12 Things To Stop Doing To Reclaim Your Inner Peace
As I inch closer towards turning 30, I’ve realized that the one thing I value the most in life is peace of mind. And I believe that all of us are striving to maintain our peace of mind at all times.
If you think about it, every time there’s a disturbance in our happy state, we work towards eliminating that disturbance so that you can go back to it.
Ultimately, every step that we take is to ensure that we maintain this state of peace somehow. What I’ve figured out — and I’m not a genius for doing so — is that it’s all dependent on our own heads and minds. Almost all of it anyway.
As Roy T. Bennet puts it:
“Nothing can disturb your peace of mind unless you allow it to.”
I really do believe that it’s our choice. Although, it’s not always a conscious one.
Typically, I handle emotional unrest quite well. But every so often things go for a toss. This past year (2020) is a prime example. And no, it’s not just because of COVID. Although the pandemic did add fuel to the fire. I had to move back in with my family after quitting my job last year, my first business failed to take off and then I started feeling quite lost. On top of that, my parents are going through a divorce and it’s getting uglier by the minute.
So, the better part of last year has been spent trying to find my mental balance and figure out ways to prevent disruptions to my peace of mind with everything that’s going on.
Here’s a list of 12 things I’ve stopped doing over the past few years that have made my mind a simpler place.
Looking at my phone first thing in the morning
Ever since I stopped doing this, my mornings have become a lot calmer and more productive. There are times when I sometimes give in to impulse and I’ve seen my day go for a toss then.
If you’re still doing this, stop. Seriously! There are several downsides to looking at your phone the first thing in the morning. In a 2018 article, psychiatrist Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, said that “that immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day off in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed — but that’s not even the full scope of the effects.”
There is a 2006 Australian study that shows that using phones right after you wake up alters your brainwave patterns and interferes with the natural mechanism of waking up.
Holding on to the idea of forever
There is a famous story in Indian historical texts from the story of Emperor Akbar and his confidante Birbal, who was known for his wit and understanding of human behavior and psyche.
One day, Akbar asked Birbal to tell him something that would make a happy person sad and a sad person happy. Birbal thought long and hard. At the end of the day, this is what he said to Akbar, “This time too shall pass.”
And that is one of the biggest lessons we were taught as kids. It took several years for the understanding to kick in, however. Now, whenever I’m in situations that are getting me too riled up or excited, I go back to this quote.
Arguing with people
How many times have you left an argument, more convinced that you’re right than ever before? Too many to count, right? Other people also feel the same way.
A few years ago I was sitting with a group of friends who didn’t share my political ideology. They were extremely unhappy with the government at the time and were bickering away, criticizing every move. Soon, this turned into a heated debate with the rest of the group who opposed their thinking.
I was so frustrated that as soon as I got a moment of silence, I asked the question: “What are any of you doing to change the situation you’re in or the country is in?”
The argument fizzled out almost immediately. That’s the thing, arguments are a waste of time because their intention is not to bring about a change. It is to prove that your own mindset is right. It’s an ego war. And there are no winners in an ego war.
Wasting energy on one-sided relationships
All of us invariably go through one-sided relationships in our lives. It’s not just in the romantic sense. Friendships, family ties, colleagues — we’ve all faced this in some or the other area of our lives.
The problem is that one-sided relationships often take a lot of energy, overthinking, and pondering from one person’s end. This energy isn’t really retreivable. So if you’re the one who is constantly giving, you’re likely to burn out.
It’s good practice to periodically evaluate the relationships in your life and let the toxic ones go. Create boundaries and stick to them. Take help from a therapist if that’s necessary. The earlier you do this, the more time you will have to focus on things and people that are actually fulfilling.
Holding on to people I’ve outgrown because of the time I invested in the relationships
One phrase: Sunk Cost Bias. This doesn’t just apply to economics and career success. It applies to every aspect of life, including relationships
Often, we think because we’ve invested time and effort into something, we have to continue to pursue it, even if it’s causing us pain in the present time.
And I’ll admit, it is extremely hard to let go of that sense of commitment, but at the same time, it is extremely important. And it starts with becoming aware of relationships that are sucking our time and resources without giving any sense of fulfillment in return.
Allowing dysfunctional family members to steal my joy / ruin my happiness
About 5 years ago, I consciously made a decision to limit my interaction with all of my relatives to birthdays and anniversaries. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
In India especially, relatives can get extremely nosy and have a false sense of authority over your life. It not only gets irritating but it also affects your decision-making. Keeping my relatives at a distance allowed me to explore different options in my life without having to worry about their judgment and interference.
Accepting or excusing toxic behavior because it was comfortable
This is a tough one. I still find myself falling prey to becoming comfortable with toxic behavior mostly because of the way we’re conditioned. But I’m working on it.
A lot of the time it is recognizing toxic behavior that’s the problem. Reading up on mental health and going to therapy has immensely helped with understand the cues when I see them and then working to not tolerate it.
Often, we ignore toxic behavior when it’s committed by the people we love or care about. And that’s the start of a spiraling journey. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to your close ones for their BS and if you’re doing it, kudos. If not, you can start by learning how to.
Honestly, I don’t even know why I didn’t workout before!
I was always a sedentary person — the studious kid in school, the front-bencher in college, and then a writer who was sitting at her laptop all day long.
As you can imagine that led to its own set of problems. Weight gain was one of them but as soon as I gained weight, I would work out for two months to lose it and then go back to my old ways.
Then last year I started training with a fitness professional and he changed my complete outlook on fitness and health. Now, I don’t go two days in a row without moving.
Trying to not let people down
You can’t please everyone, all the time. It’s one of the most fundamental truths of life. And it’s taken me a better part of my 20s to realize this.
A lot of my childhood conditioning involved people pleasing because listening to and doing what everyone else wanted was what got me praise and appreciation. That became a mental bias and went on way into adulthood.
I cannot tell you the amount of time I wasted in doing what other people wanted without knowing or realizing that my wants, desires, and dreams were equally important.
I put myself first now.
Keeping tabs on the news
Would you believe me that I was a journalist for the first half of my professional career?
Even then, I wasn’t the kind of person who kept tabs on “news”. Why? Because it’s mostly filled with BS and that became apparent once I started working in the business of news. It is a business.
The other problem is that news plays with the negativity bias in our brain and keeps showing us more and more negative news. Especially the one on TV.
Everything you need to know about what’s happening in the world can be achieved by spending 30 minutes reading the headlines on the internet. You don’t need more exposure than that.
The moment you cut out the negativity and dramatization that comes from news, you’ll find yourself having a lot more mental bandwidth and time to pursue things that actually matter.
Feeling guilty for resting and taking a break
This was again a result of childhood conditioning. Taking breaks as a child was often seen as this undesirable activity and we were applauded for going hours without taking one. And of course, we were made to feel guilty for taking breaks.
That led to me becoming a workaholic for the better half of my 20s. I could sit for 5–6 hours on end without getting up from my desk even once.
Eventually, that caught up and I faced a massive burnout. And that brought a lot of things into perspective. Breaks are now a top priority in my schedule. I still tend to work a lot, but thankfully I take enough breaks to keep me going.
Making excuses for others
I am the kind of person who sees the good in people first and it takes a lot of negative experiences to change my opinion. As a result, I’ve made excuses for others for some very questionable behaviors.
Last-to-last year, this led me to almost losing a rented accommodation I was sharing with two other flatmates. That jolted my eyes open. Now, I try to look at people and interactions practically without wearing my rose-tinted glasses.
It’s impressive how this one change can help you see the red flags early on in any relationship and help you prioritize yourself.
As you would’ve probably already realized, all of these are in completely random order. But each of them is super important. Have you got any particular thing you’ve stopped doing in order to bring yourself greater peace of mind? I’d love to know.