Calmness is a virtue. Having a calm head on our shoulders can help us handle stressful situations better, make better decisions and emit an energy field that is powerful and attractive.
It is no wonder that many successful and well-regarded leaders are calm by nature. At least, that’s the kind of energy they emanate on the outside. They speak with an unhurried, controlled tone; they make smooth, supple movements; they look relaxed even under pressure and they make complex decisions without appearing the mildest of stressed.
I have often looked at these people and wondered, “how do they do it?”, “what in them makes them so calm and collected?, “what is their secret?”. And over the years I have found that their secret is simple – ‘mastery over the mind’.
The mind is like a wild horse when it is on the loose, but just like the horse, when tamed, the mind can be a great servant.
To become a calmer person, you need to hold the reins and take control of your mind. But how do you do that? There are many simple practices that you can use to tame your mind. I am going to share a few practices that have helped me immensely in overcoming anxiety and becoming calmer.
How Your Mind Works
When we are in a perceptively difficult situation our mind habitually starts thinking ahead of the time. And most minds tend to conjure up all the ways things could go wrong and their long term negative consequences.
This kind of thinking causes stress in the body. Stress produces the stress response hormone cortisol in the blood stream. Cortisol elevates your heart beats, which in-turn increases adrenaline levels eventually clouding your thinking.
A calmer, collected person is able to successively disregard these negative thoughts. Instead, they divert their focus and energy on finding a solution instead of focusing on future consequences and things that could go wrong. And not surprisingly, they are able to come up with powerful solutions while maintaining composure.
Practices That Will Help Your Become Calmer
Here are five simple practices that have helped me become calmer. I am sure it will be helpful to anyone who practices them.
Meditation is exceptionally powerful in taming the mind.
In-fact, I don’t think there is any method other than meditation that can help you take back control of your mind. All new age practices that include staying in the present moment, mindfulness etc. are variations of meditation in some or the other way.
So what is meditation? Simply put, meditation is ‘learning to focus’. When you master your focus, you have mastered your mind. It is as simple as that.
As an example, imagine you have a torch light and you are walking down a path at night. If your hands are shaky, the light from the torch will not fall on the path ahead and instead will be all over the place. But if you steady your hand and focus the light on the path, now you can see the path clearly. This is exactly how mind focus works.
Here is a simple yet extremely effective exercise you can do to get started with meditation to tame your mind.
Exercise: Sit in a comfortable place and divert your attention to your breathing. Feel the cool air hit the base of your nostrils as your breath in and then the hot air released as you breath out. Make sure not to strain yourself while doing this. If you find yourself becoming strained, try and relax. Loosen your body.
You will find that in the beginning, you will be unconsciously drawn towards your thoughts after only a few seconds of focusing on your breath. But with practice over many days, you will start to gain better control.
Do this on a daily basis for as long as you feel comfortable. If you feel frustrated at how fast your focus goes back to your thoughts, tell yourself that this is normal and happens to everyone. This is just like learning to ride a bicycle. You fall down the first few times but eventually you find balance.
The longer you are able to hold your focus on your breathing, the more mastery you gain over your mind. Overtime you can shift focus from breathing to your heart beats, the center of your head, chanting mantras and so on.
If you find this hard, check out this guided mediation by Tara Brach. Or, check out this one minute calming meditation by Elisabeth Blaikie.
2.) Emotional self control
It goes without saying that a calm person is in control of his emotions. He does not get agitated or exhibit animated behavior when faced with a difficult situation. His calm composure helps others around him calm down too.
Like everyone else, he feels the emotions rushing through him but he ‘releases them’. He does not suppress them or express them in an animated manner – instead he releases them.
I believe the way to achieve emotional mastery is through body awareness and by learning to ‘feel consciously’.
For gaining mastery over your emotions, you need to learn to feel your emotions fully. Be present in the moment and consciously feel your emotions. Consciously feeling them is a way to release them without letting them take over.
Exercise: Sit comfortably and think of events that trigger an emotional response in your body. Now instead of flowing with the emotion, try “consciously feeling” the energy behind the emotions fully. It does not matter if the emotion you are feeling is positive or negative. The idea is to learn to feel the energy behind the emotion. When you feel the energy, you no longer suppress the emotion – instead you are releasing the emotion. Letting it go.
Try repeating this exercise in situations where you feel anxiety and over time you will gain mastery over your emotions.
3.) Becoming more aware
Awareness is different from ‘being self conscious’. In-fact, ‘self conscious’ is a misleading word. When you are self conscious you focus on others and what they are thinking of you instead of focusing on the self.
Instead, try to become more aware of your own self. The way to get started with this, is to practice being the present moment.
Exercise: At any given moment, become aware of your posture, become aware of your hands and legs and where they are doing, become aware of any unconscious jittery moments like shaking your legs, become aware of body parts that you have clenched unconsciously, become aware of the thoughts running in your mind or that song playing in your mind on repeat, become aware of your facial muscles and so on.
The more you do this, the more you grow in awareness. The more you are aware, the better you will be able to identify unconscious behavior patterns when you are faced with a situation and curb them putting out a calm outward appearance.
You will also be able to identify negative thought patterns and come out of them.
4.) Positive self talk
If you believe from your past experiences that you generally loose composure during a stressful event, your belief reinforces similar behaviors. Self talk is a great way to reverse such beliefs. Tell yourself that you act calmly and confidently during all times.
Exercise: Reaffirm yourself over and over again, multiple times a day, that you are a calm and collected person. Just say ‘I am a calm person’ or any other mantra over and over. Repeating this over and over will make your mind believe in it. It will discard the old belief and replace it with the fact that you are calm. Listening to per-recorded affirmations can be effective too.
Here is a recommended calmness affirmations video on youtube by Jason Stephenson.
Self hypnosis is also a great way to reverse negative belief systems. There are plenty of self hypnosis and affirmation videos on Youtube that you can use for this purpose.
Visualization is a great way to reprogram your sub-conscious mind. It works wonders when done along with meditation.
Exercise: The best time to visualize is when your body and mind are fully relaxed. So, start with meditation, when you feel that your thoughts have reduced, visualize yourself as a calm and composed individual. Also visualize the positive reactions of people around you.
Remember that taming your mind and gaining control over it is the only way to become a calmer individual. I have spend most of my childhood and adult life in anxiety and these methods are helping me become free from it. They are very powerful if done over time. So don’t give up and make it your habit to practice them regularly.
If you have any other suggestion on techniques that have helped you, please let me know in the comments.