August is International Peace Month and was founded in commemoration of WWI on August 16, 1926, at the Democratic Peace Conference in Germany.
While this month was created to foster world peace, this post addresses how we can first develop inner peace within ourselves.
Just as you cannot love others unless you first love yourself, you cannot be at peace with your neighbor if you are not first at peace with yourself. You cannot give what you do not have.
what is inner peace?
“Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a deliberate state of psychological or spiritual calm despite the potential presence of stressors. Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy (homeostasis) and the opposite of being stressed or anxious, and is considered to be a state where our mind performs at an optimal level with a positive outcome. Peace of mind is thus generally associated with bliss, happiness and contentme nt.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_peace
Stress is the opposite of peace and is one of the leading causes of physical and mental illness in the United States. The American Institue of Stress did a study where they found that
|77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.|
|73% of people regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.|
This means that most of the citizens of the United States are at least experiencing one symptom of stress in their daily lives and that all of us are subject to it.
By decreasing our stress we allow peace to enter. Here are eleven things you can incorporate into your life for added peace.
11 Ways to increase inner peace
These types of activities include, but are not limited to, exercising, reading, participating in a hobby, journaling, etc.
2. Breathe. Taking a moment every day to turn inward and focus on deep breathing has massive benefits for the body. It calms the mind down, increases blood flow, lowers your heart rate, lowers the stress hormone cortisol, reduces inflammation, and is a mood booster.
In as little as ten breaths you can reduce your risk of disease and illness while experiencing the positive side effects of deep breathing every day. You can set aside a time every day and make it part of your routine.
Deep breathing is also a handy tool for stressful situations. If you lose your temper, feel flustered, or are getting anxious you can use it as a coping mechanism to calm yourself, take control of your thoughts and emotions, and avoid reacting to the situation.
3. Forgive. Forgiveness can be a healing balm not only to relationships but to the heart as well.
When you forgive yourself and others, you remove the cancerous effects of holding on to pain, hurt, shame, or anger. When you let go of past errors you take your body out of flight or fight and can be at peace with yourself and those around you.
4. Self-compassion. Self-compassion is similar to self-forgiveness.
Kristin Neff’s definition of self-compassion goes as follows.
“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others… [For others], you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, you stop to tell yourself ‘this is really difficult right now. How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?'”Kristin Ness
In essence, self-compassion is allowing yourself to make mistakes and be gracious to those shortcomings. It is acknowledging your pain and letting it be okay.
Taking care of ourselves emotionally and mentally can relieve pain, suffering, and can increase our self-esteem because we are making ourselves a priority and taking care of ourselves. If we are feeling better, then our peace automatically increases.
5. Slow down. Slow down during your day. Take time to enjoy the moment and be present. Too many times in our culture we either ruminate about the past and what went wrong or are too focused on the future and worry about how we want it to go right.
But you cannot really be in the past or the future, you can only be at this precise moment in time. Being in the moment helps relieve depressive thoughts from the past and the anxiety you may feel about the future.
6. Plan ahead. Plan ahead to arrive at destinations ten minutes early. Being in a rush or driving frantically causes a stress response in our body. Taking the extra time to drive relaxed can make a difference in your day.
7. Set boundaries. Most of the time when we hold resentment or feel hurt by others it’s when they cross some type of boundary. A lot of times these boundaries have never been communicated to the other person.
Example. You make dinner for your significant other every night and then do the dishes and clean up afterward. You feel resentful that your partner doesn’t get up to help you, but you have never communicated this expectation to them.
The way to set up the boundary is to communicate with the person we feel resentful towards the need that is not being met. In the case of the example above you could say something like,
“Honey, I love cooking dinner for you every night, but it would be a huge help to me if you could pitch in and take care of cleaning up afterward. It would mean a lot to me to cook and not have to worry about the cleanup too.”
Setting these well-defined boundaries lets both parties know what the need and the expectation is. It also works for letting people know what is and is not okay.
Creating these boundaries is liberating. It allows you to stand up for yourself and to avoid holding on to dangerous emotions that nag at you. Boundaries make it easier to hold yourself and others accountable.
Letting go of resentment, feeling liberated, and standing up for yourself all contribute to your inner peace.
8. Ask instead of guessing.
“PEOPLE ARE DISTURBED NOT BY A THING, BUT BY THEIR PERCEPTION OF A THING.”— EPICTETUS
Similar to setting boundaries is to ask instead of guessing. Ask instead of guessing means to ask for clarification, for further detail, etc.
If we assume or guess at what the other people around us want or mean, then there is room for error, miscommunication, blame, anger, or hurt feelings.
Brene Brown has a fantastic quote that says,
“Fear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
By being clear in our communication to others and by asking for clarification from others, we create an atmosphere of trust, understanding, and growth. When we feel assured in the situation our peace and calm increases. It also sets us up for future wins instead of future stress.
9. Accept and let go. There are so many things outside of our control. We feel we are in control when we worry about them or try to predict the outcome, but all we are really doing is adding stress to our lives for things we cannot control.
Instead of trying to predict the future or change someone, accept what the truth of the situation is and then let go. If it is outside of your control, let it go.
This doesn’t mean that you have to like the situation but is the acknowledgment that it is outside of your control and you don’t have to take it on as your responsibility. This change in thinking can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.
10. Make time for nature. Nature has a calming effect and is good for the soul. It allows us to slow down, sit with our thoughts, and unplug.
Robert Puff Ph.D in an article by Psychology Today called, How to Find Inner Peace, says that to be out in nature doesn’t mean you have to be standing on top of a mountain. He describes it as, “an environment that fosters stillness and silence. “
This could mean sitting at your desk at work watching the rays of sunshine shine through the leaves of the tree next to your window. It could mean walking outside on your lunch break and enjoying the flowers at the nearby park. It is taking in the beauty of the nature around us and taking time to just… be.
11. Connect with a higher power. This means to connect with something greater than ourselves. This could be worshipping a God or deity, connecting with Mother Earth, the Universe, or good vibes.
Connecting with this higher power is unique to each individual. This increases inner peace by having the belief that there is something greater than us and that there is a purpose or meaning in this life.