Learning to cultivate inner peace and greater joy is one of the many gifts of practicing mindfulness.
Unfortunately for most of my life, I was too busy to learn some basic skills to help me thrive and not merely survive.
Busyness and accomplishing lots of “tasks” in a day became the priority. All of my productivity landed me in the doctor’s office with a lot of stress-related symptoms.
My busyness was something I did out of habit because I didn’t know how to be alone with my feelings and myself.
My busyness was robbing me of my relationship with the most important person in my life- myself.
All of this changed when I learned and started to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is about being fully aware of each moment in your life. Each thought, feeling, sensation, and experience is accepted for what it is. There’s no battle going on in your head and heart. You are open to it ALL.
Here are 5 mindfulness tips that will help you cultivate inner peace and joy:
1. Take the best friends’ approach to your feelings.
One of my coaching clients recently said, “I don’t know what I’m feeling most of the time and I really don’t know how to deal with painful emotions so I find myself binge eating when I’m stressed.”
Most of us have no idea how to feel what we feel and we most definitely don’t want to embrace the uncomfortable feelings of sadness, worry, anxiety, anger, and fear.
But here’s the thing. You can’t just selectively decide that you want to feel the good feelings and not the bad feelings. In order to feel joy and happiness, you also have to feel sadness and pain. It’s just the way it works.
Begin the practice of making friends with ALL of your feelings. The first step is to become aware and begin to develop a vocabulary for how you’re feeling.
Notice when you are “judging” your feelings as good or bad, right or wrong. Letting go of the need to judge is very powerful. It creates space for the feelings to be present without creating a story or drama around them.
Be curious about how the feeling actually feels in your body. What you’ll find is that our feelings and emotions are like clouds and they move through us if we allow them to be there and don’t try and push them away.
2. Get out of your head and into your heart.
They say that the longest journey that you can make is the journey between your head and your heart. One thing I know personally from my experience is that you will never connect with your soul through your head.
When we have a battle between our head and our heart, our mind is often victorious.
Whenever you find yourself worrying and feeling anxious it’s the perfect opportunity to practice getting out of your head and connecting with your heart.
The first step is noticing that you’re feeling anxious and worrying. Take some long, slow deep breaths, and as you’re doing that watch your chest rise and fall over your heart area.
Spend a couple of minutes focusing on your breath and your heart and finish off with saying something kind or compassionate to yourself as if you’re being your own best friend.
3. Build your resilience to stress.
The biggest barrier to cultivating inner peace is stress. We often think of stress as all of those things external to us but when we realize that stress is an inside job, we can develop a new healthier relationship with it.
When our lives are stressed and we don’t create opportunities to recharge and connect with ourselves in solitude, we go into survival mode. Survival mode and the connection with inner peace cannot co-exist and in these conditions, survival mode will always take priority.
The quickest way to shift our bodies and minds out of the stress response is through our breath. Whenever you’re noticing that you’re feeling stressed, “take five.” Take 5 long, slow, deep, breaths in and out before resuming your day. Realize that you’re just a few breaths away from inner peace.
4. Train your mind to pay attention to the little things.
When you think about how you spend your time, let’s face it a lot of it feels mundane. We do the laundry, grocery shop, clean the house, and drive around in traffic. Most of us have a mindset that says” I’ll be happy when I get to do something exciting on my vacation or get that promotion.”
We think that happiness is somewhere else at some other time.
In order to cultivate inner peace and contentment, we need to make a choice to experience the wonder and miracle in the little things in life.
Make a commitment to yourself that you intend to be more mindful and focus your attention on the little things. When you’re walking pay attention to walking; when you’re driving, drive; when you’re doing the dishes, do the dishes.
Every time that you notice that your mind has drifted away and you bring it back to what you’re doing you’re becoming more mindful. And it is in the small, simple, repetitive, tasks that make up our lives that we connect with inner peace.
5. Practice self-love and compassion at every moment.
The root of most of the problems in our lives can be traced back to a lack of self-love and compassion. We feel we’re not good enough and that when we are having a hard time we’re often pretty hard on ourselves.
The harsh critic in our mind needs to be acknowledged and then asked to step aside so that we can be kinder and more loving with ourselves.
Start each day telling yourself that you love yourself and that you are “enough”. Become aware of times when your little voice is being hard on you and practice being kinder to yourself.
I have this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh on my bedside table:
Waking up this morning I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.
So there you have a few things that have made a difference in my life.
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