While waiting in a long checkout line at a store, one woman remains calm and content, while the woman behind her is irritated and frustrated.
When cut off in traffic, one man simply continues driving toward his destination, while another man blows his car horn, shouting obscenities.
If nothing is going on, one person sits quietly and enjoys a moment of relaxation, while another begins frantically scrolling through social media on their cell phone.
These examples reflect the two types of people we are all capable of being: calm, tranquil, and peaceful, or agitated, anxious, and easily angered. The difference between the two types is a narrow one and is dependent upon personal behavior. If you want to be a person at peace with yourself and those around you, there are some simple things you can do to promote peace from the inside out:
Have a Routine
To have a peaceful mind, it’s essential to establish rhythm and routine day by day. Often, people who exhibit high levels of peace and calm are individuals who carefully regulate their daily activities. They go to bed at the same time and awaken at the same time. They eat their meals at the same time. They regularly practice habits that promote mental and spiritual health. By creating a pattern to their days, their nervous system knows what to expect rather than constantly being thrown off by an erratic, unfamiliar schedule. Consistency might sound boring, but it’s actually foundational for cultivating a peaceful mind. When you are organized with your days, you’ll be better prepared to calmly face all the unpredictable twists and turns that are out of your control.
Don’t Rush to Judgement
When we’re faced with a frustrating situation, it’s tempting to quickly pass judgment and get annoyed, but if we knew the whole story in those situations, we’d be much more likely to stay peaceful. There’s an anonymous prayer that reminds us to soften our tendency to jump to conclusions and get angry:
“Help us to remember that the ‘jerk’ who cut us off in traffic last night may be a single mother who worked nine hours and is now rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry, and spend a few precious minutes with her children.
“Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who couldn’t make change correctly at the register today is a worried 19-year-old student who is preoccupied with whether he passed his final exams and is afraid of not getting a student loan for next semester.
“Remind us, Lord, that the scary-looking ‘bum’ begging for money in the same spot every day is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
“Help us to realize that the old couple walking so slowly through the store aisles, blocking our shopping cart, are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got yesterday, this might be the last year they will go shopping together.”
Respond Rather Than React
When an unwelcome situation emerges, highly peaceful people create a space, a pause. In that brief moment they have time to adjust their thoughts and emotions instead of lashing out with a reckless reaction. When you react aggressively to a situation, it escalates the negative emotions of everyone involved, but if you respond calmly, it can make everyone back down. As the ancient proverb says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
Prayer links you to God, the ultimate Source of peace. This prayer of blessing found in Numbers 6:24–26 is a pleasant reminder that we can ask for peace from God: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
When they are troubled, peaceful people pray for guidance. When they are joyful, they pray, expressing gratitude. When they are discouraged, they pray for perseverance and patience. Peaceful people also recognize the logic and wisdom of this advice from Corrie ten Boom, who was imprisoned at a concentration camp during World War II: “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”
Spend Time Outside
Being in a natural setting is vital for an overall sense of peace and harmony. Science confirms that being outdoors calms us in a number of ways, including lowering our stress hormones, pulse rate, and blood pressure—thus making us feel more peaceful. When you’re feeling especially unsettled or angry, try a quiet walk near trees or water. Instead of letting rage get the best of you (and saying or doing something you’ll later regret), step away from the stressors and step into nature—and let the great outdoors help soothe your inner spirit.
“Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past,” notes Gerald Jampolsky, MD, author of Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All. It’s impossible to be a peaceful person while holding a grudge, harboring feelings of resentment, or entertaining thoughts of revenge. That’s why author Karen Salmansohn gives this advice: “Forgive them. All of your thems. The more thems you can forgive, the lighter you’ll feel.”
During this holiday season, when many people long for peace on earth and in their lives, it’s good to remember that a life of peace isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s an attainable way of life that you can achieve by increasing the attitudes and actions that bring peace and tranquility.
Based in the Midwest, Jay Sheen specializes in writing about mental and spiritual health.