What I have found is that when you have a relaxed inner life, you generally have a relaxed outer life. To put it another way, you choose to create the types of conditions in your environment which enhance your sense of relaxation and contentment. Even when stressful events happen, you choose to go with the flow and make the most of a bad situation, rather than panicking or dwelling on the negative aspects.
My experiences living in Hawaii for the past 2 months taught me several important lessons about being more laid back. Let me share what I have learned about creating a more relaxed attitude. Following the six steps listed below will put you firmly on the on the path to a more relaxed mental state.
1. Don't Over Plan
Many people plan far too many activities for themselves and their families. Their lives become so busy that even their down time, if they have any, is not relaxing. Trying to keep yourself and others on a busy, tight schedule causes unnecessary stress and exhaustion when you have to rush around.
Isn't it is better not to over plan, rush, or worry too much about the small details of life? That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t ever plan, but don't over plan. Things get done when they get done. Whatever you are doing, enjoy the moment rather than needlessly stressing yourself out.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Leave Your Comfort Zone or Try New Things
I was always afraid of surfing because I was apprehensive about sharks and being thrown around in large waves. However, my husband and I decided to learn to surf while we were in Hawaii. I was nervous before our first day of surfing, but any nervousness went away once I entered the water. Sure, I wiped out a few times and got a mouthful of water, but it was worth it. The sense of relaxation, joy and accomplishment we felt by far outweighed any apprehension we may have had about the experience.
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has written about the mood enhancing effect of what he calls “flow,” activities. Flow happens when you are so absorbed in a hobby or task and focused on the present moment, that time just seems to fly by. Finding flow through various hobbies and activities gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. It also enhances relaxation by taking your mind off of problems and putting it firmly into a state of concentration in the present moment.
3. Get Real About Who You Are
You cannot change what you refuse to confront. You need to understand the causal factors. If you don’t go through the process of working through your negative “shadow,” material, it will continue to follow you around to some degree throughout your life. If you want to be truly comfortable and at peace with yourself, then do the difficult inner work of confronting and accepting your worst traits with the goal of accepting and letting go of them.
4. Get Out Into Nature and Exercise Often
Regular exercise is just as effective at reducing stress and anxiety as it is at keeping you in shape physically. Why not combine exercise and time outdoors? Getting outside into the sun and exercising does wonders for your both your health and your mental state.
5. Be Grateful For What You have
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Ingratitude necessarily leads to unhappiness, stress, and sadness. Instead of focusing on how much better your life would be if you had more money or the right relationship, think of all the things that you do have, or what is going right for you, and be thankful for it now.
6. Go With The Flow
When my husband and I were living in Hawaii, we lost an important work-related item when we exchanged rental cars due to a recall. To make matters worse, when we called the rental car agency, the item had not been turned in. However, they assured us that they would look in the mechanic shop when it opened the next day.
Both of us were really upset about the situation, but rather than dwelling on it, we decided to make the most of the afternoon. After spending an hour swimming and relaxing at the beach, we completely stopped thinking about the lost item and enjoyed ourselves for the rest of the day. The next morning, the lost and found called us…they had found the missing item sitting on top of a gas pump!
Would they have found it just the same if we had stayed upset about loosing it all night? Probably. But the experience taught me that there is no point making yourself miserable over what you can’t change. So if you can’t change a situation, then stay calm, and learn to go with the flow.
The Secret to Happiness: Stoic Gratitude and the Art of Living
The Shadow: How Introspection Can Teach You Everything You Need to Know About Yourself