Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. If it were, you and I will never grow to be who we ought to be. We have to face the storms, the waves, and the howling winds that life occasionally throws our way. And the key to surviving that is finding inner peace in hard times.
First Up, What The Heck Is Inner Peace?
The common definition of peace, especially internal, is the absence of conflict and the state of calm and happiness. I don’t believe that’s accurate. Inner peace is not a feeling to achieve, find, or aim for. These emotions are a by-product of peace. If you think about it, emotions can change faster than a melting ice cream in hell. If you’re going to find and experience it, wouldn’t you want something that lasts longer?
But don’t get me wrong: inner peace is not a destination that you go to and camp. There isn’t a magical event or a magic pill that will instantly remove all the hard times in life, never to feel chaos again. Rather than a feeling, inner peace is a process, moment-to-moment decision.
Internal peace, one that lasts, comes from the decision to put on a perspective that accepts reality and takes personal responsibility.
Peace comes from accepting everything that’s happening in your life right now. You don’t have to like it to embrace it. But the fact that you acknowledge the existence of your struggle is a leap for your growth. It leads you to have a realistic hope for a better future.
Of course, this is easier said than done. When you are used to struggling, it becomes your comfort. Imagine, when you walk into a dark room, at first you don’t see anything. But stay there for a while and your eyes begin to adjust. You find yourself accustomed to the dark.
This is why radical acceptance takes work. Especially when accepting things that are outside of your control. But for things that are within, you need to…
Take Personal Responsibility
Embracing reality is just one side of the inner peace coin. The other side is about focusing on what you can control and doing something about it. This results in a healthy confidence of knowing that things will work out because you’re working things out.
Without taking personal responsibility and doing everything within your control, acceptance can only take you so far. For example, in my relationship, when my girlfriend and I argue, I make it a point to talk about the issue. We clarify both our sides and think of ways to prevent it from happening again. It’s a healthy habit and it gives me the quiet assurance (peace) that things are going to get resolved.
No matter what happens outside of you, you have the choice to see it in a realistic but better way. As Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search For Meaning, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedom. To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The Practice Of Inner Peace
External peace is different from internal one. External is a social agreement. Parties, people, and countries can agree to have harmony. For example, on August 23, 1939, Hitler made a nonaggression pact with Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union. Basically, an absence of conflict and seeming to have harmony. This was after Germany started invading nearby countries and needed an ally.
The combined powers of these military giants (along with Japan) almost took over the world. But in the early summer of 1941, Hitler pulled the rug under Stalin and invaded Russia. To Hitler, the alliance served its purpose and the Soviet were the weakest link. Of course, this was a big mistake (for him) and turned the tides of the war.
Their “peace” was based on agreement. When one party breaches the pact, the peace that came along with it crumbles.
Inner peace, on the other hand, is an internal experience. You may experience a chaotic environment and find inner peace in hard times. Or one can experience a harmonious environment and still feel chaotic. Unpeaceful.
Here’s the twist: you can’t find real peace in isolation. After all, that isn’t “real life.” Sure, you can experience calm and serenity by going to nature and meditating alone. But you can only practice real, practical peace in the presence of unpeaceful people, chaotic situations, and the pressures of life.
Inner peace is practiced (i.e. applied, strengthened, developed) in three ways:
- Accepting who you are;
- Being calm with what’s happening; and
- Trusting where you’re going
Finding Inner Peace In Hard Times
Peace of mind is not an emotion to aim for, but a process to enroll in. There are ways to finding inner peace in hard times, here are some:
When your mind is full of stress and fear, you forget how to breathe properly (thanks, captain obvious!). But that’s just the thing you need to do. Oxygen is the fuel of the brain and breathing supplies it. When you take a breather, it relaxes you, removes tension from your mind, and lowers cortisol in the body.
Think about it, when you have emotional outbursts or you overreact, do you breathe properly? Chances are, you don’t. Your breaths are quick, shallow, and infrequent. But if you take a step back to collect your thoughts and breathe mindfully, you’ll feel calmer.
One basic technique to mindful breathing is to inhale for 6 seconds and exhale for another 6. Put your attention in breathing through your nose and breathe deep. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system who is responsible for resting and digesting. It lowers your heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety in the process.
As Tracy McConnell put it, “Sometimes, even three deep breaths can change everything.”
See Yourself In 3rd Person
When hard times come and you’re looking for peace, imagine looking at yourself in the third person. Then have some positive conversation with yourself and use your own name. This might seem crazy, but it’s proven to be effective. Research has shown that how you talk to yourself (e.g. First Person Perspective vs. Third Person) can change how you feel.
But it doesn’t just work in self-talk. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, there’s a technique that uses Perceptual Positions. When you feel negative emotions, it helps to imagine seeing yourself from an observer’s point-of-view. It creates a mental distance between what you’re feeling and what you’re seeing.
Find Meaning In Turbulence
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”Friedrich Nietzsche
Life is a series of lessons packaged as problems. One thing that will help you find peace when turbulent time comes is to find meaning in what’s happening to you. When you suffer loss, heartbreaks, or failures in life, find the hidden lesson in those experiences. The meaning you attach to things will give you comfort, security, and a sense of serenity.
I hope you find the peace you’re looking for!
Live an inspired life,