Instant Calm

Need some instant calm as you're looking at your to-do list, or sitting in traffic, or standing in line, or working at the office & thinking about  sitting in traffic and standing in line on your way home? Here are four things you can do right now to choose peace.

Instead of being still, move your body. Shake your arms and legs and head (adapt all of these tips to your situation, depending on whether or not you are driving and how many people can see you and how much you care about other people seeing you). Fling any stress from your fingertips and, forgive the commercial sound of this,  but shake the stress right out of your hair.

Broaden your perspective by stepping outside of yourself and just observing your thoughts. See the words running through your mind.  You might want to imagine the words floating on leaves down a stream, falling as raindrops, or moving across the sky like clouds. Step out of time and think about whether or not this stress will be important 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 or 100 years from now.

Observe the emotion you are feeling, like a curious scientist would. If it's anxiety, where do you feel the anxiety in your body? What color is it? What shape does it take? Stay with it. By becoming very familiar with uncomfortable feelings and even describing them in great detail, we diminish their impact.

Broaden and soften your attention with this sample from Open Focus, which has been shown to increase synchronous alpha brain waves:

As you are reading these words on your computer screen, be aware of the physical space between your eyes and the screen. Pause and consider that space. Then, as you continue to look at the screen, notice the space to the left and right of your computer (or paper). Widen your peripheral vision without shifting your eyes from these words. Now, as you soften your focus, allow anything in the background (things behind or next to your computer, objects on the wall, your desk) to become as important as objects in your foreground (your computer screen, your hands). Maintain this awareness for a few seconds. As you do this, add the awareness of space to your visual field. What does this mean? As you're reading, notice the space between the lines of text, the space between the words, and the space between the letters. You can expand this awareness to other senses, for instance, by being aware of the silence (space) between sounds.

You can practice Open Focus almost anywhere. Just pay attention to what is in your peripheral visual field and the space between you and the objects around you. This technique has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress and fatigue. You may even notice less eye strain and relaxed facial muscles. Sounds great to me!

Photos by Geoff Captain Studios