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When our 17-year-old daughter announced she was taking a Gap Year after finishing school, we were proud of her decision to step out into the world and expand her perspective beyond the small bubble she had always known from living in West Australia.

However, we didn’t expect this to take shape as travelling with a small group of students from around Australia to Cusco in Peru, where she would live with a local family and spend her time teaching English at a school in the Sacred Valley.

She would be away for 6-9 months.

Like any parent, we only wanted her to have a great experience and to remain safe during her travels.

Watching her disappear through the departure gate at the airport was hard and more than a few tears were shed on the way home.

What we really wanted was peace of mind.

We wanted certainty (as far as anything can be certain) that the organisation she was travelling under the auspices of was reputable and would provide sufficient and regular information so we could stay up to date with the group’s progress.

Peace of mind meant knowing she had access to a satellite connection that she could use anywhere around the world to contact us if she needed help.

Peace of mind looked like knowing she was staying with a regular host family along with a couple of other girls.

Peace of mind was periodically seeing her on a Skype call, where we could see she was healthy and in good spirits.

What does peace of mind mean to you?

 

This madhouse world we currently occupy can be very stressful at times. Too much work, too many challenges, and too many worries take a toll.

We’re not only burning the proverbial candle at both ends, but we’re also melting the whole thing in a saucepan and then wondering why we’re burnt out, exhausted and can’t sleep.

Knowing how to create greater peace of mind for yourself matters, to safeguard you from the perils of being exposed to chronically high levels of stress that are bad for your physical, mental, emotional and cognitive health.

Peace of mind can be cultivated in a variety of ways. It’s fundamentally a process of re-evaluating our thoughts and challenging their validity and usefulness.

This helps to reduce the impact of stress and by regulating the intensity of any accompanying emotions keeps you firmly in the driving seat of the actions you take in response to a given situation.

The benefit of this is that you cope better, you’re more resilient and you’re more confident in handling the situation.

Because it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, it’s about finding the best way for you.

Researchers describe peace of mind as a state of inner peace and harmony, and a more complex and durable state of well-being. One study showed that enjoying greater peace of mind when awake is associated with more positive dream emotions, compared to the anxious of us who report more negative dreams.

Perhaps that’s not a surprise.

Further research showed that people with higher levels of peace of mind are better at reinterpreting situations and regulating emotions rather than trying to suppress their feelings.

Certainly, this supports the idea of us having a negativity bias. If you’re caught up in that downward spiral, everything takes on a greyish hue, that’s more difficult to extract yourself from.

Mental well-being has typically been distinguished as being either hedonic (experienced as positive emotion, life satisfaction and the absence of negative emotion) or eudaemonic (characterised by a sense of purpose, mastery and personal growth.)

Peace of mind, as characterised by inner peace and harmony, is now being seen as the third form of mental well-being but, up until recently, has received little attention.

 

Creating More Peace of Mind.

 

1. Set the intention.

Focusing on what you want, i.e. inner peace, a sense of calm, serenity or tranquillity, begins with the conscious decision to achieve this goal. Too often we find ourselves sucked into the quicksand of what we don’t want, and the more we fight it, the more we get sucked down.

 

2. Determine what peace of mind looks like for you.

Is this your demeanour? Is it about staying calm while the storm rages all about you, quietly confident that no matter the outcome you have the capacity and the courage to navigate your way to safety?

Is it about acceptance? Here it’s about recognising what you do or don’t have an influence or control over and knowing sometimes the best thing to do is to surrender. Why continue to fight a losing battle that you can never win?

 

3. Practice self-compassion.

So, you’re not the superstar rock star you thought you were destined to be? Maybe your dream of becoming a supermodel or fabulous actor never came into being. You could have a good sulk and throw a pity party, but will that make you feel better?

I’m guessing, probably not.

And while there is always a place to vent your spleen or share your frustration, because all emotion is valid, this is about recognising what is or isn’t helpful from here to move yourself forward.

Let’s take a reframe.

You thought the only thing that would make you happy was to win “Australia’s Got Talent”, but you didn’t get selected for the show.

It’s common to blame others when things don’t go right for us. But perhaps there’s another reason, too.

You’re not quite there yet in the experience needed to succeed.

Your real gift is in opera not tight-rope walking.

You’re not good enough.

Ouch!!  That last one really hurts, but if it’s true, you’re more likely to find peace of mind by aligning yourself to your strengths, passion, and values.

Self-forgiveness can be a hard pill to swallow. They are frequently the size of giant gobstoppers and can take a while to get down without choking. But forgiving yourself makes it easier to forgive others and allows you to let go of that simmering anger and resentment you’ve been harbouring for too long.

Peace of mind doesn’t come easily when grudges and disappointment are taking up all the room.

How do you show kindness to yourself? 

 

4. Make time to enjoy greater peace of mind.

 Do you have a special place that makes you feel calm or relaxed? Is it a space you can visit regularly, even if it’s in your own mind?

Whether you practice mindfulness or other forms of meditation, having space to just be, especially in a space that’s quiet, where you feel safe and surrounded either by objects you love or nature, is calming.

If you’re constantly batting time poverty this is about letting, go.

It’s hard, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes and gradually instead of resenting this intrusion into your busy day, wasting precious time, you come to savour those moments.

Your mind is settled. You’ve parked your worries elsewhere and your focus is on something that brings you happiness or joy. You can celebrate being alive, being in a safe place, with others you know love you and you love them too.

How much time you devote to practice is up to you. You may start with just a couple of minutes. It all counts and over time that time will naturally extend to the time you need.

 

Are you ready to assess your own level of peace of mind?

Researchers used these seven statements to measure peace of mind and emotional adaptation.

How much do you agree or disagree with these statements?
Rate yourself 0-5 with 0 being not all, and 5 being you totally agree.
Number 5 and 7 are reverse scored.

A higher score indicates a higher level of peace of mind.

  1. My mind is free and at ease.
  2. I feel content and comfortable with myself in daily life.
  3. My lifestyle gives me feelings of peace and stability.
  4. I have peace and harmony in my mind.
  5. It is difficult for me to feel settled. (–)
  6. The way I live brings me feelings of peace and comfort.
  7. I feel anxious and uneasy in my mind. (–)

 

Is peace of mind something you want to create more of?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Jenny is a Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, author, coach, and workplace health and wellbeing specialist. Her latest book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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