Dr Natalie Flatt Ph.D.
Founder of Connect Psych Services. BSc.,Post.Grad.Dip.Psych.,M.Psych
We’ve all had those days; no one is immune to it. Life events occur when we least expect them; some can be positive; some can be negative. It’s how we process TODAY that impacts on how to process TOMORROW. Bringing a little peace and clarity is what we all want, correct? Clarity helps us to focus, to act, to feel energized. A lack of clarity causes stress, inaction, a scattered focus, relationship difficulties and confusion on where you are going. Like many, I’ve learned the hard way and had a force created for me through an impactful life event to re-assess my behaviours and outlook towards situations. This has been one of my favourite quotes as a great reminder sums up what I’ve learned and some habitual practices I try to integrate each day.
Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be -Sonia Ricotti
- Surrendering to what is allows you to fully experience the present moment, no matter what emotions.
- Letting go of what was provides room for self-compassion to move into the future without guilt.
- Having faith in what will be allows for processing through growth mindset, gratitude and simplification fuelled by boundaries, values, and healthy habits.
Surrender to what is.
Accept your life and emotions in the present to help find joy in what you do. This doesn’t mean that you don’t seek to improve your life each time you have an unhelpful emotion. It means not beating yourself up for where you are now. Instead, look for the beauty that exists in your life now and build from that place of beauty.
1. Become mindful.
Shifting our focus from many things to one remove stress and creates space for peace and rest. Mindfulness is about appreciating where you are without striving to change anything or make something happen. The simplest place to start is with the breathe; creating that diaphragmatic breathing with showing to lower blood pressure, cortisol and heart rate; all factors which negatively contribute to calm and cloud clarity. This opens room for reflection of what you are feeling in that present moment; don’t push the feeling away no matter how uncomfortable.
2. Find your quiet time.
This might be at morning or night. Just listening to the waking of the world or the silence of day calming, this can bring peace and reflection to you. It’s simple, its clean and full of clarity and takes away the ‘busy’. Aim to sit in nature and see what comes up for you. Hold one question in your mind: “What do I want here?”
3. Create ‘mental escape’ through certain imagery.
Fractals — a mathematical term for never-ending patterns — have a particularly strong calming effect on the parasympathetic system. Studies indicate that looking at fractals increases alpha brain waves, as well as blood flow, to the para-hippocampus and other areas of the brain that regulate emotions. Fractals are common in nature and can be seen in everything from leaves and snowflakes to lightning bolts, clouds, ferns, cacti and snail shells. An easy creation of screen savers on your iPhone and laptop can provide that sense of clarity.
Let go of what was.
You can’t have peace about the past if you’re always looking for ways to make up for it. We can get so easily bogged down with an element of projection – when we feel guilty about things we might think or say and then we try to mitigate it by doing exactly the behaviour we were trying to get away from. Like going out with that toxic friend – again.
1. Let go of toxic relationships.
Sometimes we carry relationships around out of obligation. You might want to evaluate those friendships. Is maintaining the relationship lifting you up or stressing you out? My rule of thumb is I always stock take how I FEEL after the encounter. Are you pumped up? Excited? Inspired? Or are you conflicted, irritated, jealous? Which feeling lean more toward contentment and clarity to move forward? You may need to distance yourself from some of them if they are tearing you down. These individuals, more often than not, will keep you in a state of discontent and certainly not help with validating emotions into normalisation.
2. Forgive yourself for past mistakes.
Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion is complete – it needs to be mind and body – eat something healthy, lie down and rest, take a magnesium salt and baking soda bath (great for toxin removal!), write a letter to yourself and describe a painful moment (break up, poor presentation). Acknowledge your feelings and FORGIVE and write ideas for your next steps by asking yourself this simple question “would I say this to a good friend?” Then direct your responses towards yourself. This brings a peaceful approach to what could be very disheartening memories. Being able to salvage something good from the tough times in your life helps you see the value in them and make peace with them so you can move on towards the future.
Write about what you need clarity on — it doesn’t have to be any solid answers, or any kind of coherent writing. Just let your thoughts pour out. Stream of consciousness. Just give yourself space to reflect.
4. Talk to others.
Share your thoughts with others. Share what you’re not sure about. What you’re afraid of. Hear their thoughts. Just the act of talking it out is valuable — you’re giving space for your thoughts and feelings and having them heard. Often you can get clarity from a good conversation and most importantly, normalisation.
3. Have faith in what will be.
Increasing your peace is a choice you make with each decision throughout your day. Peace and happiness require conscious dedication and discipline to guard against the many distractions that will attempt to take it away.
It’s estimated that the average adult makes more than 35,000 decisions per day. A proper ‘growth’ mindset shapes your attitudes and creates your entire perception of what is attainable; therefore, making you glide easier through the decision-making process. What you think and how you think determines your behaviour to build clarity and peace by calming the mind from anxiety about the future.
1. Build a growth mindset.
Incorporate the word “yet.” Integrating the word yet into your vocabulary signals that despite any struggles, you can overcome anything. It’s a matter of time and little effort.
Alter your attitude. Fixed mindsets tend to harbor negative, pessimistic, and no-can-do attitudes. Kick those thoughts out now. The power of positive, optimistic thinking where you can see challenges as opportunities can instantly shift your mood and can also inspire others. I’m envious how jane can do (a, b, c). Rather than say ‘I’ll never be able to do this’, I can ask Jane how she does it and integrate her learnings into my daily practice.
Ask for constructive feedback. A growth mindset proactively sources out feedback from peers, friends, and leadership. This provides an opportunity to learn from mistakes, find alternatives and place efforts into skills that will help in the long run.
2. Build your gratitude.
Each day, identify at least one person, pet, or thing that enriches your life. Write your thoughts down in a journal. When you find yourself unhappy, take a moment to review your entries and think about all the good things in your life. Think about your accomplishments, how you problem-solved, how your own values came into play, which strengths you’re grateful for, what you are proud of, what you’re excited about, and what’s good in your life right now. You can also do this to others. Random acts of kindness through actions and words can bring support into your life when you need it also; the more you put out in the world for others, the more you will receive in return.
Empathy is a powerful word encapsulating the ability to care about others. It’s the ability to imagine and understand the thoughts, behaviours, or ideas of others, including those different from ourselves. Learning to empathize with others allows us to become less judgmental, less frustrated, angry, or disappointed—and we develop patience. And when we really listen to the points of view of others, they’re very likely to ‘mirror’ and listen to ours.
Stop buying materials you don’t need. When you feel the urge to buy something, think about whether it’s a “need” or a “want.” If the item is a “want,” think about why you are not content with what you have now. Ask yourself: Do I need this now? Wait a few days and see if the urge to buy it dissipates.
Learn to enjoy simple things that don’t cost money. Meaningful conversations. Walking in nature. Reading a good book in a library. A trip to the beach. These things are all free and can often offer more joy than more expensive endeavours.
5. Smile- the universal symbol of happiness.
Receiving a smile from a stranger or friend brings you instant feelings of joy and pleasure. No words or further communication is required to feel immediate happiness, and therefore you can’t help but smile back yourself. Smiles are contagious and are the only thing we want to spread. Research shows that when you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress. Then other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins come into play too; acting like a mild pain reliever and the serotonin is an antidepressant. Creating your smile jar (even if you have to write it on bits of paper to remind you such as that friend who makes you laugh, funny movies, podcasts, and if you are game, go to a laughing yoga class).
True contentment is a deep-seated sense of accepting who and where you are at any given moment. Creation may take discipline and habit formation, but it will bring true value into your life.