My wife found a book — Paul Wilson, The little book of calm — in a second-hand shop. The book was given away for free. Each page in it contains a piece of advice on how to stay calm – something that you need to tackle things like culture shock when moving to another part of the world. I quote some of them here and add my comments.
Seek the best in everything. Make a practice of looking for the best in people and situations. You’ll find that simple approach induces optimism and positivity — both of which lead to calm.
I remember I was impressed when I read one tourist booklet about Dunedin. It said: “The weather in Dunedin is never monotonous.” The author must be really talented and optimistic. He managed to describe even Dunedin’s weather in positive terms.
Single out simple pleasures. Approach something with your full attention and an open mind, and you’ll find pleasure and complexity in it. A bunch of grapes. Or a glass of water. Or a field of grass. Or a sky of clouds. All of such things can lead to calm.
Wear Donald Duck underpants. Choose a few childlike accoutrements to remind you of the irreverent, uninhibited, joyous side of life.
Here is my application of this rule:
Wear white. The clothes you wear have a distinct influence on the way you feel. Loose garments, natural fabrics and light colours all lead to calm.
Me in Afghanistan:
Take the back seat. However much you think you might enjoy driving, it is a stressful business. Take the back seat, and spend the journey sharing your calm.
A good advocacy of hitch-hiking. Want to feel calm? Hitchhike!
A few more:
Find wonder in all you do. There is little doubt that those who get the most from life are those who look for the wonder in even the smallest things they do. Cultivate this skill and you’ll find peace and satisfaction as well.
Recognise addiction. Satisfying cravings of any kind (nicotine, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol) is no way to help yourself feel calm. Recognise addictions for what they are, and find an alternative. Then you can be calm.
Reaffirm your friendships. If you tend to get overly serious about your work or your responsibilities, remind yourself that the most common deathbed regrets relate to neglected relationships, not unfinished business.
Turn off the lights. When all else fails in a stressful day, go somewhere quiet and dark, and listen to your breathing as you ease into a state of relaxation.
That’s what helps to feel calm in Afghanistan – frequent power outages. Quiet and dark evenings.
Break the pattern. When you find yourself under pressure, do something different. Stand where you wouldn’t normally stand, sit where you wouldn’t normally sit, think the way you wouldn’t normally think.
Dance till you drop. One of the most pleasurable exercises around, uninhibited dancing distracts even the most committed worrier.
My daughter dancing as she watches Madhuri’s Aaja Nachle:
The next two are my favourite:
Anything for a laugh. Remain on the lookout for things that make you laugh — and, if you see nothing worth laughing at, pretend you see it. Then laugh.
Levitate. Stand straighter and taller than you believe feels natural, with an imaginary thread attached to the top of your skull lifting you a few millimetres above the ground. The higher above the ground you feel, the closer you will be to feeling calm.
What I particularly like in the last passage is that the word imaginary is put in italics.
Me practising imaginary levitation: