I was rummaging through the books I have collected, when I stumbled upon a quote in one of the books:
Just slow down. In the pursuit of even the highest, the loftiest goals, we sometimes rush so much. There’s a true story about a friend of mine who made elaborate travel arrangements to meet a guru at The Temple of Tranquillity in Indonesia. Things went wrong with his travel plans, he missed connections, got delayed, and had to make other complicated plans to get there. He finally arrived in Indonesia, hired a car to take him to the temple, and said to the driver, “The Temple of Tranquillity and step on it!”. The driver started to laugh and my friend started to laugh. That’s what we do even with the highest goals. We say, “I want serenity and I want it now, dammit!”.
– Ed Begley JR.
That’s exactly what most of us do everyday in our lives. We wake up tired from all the late night binge TV watching, then realize that we are late for work or school. We rush through our sugar-filled breakfast cereal, or worse, leave the house on an empty stomach and grab a coffee along the way. We then have a terrible day at work, feeling low on motivation to carry on with our day. We curse the 9-5 grind and hate our bosses. We come home super exhausted and the thought of cooking dinner now almost kills us. We are in a constant state of hurry.
This is the story of every young and working individual. It’s almost impossible with an approach like the one mentioned above, to have a happy and fulfilling day. If each day of your week looks like the one above, then you are filling your life with days that bring no joy or meaning and you end up being unhappy or agitated. It impacts your relationships, your work, and your life.
In this post, I am going to look at some habits/techniques (in no particular order) that you can follow to calm yourself and have a generally happy life as a result 🙂 So let’s get started.
1) Start Your Day With a Wholesome Breakfast
Don’t torture yourself with starting your day on an empty stomach. When you go to sleep at night, your body goes into starvation mode by the time you wake up. The worst thing you can have first thing in the morning is your cup of caffeine on an empty stomach. Your body, when it wakes up, needs something healthy to normalise its sugar levels. A good habit would be to have a banana or a fresh fruit within 10 to 15 minutes of waking up. You can also soak a handful of almonds or raisins in water overnight and consume them the first thing after you wake up. I learnt this technique from a renowned nutritionist, Rujuta Diwekar.
2) Do Some Exercises
When you are physically doing well, you will feel happier and healthier naturally. Incorporate some kind of exercises in your everyday routine. This does not mean spending two mindless hours in the gym sweating your heart out to look slim and smart when all you really feel is misery. Start with strength/weight training exercises 10-15 mins every alternate day and gradually increase the reps or increase the weights. With strength training, the more is not always better. The focus should be on the quality of your exercise. On days you do not strength train, do some light cardio exercises. If you do not enjoy cardio (which usually means mindlessly running on a treadmill and waiting for it to be over), engage in light cardio activities that you would enjoy, such as swimming or walking/jogging in a beautiful park.
3) Pray or Meditate Regularly
Prayer and meditation does nothing but enriches our faith and adjusts our inner compass. So if you feel like your mind is dwindling, you are having terrible thoughts, immediately pray for a while and make a dua’a for yourself. Whatever religion you follow, there must be some Higher power that you believe in. So keep your faith intact.
4) 10 Minute Rule to Avoid Over-Thinking About Problems
It often happens that a problematic thought keeps nagging us all throughout the day and we keep ignoring it hoping that it would go away. But it keeps returning and by the end of the day we realize that we had a very rough day because that one particular thought kept us anxious throughout. To tackle such thoughts, I follow a simple technique. Dedicate 10 minutes to this nagging problem completely. Think as much as you can about this during these 10 minutes and make a vow to yourself that this is the only amount of time you will fret over this issue. Allow yourself to achieve closure, if you can, by devising a solution to the problem. If you are not able to reach a solution, vow to yourself that you will postpone worrying about it till tomorrow or until you are free from your current chores. This way, at the end of the day you won’t have over-thought that issue and would have made yourself a little less anxious.
5) Do Something Special for Yourself
A little treat every now and then doesn’t hurt. Find out what ways you would like to treat yourself. It could be a new cafe that you want to check out, a spa day that you truly deserve, or if you can afford, a shopping spree at your favorite mall. Designate a small amount of money from your bank account for your “Wellness Account“. Think of it as a monthly investment into your well-being because you truly deserve it no matter how stressful or stress-free your life is. This goes out specially for all women. Stress and anxiety can occur to anyone. Whether you are a working woman or a stay-at-home woman, you don’t need a reason to pamper yourself every now and then. Your well-being is your family’s well-being.
6) Have a Productive Hobby
It can be a little daunting for employed people to take out time for their hobbies. After all, the daily grind does not leave enough time for anything let alone a simple home-cooked meal and weekends are mostly spent sleeping in or hanging out with the family. But do take out some time and invest it into something you would love to do. It could be a an online course in a subject that you want to learn, a new research that you want to do, a new craft that you want to practice, or something techy that you want to build. The point is, when you have a hobby that you truly enjoy, you have something to look forward to each day.
7) Engage More with Happy People and Cut Back on Toxic Relationships
This is an important one. If you feel that you are surrounded by toxic people who constantly demotivate you about your goals, comment on your tiny mistakes and generally do not have anything good to add to your life, you must avoid hanging out with them. Now this could be a little tricky if you can’t completely avoid seeing them everyday (for example, if you live with such people). What you can do then is to laugh off their hurtful comments and ignore their behaviour until they realize that it is not in their power to provoke you in any way. You should also avoid telling such people about your goals and ambitions because they have the tendency to cast an evil eye on you and these bad vibes can totally kill your spirit. Remember, that to achieve something in life, it takes faith and conviction in yourself more than your command over a skill. Also try to spend some time with people who make meaningful conversations. When you talk about good things together, you will learn from each other and grow together. If you hang out with happy people, your mood will naturally lighten up and you will absorb their good energy.
8) Skip the Political Talk Shows
I can’t stress over this enough. You must quit watching afternoon or late night talk shows based on current affairs or politics. It only elevates your anxiety level and makes you angrier. Remember that media is biased in this day and age and most of the spicy stuff is shown to spark emotion among the people which in turn gives good ratings to the TV channels. Cut the cable and get your daily news through online websites or the traditional newspaper. If you really want to watch TV, substitute it with the good kind of TV like comedy shows, travel or science documentaries, feel-good movies etc. Youtube and Netflix are great platforms for discovering quality content as per your interests.
9) Save Money for a Vacation
Getting out of your city or country really helps shifting your focus. When you go on a holiday and meet new people, live in a different lifestyle just for a few days, it refreshes and resets you. Take out a small amount of money every month from your salary and add it to your vacation budget. In a few months, you should have enough money to travel within or outside your home country. It doesn’t have to be a lavish vacation, it just needs to be a change of climate and environment for the sake of your sanity.
10) No Caffeine Post-Sunset
Sleeping on time and waking up on time is very important for a healthy mind and body. Those late evening or night time cups of chai need to stop if you want to achieve a better quality of sleep. A hormone in our body called Cortisol works with parts of our brain to regulate mood, motivation and fear. Consider it as our body’s natural alarm system. In the morning the Cortisol levels need to rise to allow us to start our day fresh and alert and by the evening the levels need to drop to allow us to have a restful sleep at night so that our body can work on repairing itself during the sleep. The problem with having caffeine at such late hours is that it triggers our body to start making more cortisol which in turn leads to poor sleep, digestion issues, insulin resistance and other hormonal and metabolic problems. In lay man’s terms, you will be more at risk of developing metabolic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes if you do not follow healthy diet, exercise and sleeping habits. So cut back on the chai/coffee post-sunset and invest in your health.
11) Know That Nothing is Constant – Even Your Problems
This has been a very reassuring fact for me. Like any normal human being, I have had multiple things bother me during my life. But looking back, I have realized that each issue was temporary and if given time, it resolved on its own. It is a fact that problems will not reduce with the passage of time instead they will be replaced with newer ones. But the good news is, that each one will not be permanent. In Islamic faith, we believe that each hardship is accompanied by its solution and that Allah never burdens us more than we can tackle. So consider your issues a rough patch that you need to pass through with perseverance and I guarantee you that one day you will look back and realize how everything settled itself in due time.
12) Keep Your Health in Check Specially Vitamin D Levels
Get regular health checkups. Slight irregularities in your health can also cause stress and anxiety without you even knowing about it. I will emphasise a lot on getting a blood work done at your doctor’s advice, specially your Vitamin D levels. Most people in the world are Vitamin D deficient which leads to poor bone health, hair loss, depression, fatigue, body and muscle pains. Many diseases actually happen because of a simple deficiency so before you reach that point, I highly recommend that you get your Vit D levels checked and get supplements for it.
13) Minimize Your Possessions
Let go of baggage. Literally. The more things you own, the more anxious you would feel. If you have a messy room, tidy it up. Make a habit of cleaning your kitchen as you cook so as to avoid the pile of dishes at the end of your cooking which may seem like an intimidating task later on. Keep only enough clothes in your closet and donate the rest to friends, family or charities. Think of it this way: When you go on a vacation, you literally live out of one suitcase and your life seems complete with just a few items of personal use. Why can’t you apply the same living-out-of-one-suitcase idea to your entire life?
14) Have Long Term Goals and Take Tiny Steps to Reach Them
It’s good to have a long term plan for your life. Of course you need not obsess over it from this moment onward, but it helps to keep you motivated every day if you have a long term goal in mind. For example, earning a degree within the next 5 years, moving to a new house after 3 years, saving X amount of money every month for a new car, etc.
15) Stay Close to Nature
Lastly, I highly recommend that you spend as much time as you can in Nature. Nature has a way to heal even the most agitated mind. Take a trip to the beach and spend some time listening to the waves. Spend time at a local park or head to a green location in your country and inhale the fresh air. Try as much as you can to plant trees in your neighbourhood to save the environment and promote well-being.
I hope that these tips help you out in achieving a life full of joy. Is there any special way you like to calm yourself? Let me know in the comments below 🙂