I want to be calm is a beautiful and useful book on how to live a calmer, more peaceful, and mindful life. With the stress and strains of modern life, it is increasingly difficult to be the peaceful and serene spirit that we all wish to be.
When was the last time you sat quietly with only your thoughts for company and fellt happy about it? When was the last time you didn’t feel you should be doing something–your mind casting round anxiously for what you need to do now to stay on schedule, whether it’s a business report approaching its deadline, a call to your mother, the unpaid car tax, or a washing machine that needs emptying?
In reality, pausing for a moment might actually help you feel calmer, more on top of things, less stressed and more in tune with life. And if you are wondering how it might be possible to achieve, to be a calmer person, take a moment–as Kate Winslet famously said–to gather: gather your thoughts, gather your emotions, gather your self.
Managing emotions & moods
Emotions are something we feel–like anger, happiness, sadness–but they can also be affected by our mood. Moods tend to be a more general feeling–being in a good or bad mood–but can last longer, and it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint their exact cause. So you can feel sad, but be in a good mood. Or be in a bad mood, which stops you feeling happy.
So you want to be calm, what can you do?
First, think how you’re feeling. Sometimes this can be a vague dissatisfaction or feeling of agitation, rather than a specific mood. To help you work it out, you can use a very simple ‘mood map’, devised by Dr Liz Miller in her book Mood Mapping.
‘It’s a practical device that lets you see where your moddo is coming from and enables you to identify those steps you need to take to manage it and stop it ruling your life’, she says.
Once you know roughly where your mood is, you can take steps to improve it. So if you are feeling negative but high in energy, you may be feeling quite stressed and agitated–the opposite to feeling calm–and some physical exercise to dissipate these feelings and lift your mood through the release of endorphins might help.
Bear in mind that how you feel physically can also affect your mood. Low blood sugar can make some people very grumply, as can being thirty or overtired.
Although we do it automatically, breathing is something that we can also consciously control, making it one of the simplest methods of regaining physical and mental focus, and calming our moods and emotions.
Breathing isn’t just about taking oxygen in, it’s also about getting rid of carbon dioxide from our bodies. Shallow breathing alters the oxygen–carbon dioxide balance in the blood, making it more acidic and, over time, our muscles become chronically tired and weakened from this acidic effect.
- Lie comfortably on the floor, knees bent, chin tucked in what Alexander technique teachers call the ‘constructive rest position’, or sit upright in a chair, legs uncrossed, feet flat on the floor.
- Consciously relax your neck and drop your shoulders, rest your arms by your sides with your palms turned upwards, hands relaxed.
- Breathe in long and gently through your nose, until you see your belly gently rise, for a slow count of five.
- Pause, hold that breath for a count of five, then gently exhale thorugh your mouth for another slow count of five.
- While doing this, try to clear your mind of all other thoughts or, if this is difficult, close your eyes and visualise a pebble dropping into a pool of water and gently sinking down.
- Repeat this breathing cycle 10 times, then see how your regular breathing adjusts as a consequence.
- You can use this breathing technique at any time you feel tense or stressed, or as the basis for any meditation practice.