The Simple Things

Wellbeing Quick ways to feel more calm


- Illustrati­ons: ANKE WECKMANN

Wouldn’t it be great to be more patient, unruffled and at ease? To be able to hold onto that sense of contentmen­t and serenity that comes over you when you experience a gorgeous sunset, a walk in the woods or a restful soak in a bath. Yet those moments of peace tend to quickly evaporate and anxiety, ever present in the background, finds a way to creep back to the surface. The good news is that becoming more serene doesn’t have to mean changing your lifestyle completely or hours of meditation or yoga. It can be as simple as practising some easy calming techniques that you can call upon in stressful circumstan­ces or when you’re just feeling a bit ruffled. Have a go at the following micro-practices, find out what works for you and use them whenever you need an extra dose of calm.

Embrace change

You can embrace or resist change but it’s still going to happen. Embracing change is a critical life-skill to help you live with more courage and peace. It can help to observe something in nature: a flower, a tree, a plant, even a piece of fruit. Notice that its current form is temporary. It was different weeks ago and it will change in weeks to come. Recall that all living things are impermanen­t and will pass away. Say or think the words, ‘I am learning to embrace change. I am trying to embrace change. I am open to embracing change.’

Morning thanks

The moment when you first wake up is the time to shape your mood for the day. You could think about all the things you have to do or all the things you get to do in the coming day. Try putting a Post-it note by your bed with the reminder, ‘I give thanks.’ Lying down in bed, place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly. Breathe into your hands and say or think, ‘I give thanks.’ Repeat three times. For added emphasis, include things you’re grateful for: ‘I give thanks that I have people to love and who love me.’

Armchair travel

Your body and mind respond to what you imagine, even if it isn’t real. Use visualisat­ion to shift from anxiety to serenity by imagining yourself in a place that you find comforting. It could be a beloved place, a happy time in your life or a magical fictional location. Summon the details in your mind’s eye and notice the positive feelings and associatio­ns that arise in your body.

Carry a talisman

Pick a stone, trinket or small object that you like and carry it in your pocket. Spend a moment each day holding it and let it be a literal touchstone to remind you of your strength, passion and purpose. Touch it whenever you need a reminder to stop and centre yourself.

Sit in child’s pose

In yoga this relaxing posture, balasana, is known as child’s pose. A calming position, it stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees and ankles and relaxes your neck and spine. It also increases blood flow to your head and calms the mind. 1 Start by kneeling on a carpeted floor or mat. 2 Drop your bottom towards your heels, lean forward and stretch your body down so that your stomach is resting on your thighs and your forehead is resting on the ground. 3 Bring your arms round beside your body so your hands are touching your feet or stretch your arms in front of you, whichever is most relaxing for you.

Feed your good wolf

You may have heard the old Native American parable about the two wolves fighting inside of us all. There’s the wolf of fear and hate and the wolf of love and compassion, and whichever wolf we feed will win the fight. Most people are incredibly hard on themselves both in their thoughts (self-criticism) and behaviour (destructiv­e and self-sabotaging). Yet if we are kind and compassion­ate to ourselves and feed our good wolf, we develop the ability to have compassion for others.

“Your body and mind respond to what you imagine, even if it isn’t real... imagine yourself in a place that you find comforting”

Try the 4-7-8 breath

This is an ancient breathing technique that restores and recalibrat­es the central nervous system. The combinatio­n of a short inhale followed by a twice-as-long exhale has an immediate effect on the parasympat­hetic nervous system, putting the brakes on your stress response. 1 Inhale to the count of 4. 2 Hold your breath to the count of 7. 3 Exhale through your mouth as if blowing through a straw to the count of 8. 4 Repeat cycle twice more. 5 Do three cycles in the morning and the evening for a calmer, less reactive dispositio­n.

Consult your inner wise woman

Imagine if you could consult your future self for advice or counsel? Perhaps your 98-year-old self, even now, has some wisdom to impart to you. 1 Close your eyes and imagine yourself at the age of 98. 2 Formulate a question or a concern that you’d like to ask your inner wise woman. 3 Imagine your older, wiser self conversing with your current self – you could even have her write you a letter if that makes it easier. 4 See if a wider perspectiv­e shifts your current perception of what’s going on today.

Butterfly hug

The ‘butterfly hug’ was developed by Lucina Artigas who worked with survivors of Hurricane Pauline in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1997. It calms the nervous system if you’re feeling stressed or upset and leads to a feeling of peacefulne­ss. 1 Cross your arms over your chest so the tips of your middle fingers are below the collarbone. 2 Interlock your thumbs to form the butterfly ‘body’. Extend your fingers to make the ‘wings’. 3 Close your eyes or look softly down. 4 For one to three minutes, alternate movement of your hands, so the butterfly is flapping its wings (right hand taps your chest, left hand taps your chest, with fingers pointing up towards your shoulders). While tapping, breathe low and deep and notice the sensations in your body.

Taken from The Little Book of Inner Peace: Simple Practices for Less Angst, More Calm by Ashley Davis Bush (Octopus)

“Imagine your older, wiser self conversing with your current self – you could even have her write you a letter”

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