6 Tips for Finding Peace and Staying Balanced

16SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/5/2011 10:00 AM   :  50 comments   :  16,579 Views

Throughout much of my teens and 20s, I was restless. I felt off-center, anxious, askew. I took medication for anxiety, wasted countless hours worrying, and generally didn't enjoy my life nearly as much as I do now.

Today, I am genuinely happy, well-adjusted, and relatively calmer.  The difference now is that my boundless energy is positive rather than anxious.

What changed? Several things.

As I aged and experienced more of life, I learned how to cope better. I didn't need to freak out if something "bad" happened. I didn't need to take on other people's drama as my own. And I didn't need to allow negative energy free access to me.

I realized that life is just that: life. Ups, downs, good, bad, it's all just life. It all balances out, and letting every little bump in the road sideline me is no way to live.

My senior year of college, a dear friend of mine shared a quotation with me: "The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." --Henry Miller.

Then, its meaning escaped me. Now, it's one of my guiding mantras.

Recently, I emailed an old friend who lives on the other side of the country. "I feel so centered and strong," I wrote. My friend asked me to clarify what I meant by "centered." To explain, I retraced my steps over the last couple of years. Many of the changes I've made were solidified by my 30th birthday trip to Honduras, a week spent with no contact with anyone back home, lots of yoga, and the infinite beauty of nature. There, amid days of reflection, I made a list of what has worked to help me feel calmer, more centered, and happier with my life.

In Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine that began in India that is considered a complimentary practice to yoga, there are three principles or tendencies (gunas) that all activities, foods, etc. possess:

Sattva: balance, order, purity. Sattvic activities are those that keep us balanced, calm, steady and peaceful. Anything that brings us happiness and better health is sattvic. Moderation is key to sattva. (Exercise, meditation/relaxation, anything you do to bring better health and happiness)  

Rajas: change, movement, energy. Rajasic activities energize us, excite us, bring about a great deal of passion or emotion. Rajasic activities are ones that rile the mind and induce anxiety or excess emotion, both positive and negative. Think of rajasic activities as equally excessive and overindulgent. (Working, texting/emailing/etc, caring for children and others)   

Tamas: negative, dull, lethargic. Tamasic activities are those that drain energy from us, those that keep us weighed down and depressed. Tamasic activities are overindulgent and slow the body. (Watching TV, drinking alcohol, binging, sleeping in.)

While each of us might naturally tend to favor one or two of the gunas, we should strive for a balance of all three. Ayurveda, like the healthy lifestyle plan SparkPeople touts, strives for balance and moderation.

At a recent meditation workshop, we were asked to write down the five activities that take up the most of our time each day. Mine were:
  • Work: rajasic
  • Yoga/exercise: sattvic
  • Eating: tamasic (if you, as I do, struggle to know when to stop!)
  • Cooking as a hobby/passion: sattvic
  • Web/iPhone/texting/calling: rajasic
Our teacher, Karen, implored that we shouldn't feel compelled to eliminate anything that's not sattvic from our lives; rather, we should think about when and how often we practice various activities. For example: Are you taking on energizing activities late at night? If so, is it affecting your sleep?

I thought about the changes I have made, which have allowed me to shed excess negativity, focus on the people who matter most to me, and find time for the healthy habits that I value.
  1. No TV and watch only your favorite shows. 
    A year ago, I moved into a new apartment, and I ditched my TV. It was at first a decision based on logistics. I didn't want to move the clunky old TV. I planned to buy a small one later on.
Soon, I appreciated the silence. I still watch my favorite shows, but my nights do not revolve around them. I watch online, when I have time, and usually while doing something else, like folding laundry. I tend to watch TV and do menial chores at the end of the day, when my mind is tired and needs to rest. I limit my TV to less than an hour per day.
  1. Violence is never entertainment.
    I have never enjoyed horror movies. I tried to make myself like them one October weekend when I was 12 during a daylong movie marathon. I slept with the lights on, and I had nightmares. The same goes for most action movies. I found them shocking, not entertaining.

    A few years ago, after watching a particularly violent yet critically acclaimed movie, I decided that I would no longer subject myself to violence of any form. Video games, movies, TV shows, books--I will not participate if there is any gratuitous violence. As a yogini, I live by the guiding principle of ahimsa, which means nonharming in Sanskrit, and my decision supports that commitment. This world has enough violence and negativity in it; I don't see the need to create more to entertain ourselves. Eliminating this rajasic element brightened my life.
  1. Begin and end the day with intention.
    Each night before I go to sleep, I lie in bed and silently give thanks for the day. I think of the day's events and how I reacted to the challenges I faced. Did I lead with my heart, or was my response less than kind? Instead of berating myself for falling short of my intentions, I focus on the positives. It sounds a bit maudlin, but it works for me. I then set my intention for the next day: What will I do or how will I react to a situation?
The next morning, I do the same thing: I spend a few minutes waking up and thinking about what lies ahead. I set my intention. I will practice yoga. I will be generous. I will not get annoyed when I have to clean the litterbox three times in one morning. (Don't ask--my cats are finicky.)

There are no rules, no intention that's too small or large. It only takes a minute or so, but I feel like it gets my day off to a good start and wipes my slate clean before sleep. This sattvic activity bookends my days.
  1. Set a communication curfew.
    I have an iPhone. And I like it. A lot. But I find myself reaching for it when I should be doing other things. With a swipe, some taps and a click, I can check the weather, text my best friend or listen to my favorite music.
That said, emailing, texting and calling are energizing--and often not in a positive way. Your friend wants to complain about her new boyfriend; your mom wants to coordinate schedules for a visit; your boss needs an answer to a difficult question. By saving those rajasic tasks for morning, when we tend to be refreshed, rather than before bed when we're trying to wind down, we can find peace and even sleep better.

In general, I avoid phone calls, texts and emails before bed--preferably after 8 p.m. That doesn’t always happen. I read but often do not respond to messages before bed, and if a friend texts or calls, I answer.
  1. Be choosy about what you read.
I like to read before bed. However, instead of reaching for an exciting novel or something else that will get my neurons firing, I choose to read spiritual or yogic texts or cookbooks (yes, I read cookbooks). These tend to calm my mind before bed.
  1. Let go of people who make you feel bad.
This one is hard, and it's a decision I didn't take lightly. I've made some significant changes in my life. I drink less, I go to bed earlier, I no longer enjoy loud parties or crowded events. I ended a long-term relationship, started another one, and shed some friends whose values and priorities didn't align with mine. I didn't cause a scene or judge their life decisions; I simply started pulling away slowly and they did the same. We're still friendly, but we don't spend as much time together. It was very unsettling to spend time with people whose values, habits and priorities didn't align with mine. Doing so doesn't make me better than those people; it makes me different.

Working at SparkPeople allows me the freedom and provides me the support to live life this way. I have no doubt that my life would not have followed this path had I not ended up here. I am fortunate to like the work that I do, and I am able to strike a balance among the three gunas (principles) at the office.

At 30, I'm happier and healthy than ever, and the future is bright. Wherever you are along your journey to a healthier you, I hope my story helps you find a respite, some peace and joy amid your wonderful, chaotic life.

What steps have you taken to make healthy habits part of your life? How do you achieve balance? What kind of activities comprise most of your time: sattvic, rajasic or tamasic?


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Comments

  • DANCEANDSING2
    50
    I can really relate to this blog entry. I have found myself living life in the extremes. I am either totally overcommitted and running myself into the ground or a lazy couch potato who clings to the couch as soon as I get home from work. I need to focus on striking a balance between the two and staying committed to doing things to rejuvinate me (ie cooking from scratch and staying committed to my work outs) and weaning myself off self soothing with the TV. I loved this blog because it really made me see how much happier I could be if there was better balance in my life. Thanks! - 10/10/2011   8:21:00 AM
  • SHEILAM45
    49
    That was a good post, makes me think about things. May send this to a friend of mine for her to read also. - 10/9/2011   10:14:26 AM
  • 48
    Agree 100% - Violence is not entertainment. I rarely watch TV and join my significant other in watching the news while eating dinner. I know it's not good for my state of mind or my digestion. - 10/8/2011   11:06:16 AM
  • 47
    This was a great blog! I wish that more people felt this way! I too refuse to watch violence and horror [or anything morally degrading] and I have also cut off association with people who clearly love to live that way. It certainly has brought me much more peace in my life. Thanx for sharing this :) - 10/7/2011   12:08:37 PM
  • 46
    I loved this blog. I already do some of your tips. The hard one I now have to work on is letting go of people who make me feel bad. - 10/7/2011   8:54:02 AM
  • 45
    Sometimes it feels like most of my life is Rajasic. I have a hard time finding things that make me feel peaceful and happy. It bothers me at times that I don't necessarily know what makes me "happy". But I have had a few moments recently that I would describe as happy. Rare and too few, but now that I have experienced them I want more. I have a hard time finding this balance.

    I'm with you - limited TV - generally one show a week. And as I tell my students "I'm not old enough to watch horror movies - like the ones they do"
    Sometimes my peace comes during prayer time.
    - 10/6/2011   10:07:39 PM
  • 44
    I have a full-time job, a house, husband, children, cat and dog. Each of these needs time. With what's left, I eat, sleep, and ride my bicycle to work and back. I used to spend my commuting time on a subway, but I tried biking once and it became absolutely addictive. I don't ride the subway anymore unless compelled by severe weather.

    I don't like violence either, for the same reasons that you don't. There is no reason to add that stress to my life.

    Sorry. My eyes are closing now. Good blog and good night! - 10/6/2011   10:04:55 PM
  • 43
    Gave me lots to think about as well as try. Appreciate your thoughts. - 10/6/2011   4:16:42 PM
  • 42
    Thank you for a thoughtful and thought provoking blog. I often feel as if I'm not in step with the rest of the world, and I thought something was wrong with me. Now I know I'm following the right path, even if it's difficult and friends and family don't understand. The important thing is that I understand. I see difficult decisions ahead, but I realize that I need to stop grasping so tightly onto my vision of life and see where the world leads me. Your post helped me to see that I can let go, that anything is possible with awareness and balance. - 10/6/2011   4:15:47 PM
  • 41
    Thanks for a great blog. I love information like this that's not only helpful, it's informative - 10/6/2011   3:19:35 PM
  • 40
    Good concept about how to divide up the activities that drive us. Thanks for this info. - 10/6/2011   2:14:52 PM
  • 39
    Thanks for the post, good info. - 10/6/2011   12:36:16 PM
  • 38
    I really enjoyed reading your blog! Very insightful and uplifting! Balance, balance, balance is going to be my new word to mediatate on. Stay just the way your are! - 10/6/2011   11:55:32 AM
  • 37
    Congratulations! You really seem to have it "together" for someone so young! I enjoyed reading your blog. - 10/6/2011   11:41:13 AM
  • 36
    Thank you for this post. This is exactly what I needed to read at this point. I've been feeling especially stressed and depressed recently - to the point of pretty much shutting down. I wasn't doing things I enjoyed, I wasn't doing my household upkeep, wasn't maintaining my checkbook properly (we didn't get into trouble, but it could have happened)... I did just enough to satisfy my kids' survival needs and then would spend the rest of my time with my head glued to my computer screen either surfing Facebook or putting together an online jigsaw puzzle to escape the realities of what I needed to tackle.

    I blogged about my feelings and that helped. I noticed a LOT of sparkers are having the same sort of feelings and commented on their blogs with positive notes and that also helped.

    I have thought about taking up yoga and the longer I sit in this depressive funk, the more I think about it. I like this article and will be saving it b/c there is a lot of great information in it. I love your tips.

    Thank you. - 10/6/2011   11:25:37 AM
  • 35
    Interesting. I especially liked the suggestion about setting a curfew for cell phones, etc. As a rule, we usually don't answer our phones after a certain unless we see it's from family, since that could be an emergency.
    Since I don't practice yoga and didn't even know what those terms were, I skipped over that part.
    Looking at your blog with the eyes and experiences of a 62 year old, I hope you are able to keep so focused when life begins to go sour and you start dealing with the tragedies of losing a parent or loved one. Been there, done that, got the banner. - 10/6/2011   11:12:39 AM
  • 34
    What a fantastic blog, and I agree with most of it, but I do enjoy TV and going to the movies. I do need to let go of some negative people in my life. I'm always trying to help them, but sometimes, there is no help, that's just the way these people are. I will make an effort with cutting down my TV time. - 10/6/2011   10:23:45 AM
  • 33
    I, too, went a while without TV in my late 20s. My daughter was struggling to learn to read, and I was struggling to make ends meet; I sold the TV for cash and we lived without one for a few years. It did, indeed, make our little apartment more peaceful. And when I finally did have the money again to buy another TV, I quickly realized that restricting the time that I watched the news helped quell my anxiety issues. I found that I lived a calmer, more peaceful existence without the violent programs, the crazy newscasts, and the high-blood-pressure-inducing talk shows. Now, I focus on home improvement shows, upbeat movies, shows that inspire me, and certain sport events (Olympics, Wimbledon, baseball, football). - 10/6/2011   10:14:11 AM
  • 32
    @1CRAZYDOG, what kind of eating could be sattvic or rajasic; as opposed to tamasic ... verges on the value-judgmental

    BUT, I consider my eating to have to be rajasic ... I eat to keep my stores of dopamine high enough to keep up with my life ... - 10/6/2011   9:50:05 AM
  • ALYSON1214
    31
    Here is why Sparkpeople works: I had set a goal to earn a certain number of points by today. I am short by a few, so I was looking to read a blog post simply to earn points. The title of yours struck me. Turns out I get a lot more than 3 points for reading this. :) I love your blog, and I think it is going to be really helpful for me. I'm even going to send a copy to my sister who is a 30-something struggling to find balance in the world of corporate america and the i-phone. I already employ some of your tactics to maintain balance, but it is so nice to see this put into words and learn about a governing philosophy that paints the picture of balance and makes achieving it more real and conrete. So nicely written too! Thanks. - 10/6/2011   9:46:11 AM
  • 30
    Wow! Well said. Something to seriously think about. - 10/6/2011   6:37:26 AM
  • 29
    Well put. This is precisely what I have been seeking. I learned much when I lived in Boulder Colorado, and continue to practice the new things I learned. I have a long way to go, but for me, it has become about the journey. - 10/6/2011   12:47:54 AM
  • LOLAE2
    28
    It's interesting how much you can have in common with a total stranger. Thanks for your blog. I often thought I was different; strange even. I've realized for quite sometime that I don't like feeling stressed for any reason. Distancing myself from family/friends has been ongoing for the past several years. I was beginning to think that perhaps I was dealing with a form of depression. My world is getting smaller it seems. Everything I do including diet/exercising I am now doing it for me. - 10/5/2011   11:30:03 PM
  • 27
    I am MUCH older and it has taken me so much longer to learn what you seem to have already learned. I use the teaching of Jesus Christ as my centering tool and his writings as my night time reading. I have found that some of my decisions about night time quiet and peacefulness are not popular with some folks. It is ok. Thank you for your wonderfully written entry.

    - 10/5/2011   11:28:21 PM
  • 26
    I loved this blog. Along time ago I quit watching scary, violent, or extremely sad movies. There is just no need to. My Peace comes from walks,camping, writing in my Gratitude Journal, Prayers throughout the day, visiting with my grown children, and a job that is based on helping others. Yes, I am over committed, eat poorly too often, skip exercise to often, and on the run allot but all of these sattvic activities balance me and help keep me "ready for duty." I am a piece of work in progress but I becoming better at achieving the balance that I need. Thanks Stephanie for putting this into such eloquent words and validating how I feel about this subject. - 10/5/2011   10:13:43 PM
  • 25
    I loved this blog. Along time ago I quite watching scary, violent, or extremely sad movies? There is just no need to. My Peace comes from walks,camping, writing in my Gratitude Journal, Prayers throughout the day, visiting with my grown children, and a job that is based on helping others. Yes, I am over committed, eat poorly too often, skip exercise to often, and on the run allot but these activities balance me and help keep me "ready for duty." I am a piece of work in progress but I becoming better at achieving the balance that I need. - 10/5/2011   10:08:43 PM
  • 24
    Wow, I really got a lot from reading this blog. In fact reading the SP blogs daily is something I really enjoy, but this blog I felt was especially thought provoking and will stay with me. Thank-you so much for writing this blog. - 10/5/2011   6:59:13 PM
  • 23
    I like your choices, and, more, I like the reasons you give. Growing is always going to be interesting. - 10/5/2011   6:42:35 PM
  • 22
    Love this blog. Really informative and thought provoking Stefanie.
    Thank you. I too eliminated violence & cross from my view.
    Gratitude & pause before bed and upon wakening- frames my day.
    This year I got my use of electronic media somewhat under control- curfew at 10.45 pm, alarm!
    - 10/5/2011   6:12:06 PM
  • GAILSFITNESS
    21
    Stephanie, only 30 and you have evolved into an ancient spirit of wisdom! Thank you for the courage to share your wholesomeness with us. - 10/5/2011   6:05:23 PM
  • 20
    Thank you for the thoughtful blog. I am glad to know I am not the only one to reject violence as entertainment. I too suffer from nightmares and physical/mental shock if I see violent, action movies or TV shows. - 10/5/2011   4:34:56 PM
  • LONESTARBORN
    19
    Can definitely relate to a lot of this article. I make it a point to start my day with a positive attitude regardless of what happened yesterday. I am a spiritual person so my day always ends with a thankful heart. I too have distanced myself from "friends" with negative energy. It has made for a much calmer state of mind & helps me keep a daily positive attitude not only about my health goals but life in general. Thank you for sharing:-) - 10/5/2011   3:22:17 PM
  • 18
    Can't wait to read this home :) - 10/5/2011   2:28:46 PM
  • 17
    What an inspiring blog post. Thanks for sharing your insight Stefanie. It shows me that there is so much more I have to learn in this world. - 10/5/2011   1:46:46 PM
  • 16
    great blog. very enlightening!
    i've changed my eating habits quite a bit. i measure my food. i try to plan ahead, although not always. i try to get in more fish and less red meat.
    i achieve balance by finding time for myself; exercise, reading before bed, enjoying a cup of tea while tracking my food/exercise on SP at night.
    it's close. i feel like sattvic and rajasic are just about the same. - 10/5/2011   1:29:59 PM
  • FOOTEWORK
    15
    Excellent post! I've never seen my thought in words! I congratulate you on your life changing decisions. Thank you for my extended education. - 10/5/2011   1:27:29 PM
  • BIGSISBAER
    14
    Love this post! And I LOVE to read cookbooks!! I'm so happy to hear you do too, nobody gets it, especially my husband. - 10/5/2011   1:20:57 PM
  • 19PITSY53
    13
    This will give me something to think about and see if there are things in my life that could be revamped or changed. Thanks. - 10/5/2011   1:07:17 PM
  • 12
    Great post, needed this today! - 10/5/2011   12:41:58 PM
  • 11
    Thanks for your blog. I love it. - 10/5/2011   12:41:10 PM
  • 10
    The first step was to fully commit to a Balanced, healthy lifestyle change, then I let go of the negative influences around me and focused on only healthy and positive things, books, people. I began my journey on Sparkpeople and added in exercise, cooking healthy, tracking etc. I also made a commitment to improve my walk with Christ.

    To find balance I had to prioritize. Work is work and takes up most of the day, but I leave it behind at 5:00. Exercise is a top priority and my only "me/alone time", is about 60-80 min weeknights. This is my exercise time, then my quiet time on the porch, reading/relaxing/devotionals/piddli
    ng enjoying the peace and quiet. I try to do only small loads periodically throughout the week so it doesn't pile up. That leaves eating which I try to keep to a simple light level. Especially during summer we like salads and sandwiches, light quick meals. DH fixes his own also, since he eats alot of Ramen and isn't this lifestyle change. On the weekends we grill something light and simple, and enjoy healthy crockpot meals on the weekends. I don't hate cooking any longer, it was finding the right balance so I'm not always cooking and cleaning, and when we find things we want to experiment with together, it's more fun.

    Since I've found balance, I'm so much more at peace.

    - 10/5/2011   12:41:05 PM
  • ALDANAD84
    9
    I absolutely love Henry Miller and I think its great that you quoted him! I have thought a few times about ditching my TV, I have so many books I need to get my nose into!

    Great great blog post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - 10/5/2011   12:40:32 PM
  • 8
    This is an excellent blog, something I really need at this point in my life. Lots to think about. - 10/5/2011   12:22:36 PM
  • 7
    Thank you so much for the enlightenment! I love this post!! - 10/5/2011   12:16:25 PM
  • 6
    Your article opened my eyes to several situations in my own life that I need to rethink. It's courageous and straight-forward. Thank you for sharing. - 10/5/2011   12:14:31 PM
  • HEBA282
    5
    I need this kind of balance! Very interesting read. Thanks. - 10/5/2011   12:12:07 PM
  • 4
    Love it - thanks for sharing. - 10/5/2011   11:33:52 AM
  • GMAGEE
    3
    I am SOOO with you on this. I too have taken mindful steps to eliminate the negative and aggravating influences on my life. I have learned to say no to what I will watch on TV or in the movies (what's with all the sadistic violence anyway?), what activities I choose to pursue, and who I will let in my life. This included distancing myself from several deliberately toxic people - including my own daughter. I am a calmer, happier, more focused person because of those decisions.

    Now that I have my Sattvic activities more in line, I need to concentrate on those Rajasic activities.

    Thanks for this blog. - 10/5/2011   11:07:59 AM
  • 2
    Thanks for this post! I use some of those practices already, but it is always a nice reminder to bookend my day every day, as I tend to forget. So many insightful ideas here. Namaste. - 10/5/2011   10:40:26 AM
  • 1
    Eating is tamasic? Or did I misunderstand and OVEREATING is tamasic?

    I like the information about how different activities affect our lives. I totally agree with finding that balance in our lives. That is KEY. And finding time in our lives for that which makes us happy and keeps us centered. - 10/5/2011   10:10:38 AM

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