Most people are familiar with the positive effects of traditional meditation practices. But there’s lots more you can do to lower your stress and become more peaceful.
1. Throw out, sell or donate everything you don’t need. Use this guide to minimalism to help you decide what you’re keeping in excess. If there’s anything that will immediately release your anxiety and put you at ease, it’s making the choice only to keep the physical things that either serve a purpose or hold a positive meaning for you.
2. Organize everything you do. And I mean everything. Your paperwork should be filed and your bills should be organized as soon as they come in the door. Your clothes should be kept in an easily accessible fashion, and your day-to-day necessities should always be placed somewhere you can easily find them. It will take so much of the guesswork and fumbling out of searching for that one random thing you only use once every two weeks (but desperately need, when you do).
3. Don’t consume what you don’t need. This is the other half, the more difficult half, of releasing everything you don’t use: you can’t buy more crap to replace it. Only buy the food you’re going to eat, and be very mindful and selective of what clothing and other products you buy. Will you actually use them? Do you even really want them, or do you want to just feel better in the moment? Trust me: A bolstered bank balance and the confidence of having a little more self-control will feel much better (and so will keeping a simple space you can actually maintain).
4. Put your self before your work life, as often as you can. Sure, there are some exceptions — like when you have to take care of your responsibilities and forego a few more minutes of sleep for an important email — and that’s fine, as long as you’re in the mindset that you are not your work. You are more than just what you do and earn.
5. Do something that makes you meditative. If sitting cross-legged and breathing isn’t your jam, find something that is. Do whatever it is that makes you really grounded and present and in the moment. If that’s going for a long drive with the windows down and music blaring, do that. If it’s dancing, do it in your room each day. If it’s painting, schedule time to do that, too.
6. Learn to turn daily chores into therapeutic practices… for example, bathing. You have to do it regardless, and the combination of hot water, the physical act of “cleansing” and how relaxing a hot shower or long bath is at the end of a long day makes it an ideal daily practice to reduce your nerves. Light a candle and listen to music and use salts to cleanse yourself. Be meditative about your rituals, and focus on the act of releasing and clearing.
7. Start to build a commonplace book. It’s a collection of quotes, ideas and passages that particularly inspire you or make you think, compiled and organized and filed neatly, so you can access whatever information you feel you need. Keep sections for “inspiration” or “healing” or “relationships” or “work,” and keep track of all the little things you come across that inspire you.
8. Incohesively journal. And don’t worry about storybooking your life… similar to the commonplace book, just jot down the ideas and epiphanies and observations you have in your day-to-day life. Look back and reflect on the things that most compel you to express them, and they’ll give you an idea of what it is you need to change/do more or less of in your life.
9. Burn candles at night. The flame itself is mesmerizing and calming; it will make your space smell better, and will overall give you a beautiful ambiance.
10. Replace your daily coffee/tea intake with hot water with lemon and honey. It’s relaxing and yields incredible health benefits. It’s cheaper and more natural than your usual latté alternative. There’s nothing not to love.
11. Only pay in cash. It’s difficult until it becomes a habit, and then you won’t be able to imagine how you ever did anything else. It keeps you conscious of what you’re spending (makes you realize how much the little things add up), keeps you on your budget and completely removes the “will this purchase dip into my bill money” fear (which should never be an issue).
12. Recite mantras. Even if it seems a little too new-agey for you at first, I promise, it’s so extraordinarily powerful that you’ll actually start to consider what it is you repeat to yourself once you see how impactful this practice becomes. Whatever you feel you’re lacking, or you want more of, say you “are” that thing. For example: “I am safe.” “I am in financial abundance.” “I am always taken care of.” “I am successful.” You lay the foundation to enact a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I am” is the most powerful “prayer” you can say.
13. Stop interacting with people who aren’t positive influences in your life, and don’t apologize for doing so. If they want to call you rude or unkind, so be it. You are under no obligation to make other people comfortable at the expense of your own sanity.
14. Cook your own dinner. There’s something very grounding about combining ingredients and working with foods and making your own meals. It makes you feel connected, responsible and empowered, in the simplest, most human way.
15. Observe what you unconsciously consume. Food, music, reading, TV. These things affect how you feel throughout your days. Don’t underestimate the power of the things you don’t even realize you’re letting into your life.
16. Ask yourself what kind of life you’d like to live, and base your other goals off of that idea. If what you think you want, for example, is to “start a business,” ask yourself if doing the dirty work of it, day in and day out, is your passion — or if you’re just in it to say you did it and seem successful. This, more than anything else, is how to determine the path best suited to you.
17. Make much more realistic goals than you normally do. You won’t actually be accomplishing any more or less than usual, but you will remove the guilt from believing you should have done more.
18. Find your ultimate joy in the simplicity of everyday life. Show yourself that you don’t need extravagance to have a truly incredible internal experience. You don’t need expensive foods to have a great meal. You don’t need anything other than what you currently have to start living the life you want. Why? Because the life you want is ultimately rooted in a feeling — a feeling that you can induce simply by shifting your perception.
19. Pay attention to what you seek. You will find it, no matter what. If what you subconsciously want is to see all the things that are wrong with your life, so as to force yourself to change it, that’s exactly what you’ll get. If what you seek is knowing all the ways you’re as unworthy as you fear you are, that’s what you’ll get, too. (So of course, you can make the opposite true.)
20. Develop a personal philosophy, and let it guide you through your daily life and decisions. If you don’t have any personal belief about why we’re here, what you’re ultimately doing, what your purpose is, etc., you’re going to live a highly unfulfilled life, riddled with worry, anxiety and unrest. You don’t have to adopt the beliefs of a certain religion or a particular group of people, but you do have to subscribe to what feels absolutely right to you. Not because somebody else told you so… but because it’s aligned with who you inherently are, and how you inherently think.
21. Stop trying to police yourself. Contrary to your instinct, much of the effort you exert to “hold yourself together” is useless. The more you integrate every aspect of who you are, the less you will unknowingly exert energy toward suppressing feelings, therefore compounding your stress and putting yourself on the road to implosion at any given moment. It’s more dangerous to suppress and ignore the “negative” aspects of who we are than it is to accept them. (In psychology, this is sometimes referred to as the “shadow selves” or Gestalt therapy.)
22. Stop believing that the way you perceive things is the way they actually are. Leave yourself room to be surprised. Remember that when you’re in a place of fear, you’re not seeing things clearly, or the way they really are. Remember that you can’t predict what will make you happy, but you can choose to seek gratitude, and peace, in the present moment.
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