Modern life is pretty crazy: Too much stress, too much information, too much speed, too much too much. And many of us are so relentlessly busy. Who has time to read all the self-help books that get churned out every season? Can’t we somehow boil down it all down into something we have time for? Yes, we can.
Try these three simple sanity-savers to feel more at peace with yourself and the world:
1. Slow Down. Stop what you’re doing. Breathe. Close your eyes. Listen to the sounds where you are. Can you identify them? Now allow your imagination to fill with the image of a beautiful place in nature. It could be one you’ve actually seen, or one you’ve seen in photographs or a movie, or one you have only imagined. Walk there (or sit or lie down) and experience it with as many of your senses as you can imagine. What does it smell like? Feel like? What season is it? What time of day? What plants are growing there? Enjoy this nature break as often as you can. If you have access to the real thing, spend time outside simply observing the sky, the changing vegetation. Allow your mind to rest.
(Most of us race through life in a blur of activity. Simply slowing down for five minutes and replacing frantic mental images with a calming picture of nature can be a lifesaving stress reducer.)
2. Pay Attention to Your Body. Close your eyes. Scan your body from the top of your head down to your toes. Where is a feeling or a sensation coming up? Go to anyplace that feels something—a twinge, an itch, numbness or tingling—and just be with it, without trying to fix it or label it. Just allow it to be, held in your open and compassionate attention. Imagine the feeling speaking to you, telling you what it needs, or what it wants you to know.
(Many of us aren’t even really IN our bodies, only in our heads. Every moment of every day, our bodies are sending us signals, which all too often we ignore. Paying attention to our precious bodies is a wonderful healing practice. We can get in the habit of spending just a few minutes of every day doing this.)
3. Be Kind to Others. Do something kind for someone else. This may sound like just one more thing on the endless To Do list, but they can be very simple things: Calling a distant friend to say hi, holding the door for someone, picking up and recycling the empty water bottle on the sidewalk, smiling at a grouchy checkout clerk, repeating the compliment about a friend that you overheard. Or you could perform an act of service: Cook a meal for a shut-in, take out the garbage for an elderly neighbor, clean up a local park, offer to babysit for a frazzled single mom. Doing something kind for someone else has a profoundly uplifting effect—and it is often wonderfully contagious.
(We can remake the world in a kinder, more compassionate image when we take the first step and perform simple acts of kindness for others.)
By Cait Johnson, author of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air (SkyLight Paths, 2003).