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Inner Peace Guide for Dummies

Words by Kelila Ritchie

 

Being human in 2023 has proven itself to be hard work and at times, incredibly stressful. Let’s just be honest: Life isn’t always rainbows and gumdrops. I don’t think this was something I was prepared for going into the whole life thing either. Like, yes, of course, people tell you the world is rough, but no one goes into specifics on how to handle those situations. 

 

Practicing mindfulness and gratitude is a healthy coping mechanism to get you through your basic day-to-day troubles that may arise. Gratitude allows you to take notice of the little things, the small blessings from moment to moment. It is the intentional practice of noticing all of the small good things life has to offer. Mindfulness allows you to go through trials and tribulations with acceptance, grace and sometimes, surrender. Reciprocal inhibition is a basic principle in psychology that states humans cannot feel two contradicting states at once. In this instance, how you want to feel can counteract how you actually feel in that moment.

 

Gratitude

It’s normal to feel an overwhelming sense of joy or gratitude when the big good things happen. Think along the lines of getting that exciting, well-paying job you’ve been gunning for since college, getting a new car or even winning the lottery. These are all things I’m sure you’d show an immense amount of gratitude toward. But being intentional about showing gratitude extends to the smallest things in your everyday lives: your car keys being exactly where you left them, your neighborhood barista making your coffee perfectly, even being able to find matching socks amongst the pile of clothes you swore you’d put away when you did laundry last week. These are all things to be thankful for. Life is constantly throwing curveballs at us, and it may seem that sometimes the universe is laughing at whatever plan you’ve set in place. Practicing gratitude can become increasingly difficult in the face of these troubles. Just simply thinking, “I’m grateful” in the moment brings your attention to what’s good in your life. 

 

On the other hand, there are people who choose to stay in whatever negativity they’re experiencing rather than processing it and moving forward. Feeling is healing, people. But it’s the feeling all the way through that we tend to miss out on. We feel whatever emotion a little bit and then dwell on that not-so-happy feeling rather than acknowledging, understanding and letting go. For example, we spend all weekend dreading the new week rather than being present and appreciating the fact that it’s the weekend! When you practice gratitude, your brain shifts from focusing on the negative to focusing on the little blessings you may have overlooked. According to Psychcentral, the benefits of practicing gratitude include a reduced heart rate, reduced inflammation, improved sleep and a better mood. 

 

The common misconception here is that gratitude will take away the pain of life’s big hits like a sudden death in your family. Be careful of trying to cover up pain with gratitude which can lead to toxic positivity or the denial that not-so-happy things are going on. Painful emotions must be felt. Again, feeling is healing, and life is not always rainbows and gumdrops. And that’s OK! 

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is making a conscious decision to be present in the moment. To make this decision, you are deciding to not only let go of the past but to also not anticipate the future. Mindfulness is the mixture of acceptance and awareness. As a human, it’s almost natural for us to be controlled by our emotions and letting that emotion determine how we spend our day or what the outcome of our days are. Emotions have a way of doing that; this is why paying attention to them and not judging them when they do arise is so important in the practice of mindfulness. 

 

Mindfulness is training your mind to be still. The brain is constantly doing its job of thinking and finding new things to think about. (Hence why you and your best friend can have the same conversation a million times but from different perspectives every two days.) Practicing mindfulness keeps you from letting a situation devour you whole. According to “Mindful,” when you practice mindfulness, you are aware of what you’re doing and where you are and you “are not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.”

 

John Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center that explains the benefits of mindfulness. An increased sense of wellbeing, reduced stress, anxiety and depression symptoms are some benefits of practicing mindfulness. Some ways to practice mindfulness include meditation, just taking a second to just breathe in the moment or even a quick prayer when you’re stressed. Whatever floats your boat. 

 

Putting It All Together

We unfortunately can’t tell the future or anticipate any of life’s not-so-funny jokes. We just can’t. What we can change is how we respond to life when things don’t go our way or how we planned them to. We pair gratitude and mindfulness because it allows you to acknowledge your everyday blessings and be present in the moment, it keeps your perspectives balanced. So here’s my question to you, what are you grateful for right now, at this moment?

About Kelila Ritchie

Kelila has dedicated her teenage years to advocating for injustices around her and in the world. Journalism is more than just a passion for her but a calling. She is dedicated to keeping her community informed and spreading awareness about social inequalities. Catch her on the beach any given weekend!