But when you’re faced with a difficult situation and you’re not sure how to navigate it, or you’re not liking your mindset surrounding it, call to mind someone whose energy and wisdom you can absorb and emulate.
Hang out with that person, watch a video from the person, look at a picture, read something they wrote. Take the time to drink up what they have to offer, and apply a little sliver of their way of being to your situation — with your unique and personal spin.
8. Expect no one else to create your happiness.
A tough love version of this is: There is no one coming with a rescue boat. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There IS someone coming to rescue you, and that person is — of course — YOU.
Feel off kilter? Aggravated? Nervous? Pissed? Reactive?
Whatever it is! YOU are the one who’s been collecting a life’s worth of tools for your peace-making toolkit. You know which tools and methods work for you and which you can discard. You know which hobbies, habits, and people put you back in your center. Use that wisdom, buddy, and use it fast.
Ask yourself: What would make ME feel better right now? Hint: The answer is not, “If so & so would stop doing such & such.” Ask: What would I like to do that would bring me joy or delight or ease? Go confidently in the direction of your needs and desires, and be the one who fills you up.
9. Axe Guilt.
Guilt and its cousin shame are a big-time cause of mental suffering. We regret things we’ve done or said. We feel BAD when we indulge in our own pleasures. We punish ourselves mentally for doing this when we should have done that.
You want to be serene?
Get off the guilt train already. Be done with it. It’s going nowhere anyway!
Guilt makes absolutely no one feel better. No one external to you receives a boost from your feelings of guilt. They probably aren’t even aware or particularly concerned with your degree of guilt in any given moment. And YOU certainly don’t feel any better when you apply guilt. Convinced yet?!
Be glad you’re a good person. Guilt serves its function for you as a system of checks and balances coming from the governing body called your conscience. The problem is, it has a way of loitering long after its job is done. Tell it (nicely) to bugger off.
10. Get a regular mind/body practice going!
(How could I not?)
There’s this wee practice called yoga, you may have heard of it, that has the power to transform your mindset, to create dramatic shifts in your habits, AND to calm and energize your nervous system. It’s uplifting, it’s grounding, and all you need — technically — is a floor to get started.
Whether you’re attracted to the breathing practices, chakra balancing, feel-good flowing, seated meditation, or the whole package… yoga is one of the world’s most tried and true ways to keep it cool, collected, and connected.
Long-time practitioners attest: They’re stronger for it. Calmer for it. And they don’t know where they’d be without this practice.
I know I’ve turned to my practice over and over in times of hardship. It’s there as a constant, and I’m always surprised by its power to take whatever blah, meh, stressed, or crappy mood I’m in and straight-up elevate it. I’m not exaggerating when I say it makes me a better person. It acts as a guard against burn-out and anxiety, and it’s the reason I can confidently share tips and tools like the 10 above.
10 Ways to Cultivate a Calm Mind:
- Take NOTHING personally.
- Assume the best.
- Give NO ONE the power to pull you off kilter.
- Develop a zero-tolerance policy for drama.
- Sniff out & snuff out toxicity.
- Be okay with not getting everything done.
- Think of a calm figure or person you admire.
- Expect no one but YOU to create your happiness.
- Drop guilt already. Life is hard enough.
- Develop a regular mind/body practice.
Be a beacon, my friend. Your light is needed.