Webster defines peace as “a quiet and calm state of mind, so perhaps a better question might be “how can you quiet your mind?”.
A lot of us are in need of peace today. Over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety.
There is a way for us to have peace but we need to seek it. We need to pursue it.
I first became intentional about seeking peace in 2010 when I was struck with an unidentifiable illness that kept me bedridden for two months. I was losing weight rapidly to the point of unhealthy levels. I had no energy. I had no appetite. I couldn’t even walk to the mailbox without being winded. I remember I spent that Halloween on the couch while my husband and 3-year-old son went trick or treating without me.
I was riddled with fear and anxiety. But I refused to stay there. I significantly down-sized the responsibilities in my life causing me stress, changed my diet and decided to focus on ways to seek peace.
Along that journey I learned an invaluable life lesson- that the world can be falling down around you, your health could be failing for instance, but there is a way you can walk through even that with peace.
Here are the ways I decided to seek peace and pursue it.
9 Steps to Seek Peace and Pursue it
We spend so much energy trying to stay on top of our calendars, our work, our finances, our activities, our social media, all in an effort to control our lives. And that’s all good stuff, we need to be productive with the time we have, but the world is a tumultuous place.
The hard truth is that control is an illusion.
We are not in control of our lives. We are not in control of our surroundings. We can be doing everything right and something outside of our control can come along and ruin it.
Case in point, 3 weeks ago my husband and I were happily on our way to the gym, sitting in traffic when all of a sudden we were rear-ended by a 12-passenger van going over 40 miles an hour. It slammed into us and thrust our car into the car in front of us.
One minute we were calmly minding our own business and the next minute, boom! There goes the car we were driving.
If that isn’t a vivid enough illustration that control is an illusion, let’s take a quick look at current events over the last 30 days:
-Hurricane in Houston, 70 people and 40,000 homes were lost
-Hurricane in Puerto Rico. 2,500 people lost their homes and 95% of Puerto Rico is still without power at the time of this post.
-Hurricane in Florida- 25% of homes were destroyed in the Florida Keys
-Famine in Kenya- More than 10 Million have been affected by the worst drought in over 60 years
And then this week, the unthinkable happened- a mass shooting in Las Vegas at a Country music festival where 58 people were killed and 515 were injured.
What do all of these tragic events have in common?
Not one of them could have been prevented or controlled by any one of us.
Control is an illusion.
Resolve yourself to the fact that no matter what happens, even if the worst were to occur, you are not in control. God is in control of the universe.
So often we overwhelm our minds with “what if” negative outcomes of future events that never actually come to pass. What if I never find love? What if I don’t get that promotion? What if I lose my job? What if my child gets sick? What if I get cancer? The “what if’s” are not real but we can convince ourselves that these are real threats and they can cause tremendous unnecessary inner turmoil. I love this old saying that “Worry is an old man with bended head carrying a load of feathers which he thinks is lead”.
You alone can decide what to focus your thoughts on. Step 2 on the path to peace is to banish worry. How do you banish worry? By realizing you have the power over it. Worry is something you CAN control.
You can decide not to focus on negative outcomes that have not happened yet. You can make the decision to focus only on what is right in front of you, that is today. This moment, nothing more.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. Jesus
Taking the time to take notice of and be grateful for the good things in life is one of the greatest ways to maintain your peace. Much angst is the result of wanting what we do not have and often we overlook the little gifts we have each day, like the sunshine or a healthy body. Practice being grateful for at least one thing each morning when you wake up and each evening when you put your head on your pillow. A great book that changed my whole outlook on gratitude was One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It was an amazing catalyst for change in my life. I highly recommend it for helping to build a practice of gratitude.
Because Breathing is automatic, we take it for granted, but breathing practices can actually train the body to be calmer. Studies show veterans after participating in a workshop on how to breathe through their feelings said they felt alive again after feeling dead since returning from Iraq. This is because breathing is closely linked to our emotions. When we feel happy we breathe deeper, when we feel anxious we breathe shallower. Specifically learning to activate our parasympathetic nervous system (the system for resting and digestion) we can train our body to be calmer with breathing. Control of our breath activates brain regions involved in control of the autonomic nervous system (which regulates heartbeat, temperature and breathing) and the parasympathetic system.
Breathing through the isolation of one nostril at a time, known as pranayama breathing, is said to cool the mind and emotions. To experience the benefits, do this exercise for 5 minutes before bed or when you first wake up to face the day.
• Take a deep breath in, closing the right nostril with your thumb
• Breathe out through the left nostril
• Close the left nostril at the end of the inhale
• Exhale through the right nostril
• Take a deep breath in through the right nostril
• Exhale through the left nostril
Sometimes when I’m feeling anxious or depressed if I just step outside and feel the sunlight on my face for a few minutes I feel better. I found out there is a medical reason for this. Vitamin D, otherwise known as the “sunshine vitamin” is produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Research has shown a vitamin D deficiency to be common in those who experience anxiety and depression. So stepping outside is an easy way to seek peace.
Create a peaceful environment
One thing you can control is your sleeping, living and working environments. Try to keep these as peaceful and clutter-free as possible. Clutter can play a bigger role than you realize in disturbing your peace. Try taking 10 minutes to de-clutter your desk, your bedside tables and your coffee table. Light a candle to set a peaceful atmosphere in your home. One of the ways I used to bring peace into my workplace environment was with a lavender spray bottle, I would spritz it and breathe it in every once in a while. In the afternoons, I started a “tea-time” with co-workers where I would grab some friends and go to the kitchen for some tea and a 10 minute stress break.
Drown out the Noise
It can oftentimes be difficult to be at peace with a lot of chatter going on around us. I find that putting on my headphones and playing a soothing Spotify playlist works well to drown out the noise around me and helps me feel more focused and relaxed.
Nurture Your Spirit
One of the biggest reasons we feel so overwhelmed and anxious is that we don’t take the time to nurture our spirits as well as we should. When I feel the world swirling around me, I find peace in connecting with God through prayer and reading the Bible. I have made this one of my five most important daily habits for this reason. The Bible brings all the chaos of the world into focus for me.
It maintains God alone is the source of peace, but the peace we get from God is unlike any other.
When we hear “peace” we usually think of an absence of war or hostility but the Biblical concept of peace actually centers on the Hebrew root word “slm” which means “to be complete or whole” or “to live well”. I love that definition of peace, “to live well”.
This is where we get the Hebrew word “shalom” and I think it is such an amazing word as it relates to peace because it’s definition can be grouped into five categories and these 5 categories just so happen to cover all of the things that cause us the most anxiety.
- Wholeness of life or body (health)
- Right Relationship or harmony between two parties (covenant)
- Prosperity or fulfillment (success)
- Victory over one’s enemies (absence of war)
- Greeting meant for blessing (social)
God is described in the Old Testament of the Bible as “Yahweh Shalom”, which makes Him this all-encompassing source of shalom peace. Peace for our health, our relationships, our success, our protection from enemies and our social lives. And that’s what He is to me, a respite from the storms of daily life.
The story is amazing. God came to our broken humankind, wanting to enter into a relationship with us. Like a child with a skinned knee running to her Father’s arms He wants us to know He can be our source of peace.
He established a covenant of peace with humans and sealed it with His presence, but we did not honor the contract. Over and over again we broke His laws so He promised to send a Messiah who would make peace with God for us once and for all and eliminate our need to atone for our mistakes. That peace with God ultimately came through the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus.
Connecting with God gives me hope for the future, which brings me peace. It is as simple as admitting to Him that I have broken His laws, accepting that Jesus paid for my punishment, and changing the way I live to be focused on loving God and loving others.
Nurturing your spirit can be as easy as starting each day with a prayer like this “God help me to love and obey you today and help me to love others who come into my path”.
In my experience, this step will be the longest lasting and take you furthest on your path to peace than any other.
Is there someone in your life that has caused you significant pain? Perhaps a close friend who has betrayed you or a relative that has taken advantage of you? How is your relationship to that person now?
Harboring a grudge does no good for your peace, instead it does yourself harm.
Holding onto offense upsets your emotions, drives up your blood pressure, disturbs your sleep and adds to your overall anxiety and stress. The way to make peace with someone who has hurt you or betrayed you or offended you in any way is to first, simply express to them that what they did hurt you.
You could say something like “When you did X, it made me feel Y”, you fill in the X and Y with your own issue and feelings. 80% of the time the person you are harboring ill feelings toward is not even aware that they did anything to upset you and they will likely apologize as soon as you inform them of your feelings.
But even if they don’t apologize, you must take it a step further and that is to forgive them. Right now, you’re wanting them to suffer somehow for what they’ve done to you because our hearts long for justice and the latter part of seeking peace is pursuing justice.
Forgiving them simply means that you stop expecting repayment from them for the pain they have caused you.
How do you do this? It’s really hard, I know, but I can make it easier for you. It’s all a matter of perspective. Stop for just a moment and think about all that God has forgiven you for in your lifetime.
Then ask yourself, in light of that overwhelming grace, is it so much for you to forgive that someone who hurt you?
Another way to make it easier to stop expecting repayment from them for the pain they caused you is by trusting that their debt of offense to you has actually been paid by someone else. Justice has in fact been served. That someone is Jesus. He paid for every debt and every offense with his own blood, including your debts and mine, so you can let it go.
This is the antidote to broken relationships. If you can forgive and move on, you are then free. You are at peace.
In summary, there is a practical pathway to peace, but you must seek it. To seek peace:
- Relinquish Control
- Banish Worry
- Practice Gratitude
- Step Outside
- Create a Peaceful Environment
- Drown Out the Noise
- Nurture Your Spirit
- Resolve Relationships
I hope this post helps you on your pathway to peace.
Welcome to Honey & Figs! I’m Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience as a Pastor’s wife, Mom and avid planner. You can click here to find out more about me.
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