Peace of mind is a priceless commodity. It is a state of inner calm and clarity that eludes us far too often. And far too often we look at outside circumstances and other people to find the source of our unease. Our states of mind are not dependent upon what is going on around us. I have experienced favorable circumstances with inner turmoil and troubling circumstances with inner calm. It is safe to assume that peace of mind must come from within. French author Francois de La Rochefoucauld said, "When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere." The following are tips that many have found helpful on the path to serenity:
Let go. Author Larry Eisenberg states that "for peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the universe." Hanging on to resentments, guilt, anger and our ideas of how things should be and how others should be conducting their lives negates our chances to experience peace of mind. It's as simple as that. We can poison ourselves with resentment and discontent or choose to release what we are powerless to resolve. Forgive, apologize, quit trying to control everything and everyone - whatever it is that needs to be released.
Focus on the positive. Sometimes endlessly cheerful people can be annoying. At times I have thought that they were either oblivious to or in denial of what is going on around them. Now I'm not so sure. I think it's possible that some people have just made a choice to focus on the positives instead of the negatives. Who's to say which is more grounded in reality? We find what we look for in life - if we focus on goodness and blessings, we will find them everywhere. Likewise, we find evidence of ill will and despair if that is our focus. The focus lays the foundation for what is reality to us.
Be willing. We all know people who are determined to live in drama and trauma. If it's not readily available, they will create it for themselves. Perhaps it represents their earliest orientation to the world or it provides the energy and excitement they crave. Maybe they have learned to mistrust times of calmness and so they shatter it before it is shattered for them. Regardless, there must be an openness to experiencing peace of mind.
Practice prayer and meditation. This can be the most effective tool for serenity. Prayer is not just asking for specific outcomes. For me it is asking questions. How shall I look at this situation? How can I see someone or something with a more loving and clearer vision than my own? How can I respond to this problem with more grace and clarity than I possess left to my own devices?
Listen to your heart. Rational thinking is needed, but we tend to overuse it and overanalyze things. Einstein once noted that "I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking." He also said that "intuition is everything." There is a calm, still voice in all of us. Some call it intuition, some call it the voice of God. We sometimes have to shush all the noise in our brains and give up preconceived notions to hear it, but it is a powerful guide.
Avoid over the top stress. We all experience stress, but we do not have to accept the kind that puts us in a tailspin. We perceive and react to situations quite differently when we are over-stressed. At the end of the day, there are few things that are worthy of relinquishing peace of mind.
As Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., said in an article, "We are an anxious nation. There is no question that uncertainty seems to have increased dramatically in the last few years. We worry about terrorism. We worry about war. We worry about losing our jobs. We worry about the dangers confronting our children. And on and on and on. This worry is understandable, but there is no question in my mind that, with the right tools, all of us can rise above any situation that life hands us. All of us can find a sense of peace and purpose."
Miriam Keith is consumer support coordinator of the Washington County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board, 344 Muskingum Drive, Marietta. Mental Health Matters appears on the Opinion page on the first Saturday of each month.