Ways to Make Space in Our Lives

Do some days feel chaotic and out-of-control, regardless of what you do? Welcome to life on earth. I have more of those days than I like to admit. What I’ve learned about those days is that we’re supposed to have them – not all the time, but as I said – that’s life. No one is calm, peaceful and happy all the time, and we’re not meant to be.

I can’t say enough for making space in our lives, especially on those days when we’re running behind and the last thing we can afford to do is stop and smell those stupid roses! But the reality is that’s when we need space most.

We all know how good it feels to clear out some clutter in our surroundings. Studies have shown that a clear environment enhances clarity in the mind. The same concept applies to clearing the clutter from the top down as well. We all have way too much intellectual violence going on in our heads all the time. It keeps us in turmoil and contributes to those impulsive decisions we regret almost as soon as we make them. When we can clean even some of that out, it can feel like we have more space to just live life.

Here are just a few suggestions for how YOU can slow your life down & make space:

-Shut off all the technology around you (cell phone, home phone, TV, radio, computer, iPod, etc) for 5-10 minutes several times a week.

-Meditation – Don’t say “I’ve tried. I can’t stop the thoughts!” That’s not what meditation is about. We need to approach it without expectation of what it’s supposed to be. If you just sit quietly and close your eyes for 5 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate lowers, and you feel calmer. Meditation is about taking your focus OFF the thoughts and putting it somewhere else. (In other words, don’t jump on the thought train and ride all the way past the next station. When you notice that you’ve hopped on, just hop off and let the train go on by – no judgement, no beating yourself up or screaming that you’ll never be able to do this!)  Often people focus on their bodies or breath while meditating, but everyone needs to find the right way for them to meditate. There are many kinds of meditation and many apps that are helpful. My current favorite is Headspace because it teaches you how to meditate with its basic packs. Most meditations can vary between 10 to 20 or 30 minutes – you choose. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, there are also packs for many other issues – such as productivity, grief, sleep, managing anxiety, stress, gratitude. . . It also has packs for kids and “mini” meditations of 1-3 minutes for those moments when you need to just back off for a minute!

-Mindfulness exercises (very similar to meditation) – looking outside at trees, flowers, nature – not judging them, but just being with them.

-Be conscious of being in the moment, rather than mindlessly going through the motions of everyday, mundane activities (washing dishes, driving to work, etc) while you’re thinking of all the other tasks you think you have to accomplish. This also helps when you’re dealing with physical or emotional pain. Instead of catastrophizing and telling yourself — this is always going to be this way or maybe even worse!! — or mounting the pity pot and reminiscing about how you used to never have this pain, why can’t it still be that way? — just pull yourself back to right now – this moment.  (I tell myself, “This is what I have before me at this moment, so this is all I can manage for now. I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here, and I can’t unfeel what happened yesterday, so I’ll just stick with this for now”).

-Keep something you find beautiful at your desk or workspace (a stone, flower, painting, etc), and stop for a moment while you’re intensely working on something to just “be” with it. Pick it up and feel all it’s properties: the texture, weight, warmth or coolness – with curiosity. Again, this gets you out of your head.

-Ground yourself in your present surroundings. If you’re sitting on a chair/couch lightly rub your hands on the fabric to feel the texture. Notice the solid ground supporting you as you sit or stand or walk. Again, this is just another way of bringing yourself back to the moment to find a sense of calm.

-Look at pictures of your loved ones and allow yourself to actually feel that love you have for them in your body for just a moment.

-Light a candle and just watch the flame for a couple of minutes. Just notice it, without any judgment or label.

-This one might sound a little crazy, but Earthing refers to direct skin contact with the surface of the Earth, such as with bare feet or hands. There have been studies in recent years showinng that walking barefoot on the earth enhances health and provides feelings of well-being.  It appears to improve sleep, normalize the day–night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing, and help thin blood.

-Just stop working and HAVE FUN once in a while! We’re all under so much stress these days that we forget we still need that balance that a little fun provides.

ALL of these suggestions are just different forms of mindfulness.  I sometimes set an alarm on my phone to go off every hour or two on days I know are going to be stressful, and when I hear the alarm, I stop what I’m doing and take a minute to focus elsewhere, using one of the methods above. (This is called Stopping Meditation. By the end of a day, I sometimes have meditated more this way than in my daily morning meditation). We need to remain conscious of where we are in the moment as much as possible. Otherwise, we lose so much of our lives by living in that scary neighborhood in our heads.

I’m not going to tell you what – or how to do it – that’s up to you & what works in your life. I just want to encourage you to consider finding a way to slow your life down. When you do, you’ll find that you make better decisions for yourself and you’ll have moments of that ever-elusive peace!

Serenity is not peace FROM the storm, it’s peace WITHIN the storm.