What exactly is inner peace, anyway?
Look, I’m not the Buddha or a meditation guru or anything like that.
But the concept of inner peace is pretty straightforward. I think we all know that having inner peace means that you’re content, accepting of what life throws at you, kind to yourself, and not bothered by the problems that will surely come your way.
Makes sense, right?
It’s just getting there that may not be quite so simple.
Everyone’s path to inner peace might be different, but there are definitely some things that we might be doing that we can all afford to change.
If you want to find inner peace, let go of these seven behaviors, and you’ll find the path to your goals gets a whole lot clearer!
1) Holding grudges
One of the most harmful things you can do to yourself is hold grudges.
But what’s so hurtful about that?
After all, people may have truly done you wrong, and they don’t deserve to be forgiven, right?
The problem here is that you’re focusing on their actions, actions taken in the past that can’t ever be changed.
But what we can change is how we feel about things right now, and that will change the way our lives are in the future.
I know people have done you wrong. I’ve been injured, too.
But when you hold onto a grudge, it means you’re really holding onto the hurt. If you think about the person who did it and how you still think they’re awful, you’re also focusing on and reliving that hurt again and again.
It’s like tearing the scab off a wound again and again.
That’s not something that’s going to lead to inner peace, is it?
But if you can leave your grudges behind you, you’ll find that your wounds can heal, and that will make finding peace that much easier.
2) Not letting go of things you can’t change
Just like holding onto grudges, holding onto things you can’t change can be an incredibly negative behavior.
There are lots of things that we can have an effect on.
We can change our patterns and our habits. We can even change our values and our way of thinking.
And we can change our behavior.
But there are a great number of things that we can’t change.
I’d love to be able to fly like a bird, but my physical limitations make me a bit too heavy. I have to accept that this will never change. But there are some wonderful ways around this as well, from airplanes to skydiving wingsuits.
Most of what we can’t change has a lot to do with other people. While we can have an influence and an effect on other people to some degree, ultimately, the way they think and act is not something that we can really make any big changes to.
This can be intensely frustrating if you continue to wish that somebody would change.
The best you can do is to put a positive influence out into the world and hope that what you’ve done has some effect. But if you continually obsess about things not changing, you won’t be able to find the inner peace you seek.
3) Staying stressed
What does it mean to be stressed?
In his groundbreaking book on the topic, Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about why zebras don’t get stress-related conditions like ulcers while we humans do.
His explanation boils down to our unnatural lifestyle.
Stress hormones are released when a zebra is threatened by a lion. They create physiological changes in the zebra’s body, allowing it to become fully alert and run as fast as possible.
For the zebra, this either results in getting away or being eaten – either way, the stress hormones disappear quickly.
But for humans, stressful situations can last for a long time. Poverty, job-related stress, abuse, disease, and other causes can last months and even years.
This means our stress hormones stick around, too.
And they’re really bad for us.
They’ve been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even major depression.
Doesn’t sound peaceful, does it?
So if there’s any way you can reduce the stress in your life, you should focus on and prioritize it.
Taking time to relax, decompress, and de-stress can make you happier, healthier, and hopefully a whole lot more peaceful!
4) Living in the past
I have to admit that I’m quite a nostalgic person.
I love pulling out old photos once in a while and cruising on a trip down memory lane.
It makes me think about the people and places that have made my life what it is and makes me feel appreciative of (almost) everything that I’ve passed through so far.
However, I’m definitely not living in the past all the time.
If I were, I’d be weighed down by thinking about so many things that have come and gone. There’s tons to go through there, so how would I ever have time to think about the present or the future?
I know that some people are focused on the past because of some major traumas that lie there. Other people feel like they had such a great time in the past that their glory days are behind them.
But constantly looking back to trauma creates a fixation on negativity, and always looking back to happiness in the past creates a longing that’s anything but peaceful.
If you want to find inner peace, the past has to be the past and not your present.
5) Focusing only on the future
Just like being stuck in the past causes problems for you in the present, so does an unhealthy focus on the future.
But what’s “unhealthy”?
Surely it’s good to think about the future so you can create goals and work toward them?
Shouldn’t we also think about how our actions today will affect tomorrow?
If that’s how your thinking about the future works then you’re probably being quite healthy in your outlook.
But if you’re really worried about the future or always thinking of the future instead of focusing on where you are today, this might not bring you so much peace of mind.
Take Andy, for example.
This was a friend of a friend I knew a few years ago. He was fun to spend time with, though that was nearly impossible.
He was always working hard and never ever took time off – one of those “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” kind of people.
And then, one day at the age of 35, he dropped dead of a massive heart attack.
Andy was so focused on the future that he didn’t give himself time to enjoy the present, and then it was gone.
His story tells us that death can come at any time, and if we’re not looking for peace and happiness now, we might end up being too late.
6) Not forgiving yourself
Do you know anyone who has never made any mistakes or has absolutely no regrets?
We’ve all done things that we wish we hadn’t, things that were wrong, hurtful, or destructive.
And unless you’re completely without empathy, I’m sure there are things you still feel pretty bad about.
Yeah, so do I. Most especially, I broke someone’s heart once, and I still have a hard time thinking about it.
But if we have skeletons in our closets that we never deal with, we always have barriers to the inner peace that we crave.
If you want peace, you have to do some hard work, and one of the hardest things might be forgiving yourself.
If you feel like an awful person for what you’ve done, then at least you have empathy telling you that your actions were harmful.
So why not turn things around and focus that empathy on yourself for a change?
Once you do, you’ll be able to understand what happened, why you did what you did, and how you came to make that mistake.
You’ll also recognize that you’re not alone – we all make mistakes and cause hurt.
If you can forgive others for what they may have done to you in the past, then maybe – just maybe – you could find a way to forgive yourself, too.
7) Not practicing gratitude
So many people find peace through activities like yoga and meditation, not because they’re an end in and of themselves but because they’re opportunities.
They give you a chance for quiet reflection, for time to listen to your breath and realize how great it is to be alive and all the things you should be thankful for.
If you’re not practicing gratitude, you’re missing an important step on the path to peace.
If you want to find inner peace, let go of these seven behaviors today.
You’ll find your path is clearer, and your life seems brighter. You’ll be better able to accept the world and your place in it and, through that, find contentment.
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