Writing an article on how to find inner peace and happiness is quite a challenge to take on! But, that really is what this website is about. As someone who suffered with major depression and low self-esteem for over 40 years, I want to help others find victory and live their best lives! My mission is to help people find inner peace and happiness!
Obviously, I won’t be able to exhaustively cover the topics of inner peace and happiness in one article. But, I can discuss several key changes that I made in my life that have helped me move from a generally sad, discouraged and depressive state to a state of well being, positivity and happiness most of the time. As I suggested in the article title, I will focus on actionable and practical steps you can start taking right now!
I will touch on a number of topics in this article, including understanding and getting control over your inner thought life, self-love and compassion, mirror work, reflective movement, meditation, gratitude, breathing exercises, and the process of taking charge of your mind and getting well.
The Typical Way We Approach our Inner World is Not Conducive to Inner Peace and Happiness
First, we will take a brief look at how most people approach their inner thought life, and how that approach makes it very difficult for most people to find inner happiness and peace. As you have probably heard before, the external circumstances that we experience in life do not make us happy or sad. No, it’s our reactions to them. Happiness or lack thereof comes from within – from our thoughts and mindset. Most people go through life somewhat on autopilot. We react to circumstances with our conditioned responses. This is based on our childhood programming and interpretations of our life experiences up to this point. This usually happens in the background of our minds without much conscious thought. So, at the most fundamental level, by default, we go through life having this unconscious inner dialogue with literally thousands of thoughts a day. And sadly for most people, this unconscious inner dialogue does not serve us well.
So, the problem is an inner thought life that does not serve us well. And, we are largely unaware of this inner world. Even if we are aware of some recurring negative thoughts, we don’t really know why they are there or how to change them. What is the first step towards finding inner peace and happiness? Self awareness – discover how and why you think the way you do. This does not come naturally and will take effort and discipline.
Understanding What and How You Think (Self Awareness) is the First Step in the Journey to Inner Peace and Happiness
Keeping a Journal Improves Self Awareness
I will tell you what has worked for me to increase my level of self awareness dramatically. First, I developed the habit of journalling every day. I set a simple rule for myself that I would journal at least one sentence every day so that I would not get overwhelmed with feeling like I had to write pages every day. My journal is a digital journal that is in the cloud. So, I can add to it on my phone or any computer. I have found that convenience is important! I also like to start every morning with a journal entry. If I wake up feeling anxious, I write out what is bothering me in detail. This helps me see more deeply into my thinking and it also acts as a therapy session to work through issues. I wrote more extensively about journalling in my Emotional Freedom Techniques article. So, check that out for more.
Observing Thoughts Without Judgment
The other habit I have developed for self awareness is the habit of observing my thoughts without judgment. This means that rather than getting upset with the way I am thinking, I approach it with an attitude of curiosity, almost like a third party observer. Of course, when you combine this with the journal, you get great insights into your thinking and tendencies. If you then study your journal over time, you really get to know yourself and are able to start making conscious changes to how you think in a variety of situations. You start to make more empowering choices.
A Personal Example on the Value of Self Awareness
I would like to share an example of how increased self awareness has helped me reduce anxiety and find more inner peace. As I continued to write about what was bothering me or making me anxious in a given moment, I realized that there are many times that I conflate three or four different things that are causing me stress into one huge and unmanageable ball of stress. For example, if I am stressed about one part of my marriage, a part of my career, and this other part of my finances all at the same time, it is overwhelming. But, if I take the time to break the anxiety down into the three individual parts and figure out the best approach to each of them, including mindset and action, I have now made the situation manageable!
How You Talk To Yourself is EVERYTHING on the Journey to Inner Peace and Happiness
Self-Love and Compassion is SO Important
Next, lets talk about the broad topic of self-love and compassion toward yourself. I have a number of suggestions to help you make progress in this. But first, I want to emphasize how important this is. Love is a continuum. When you love yourself more, you will love others more. When you are compassionate toward yourself, you are compassionate toward others. When you learn to love yourself, you will more naturally start to think positive and supportive thoughts toward yourself and the various areas of your life. It’s really hard to over-estimate the importance of loving yourself! I wrote more about self-love and compassion in my Emotional Freedom Techniques article.
Affirmations and Mirror Work
How do we love ourselves better? As I became really attentive to my inner thoughts, I realized how unkind I was being to myself. Really, I was my own worst enemy. This was incredibly destructive in my life. One of the things I started doing consistently every morning is to look in the mirror and tell myself over and over again how much I love myself and that I am worthy of all good things. It was definitely awkward at first. But over time, it became a habit and I started to believe it.
One of the things that I realized about myself as I started to move from hating myself to genuinely loving myself is that I had spent most of my life trying to please other people. Because I had no self-esteem, I sought validation from others. All of us have things we long to hear from others. Our heart yearns for love and acceptance. What I discovered is that I could speak the words that my heart longed to hear to myself! It’s incredible how powerful it is when you realize that you can be your own best friend and validate yourself! This changed my life dramatically for the better.
So, try the mirror work. Try noticing supportive or self-loathing thoughts and consciously replace them with loving and empowering thoughts. Stick with it. Push through the awkwardness and doubt. It will become a habit and it will change everything! I list some great affirmations in my Dr. Wayne Dyer Quotes article.
Affirmation Index Cards
Another thing that has really helped with motivation, focus and self-esteem is creating a stack of index cards with affirmations and goals on them. So, I focus on self-worth, who I want to become, and goals I want to accomplish. Then, I pull them out as needed for motivation and encouragement.
The Dark Side – Embracing Negativity and Using it For Your Good
This one may come as a surprise to you, but hear me out. One of the traps I see “positive thinking” people fall into is the internal pressure they put on themselves to be positive all the time. This leads to denying their true feelings in an effort to be this perfectly positive person. However, I have found that true self-love can only exist when you are completely honest with yourself. I have learned the importance of being compassionate with myself and loving myself in the weakness and negativity that is part of being human. Allow yourself to be human and imperfect! Love yourself even in the midst of facing the things about yourself that you hope no one ever finds out about!
What are You Doing RIGHT?
It’s so easy to see what your are doing wrong and focus on that. Try asking yourself “What am I doing right?” Be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for progress. I guarantee you are doing something right! I ask myself that question from time to time and journal my response.
Gratitude is Key to Inner Peace and Happiness!
The next habit I want to touch on that will help you find more inner peace and happiness is gratitude. I know this one is talked about a lot, but it is critical. I practice gratitude when I am feeling down or when I am upset with someone I love or upset with a situation that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. One great general gratitude habit is to make a list of ten or so things that you are grateful for in your life and review it often – whenever you find yourself looking at the negative side of life instead of the positive. If you are upset with someone you love, think of some things that you really love and appreciate about them.
As the old saying goes, what you appreciate appreciates. I have also noticed that gratitude really improves your relationships. If you focus on what you appreciate about someone, they tend to respond positively. When we are critical of others, they tend to get discouraged and live down to your expectations.
Meditation and Breathing Exercises for Inner Peace and Happiness
Obviously, a lot has been written about meditation. It’s a very popular topic. The big thing I want to emphasize here is that using meditation to quiet your mind is very beneficial. We are not going straight to a deep spiritual practice here (Although this is a worthwhile goal!). Start out slow and build a habit of giving your mind some time for peace and quiet. Keep it simple. Try taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on your breath for five or ten minutes once or twice a day. Also, you don’t have to try to get into a spiritual position. Just find a comfortable position, sitting or laying down.
I have found that taking slow, deep breaths as needed throughout out the day is a great breathing exercise for stress. So, if I am anxious or upset, I start breathing slowly and deeply for a couple of minutes. Meditation and breathing exercises help me manage stress, anxiety or sadness throughout the day.
You can check out a meditation and breathing exercise demonstration by Lady Gaga in my Celebrities with Depression – Lady Gaga article. There are two great videos in that article.
I also want to point out an article I did on Brainwave Entrainment technologies. In brief, you can use brainwave entrainment audio technologies to help get your mind into various meditative and relaxing states. I have used this technology for years and still use it every day as a part of my meditation time.
Reflective Movement Helps Bring Peace and Clarity
What is reflective movement? Reflective movement is combining physical exercise, breathing exercises and contemplation into one practice. The way I do it is I take a brisk walk around my neighborhood or wherever is convenient. I breathe deeply and slowly. Depending on the purpose I have in mind, I either contemplate an issue or issues in my life, or I just quiet my mind and enjoy the walk with gratitude. This promotes creativity, peace and happiness. Obviously, exercise really helps with your mood. Walking can also help bring clarity to whatever you are thinking about. And, the deep, slow breathing with the walking promotes emotional peace. I do this all the time and consider it an important part of my routine for inner peace and happiness.
In this article, I discussed a number of topics, including understanding and getting control over your inner thought life, self-love and compassion, mirror work, reflective movement, meditation, gratitude, and breathing exercises. In conclusion, I want to talk a little about the process of taking charge of your mind and getting well. I want you to understand that at first, when you try to make major changes to your way of thinking, you will face significant resistance. I want you to understand what’s going on so that you can expect it and work through it.
You’ve been thinking a certain way for probably decades and you want to change. Your subconscious mind is thinking “I don’t understand this completely foreign way of thinking. I don’t want to change. Are you sure you want to do this?” So, at first, you are fighting the momentum of your subconscious mind. There is a period of time where you have to persevere and show your subconscious that you are serious. Gradually, over time, your mind sees that you are serious and that things are going to be different. Eventually, you get to the point where your subconscious mind is fully recruited as your ally. Then, was a cycle of perseverance and frustration becomes a virtuous cycle. It gets easier. So keep at it.
If you have any thoughts or questions on how to find inner peace and happiness, please leave a comment or question below. I would love to interact with you and help however I can. Also, you may have a point that I missed, in which case, I will edit the article to reflect new information.
All the best!