Want to feel more zen? Whether you are in school or you work a 9-5, it is easy to allow stress to get to you. From due dates and tests to big presentations or promotions, life has a way of zapping the calm right out of you. No matter your schedule, there is always time to try something to bring some zen into your life. You can call it self-care, practicing mindfulness or simply just taking care of your mental health, but trying these 12 ideas will definitely help you feel more zen this week.
This may seem like an obvious place to start but it is a mindfulness tool that a lot of people shrug off. Before you move on though, you should really give it a try. Studies have shown that students and employees who meditate for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each day are calmer, have better recognition and perform better on tasks. If you are a meditation beginner, try a guided meditation to get started. Search YouTube for a guided meditation video or try meditation apps for an easy way to get into a zen state of mind.
2. Take A Bath
This is my personal favorite kind of self-care and one of the quickest ways to get me in a zen headspace. Make taking a bath an evening (or daytime depending on your schedule) ritual-type experience. Treat yourself with bubbles or a bath bomb, scented candles for ambiance and calming music. Give yourself the opportunity to fully decompress and leave your phone out of the tub and simply lean back and relax. If your mind is restless, bring a book into the tub with you but something easy to read so your mind can just take a break and soak in the calm.
3. Thankful List
If you struggle with starting your day stressed, try a daily thankful list. Recognizing what you have in your life to be thankful for will allow you to start your day in a more calm, collected place. At my most stressed, doing this reminded me that I always, always, always have something to be thankful for and that it is worth so much more than my stress. The important thing to remember is, even if your list is simply that you were able to wake up, you still have something to be thankful for.
4. Take A Breath
If you are in the middle of your day and start feeling overwhelmed, take a minute to take some deep, clarifying breaths. Sitting or standing tall, start breathing in through your nose until your lungs are at capacity and hold for five seconds. Then, slowly breathe out of your mouth until your lungs are empty. At first, it may feel a little awkward to breathe so slowly and deeply and you may feel a little lightheaded but after some practice, you’ll find it will easily bring you back to zen.
5. Practice Forgiveness
This is a practice that is easier said than done but it is so important to a clear mind. In order to create an atmosphere of inner peace, you have to learn to forgive and forget. From minor inconveniences like someone taking your parking spot (happens all the time on campuses) to someone getting promoted over you, to someone betraying your trust, holding grudges can lead to unnecessary tension in your mind. Whether the person knows they wronged you or if it is just you feeling hurt, holding onto this anger will only hurt you. Decide to forgive them and move on to better, zen-like things.
6. Repeat A Mantra
Besides taking a bath, which requires that I be home and have time, using a mantra is my go-to way to bring back a zen state to my mind. Pick an easy to repeat phrase that has meaning to you and has a positive, uplifting message. My personal mantra is a verse that says “Let it be unto me as you have said.” I couple repeating this with deep breathing and I always feel better after a few minutes of repeating the words. Find something that puts your situation into perspective and you’ll be feeling zen in no time.
7. Try Something New
Sometimes, the lack of inner peace and calm is caused by being stuck in a rut. Your mind is feeling trapped and simply getting out of your everyday routine will give your brain a jump start. From trying a new route to work, getting coffee somewhere new or taking a fun class or doing a poetry slam, introduce variety to your life. The possibilities are endless but trying something new will give your mind a break from the mundane!
Just like meditation, this may seem like another obvious choice to feel more zen but make sure you are getting the most out of your yoga practice. If you practice at home, light candles, use essential oils or incense to set the mood and eliminate any distractions to have a mindful practice. Or, if you like taking classes, do some research and find a class that focuses on meditation or mindfulness and is slow-paced and calm. Don’t be afraid to try several classes until you find the right combination of teacher and poses and you’ll be zen in no time.
While these are similar to mantras, the purpose of affirmations is different. Think of a mantra as a reminder, put in place to remind you to be calm or positive. Affirmations are used to re-wire your thoughts and change your behavior or way of thinking. Some examples of positive affirmations are
-I believe and trust in myself
-I can accomplish anything I set my mind to
-I accept what I cannot change
-I will be kind and practice patience
Make a list of “I” statements that you would like to manifest into believing or following and put them on a sticky note where you can read them and set the intention for your day before you leave the house!
10. Be Present
If you struggle with feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated or disconnected, it can be easy for your mind to have a hard time being at peace. One way to combat this is to make an effort to be present in what you are doing. Be diligent about ditching your phone. If you are having coffee or a meal, eliminate all screen distractions and enjoy your meal or company. When spending time with others, give them your undivided attention and you will find that you feel more connected when you are truly listening to them. When alone, appreciate the quiet and fully be mindful of what you are doing to get to a zen place.
11. Spend Time Outdoors
So many people underestimate the power of fresh air or sunshine. When I got overwhelmed studying at school, I would take a break and go for a walk or just go sit on a bench outside. When I worked 9 hour days in an office, I had to take a break from the florescent lighting so I would sit or eat outside at lunch time. Taking deep breaths of fresh air or taking in the sunshine will make you feel energized, awake and more prepared to take on what the day has to throw at you!
Finally, don’t forget to smile and laugh! Studies have shown that by either smiling or laughing, we improve our mental health. The great thing about this practice is that they have shown that you don’t have to feel like doing either for it to help. Fake smiling or laughing can trick your mind into thinking that it is in a more positive place. For a maximum boost of positive vibes, smile or laugh while looking in the mirror for a few seconds and be prepared to feel better!
What do you do to feel more zen and calm during the week? Share in the comments!
Emily Bell is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a degree in Journalism with a Public Relations concentration. She currently lives with her husband and dog on the coast in Florida.