I recently took the chance to visit Warrandyte, a beautiful suburb of Melbourne. As I sat and watched the Yarra River I remembered that I used to walk past here, longing to be the sort of person who sat calmly by the river.
We lived in Warrandyte for about ten years and regularly walked along the Yarra River. I can remember noticing people who sat calmly by the river. I didn’t know if they were pondering or meditating, if they were happy or sad, but they seemed calm. I thought to myself “I wish I was calm enough to sit and watch the river”. My assumption was that these people had spare time that let them sit by the river – perhaps they had finished all the jobs on their to-do-list. It didn't occur to me that some people sitting by the river were there because they had made it a priority.
Happily, I eventually realised that a sense of calm is something I have to create in my life; calm was not something that would magically appear at the bottom of my to-do-list. I wish I had worked this out earlier, but I am glad I eventually got there! Today, if I am back in Warrandyte, I schedule in time to sit by the river. I don’t sit there because I’m not busy, but because it’s important for me to create ‘pockets of calm’ within my day. It does not need to be a long time, but I need it to be there.
Being in nature has always been calming for me, whether sitting by river, swimming in the surf, or walking in the bush. I suspect the sensory input has always made it easier for me to be mindful, even before I understood what mindfulness is. In nature, I tend to be ‘in the moment’ and not ‘in my head’. If I am sad or worried, it’s easier for me to be ‘sad but OK’ if I’m in nature, partly because I’m calmer. If I cannot get out into the bush, tending to the plants in our office will help me create a moment of calm. A quiet, mindful, cup of tea can also do the trick.
Tips for creating calm
List it: Calm is not found at the bottom of your to-do-list; creating moments of calm needs to be on your to-do-list.
Prioritise: Schedule a time to engage in an activity that is calming for you. You will be much more likely to complete the activity if you've written it into your schedule.
Mindset: Notice your thinking about being calm. Do you tell yourself unhelpful stories like "I need to get everything done first"? Remember, calm is not found at the bottom of your to-do-list!
Breathe gently: Take a few gentle breaths into your belly. If it's comfortable for you, try to let your exhalation (your out breath) be a bit longer than your inhalation (your in breath).
Tune into your senses: Notice what you can see, hear, feel, smell, or taste. If you've already practiced mindfulness skills, this will be a familiar step.
Unplug: Spend a little with your phone and devices turned off.
Go slowly: Completing a task slowly will often help you to be more mindful. You could try walking at half your usual speed or making a cup of tea at half speed.
Use your wisdom: I suspect you'll already know what activities help you feel calm. Perhaps try to recall some moments when you felt calm; what were you doing? Schedule one of those activities for today.
Structure helps: If you know you'll be tempted to skip the calming activity, try to add structure to increase the likelihood of you engaging in it. You could tell someone else your goal to add accountability or make a time to complete an activity with a friend (in person or on line).
How do you create moments of calm in your day? Do you create as many as you want? I would love to hear how you create calm in your life.
If you are really struggling to find moments of calm in your day, you can contact us for an appointment.
© Laura Humphreys, Yarra City Psychology, 2019. You are welcome to share this blog as long as it is shared in full and unchanged and with credit provided to Laura Humphreys and Yarra City Psychology.