There are five ways I find inner peace when everything around me feels turbulent. I have used these methods in my own life during many challenges. I am sober, debt-free, a breast cancer warrior, and currently a slow traveler on a worldwide adventure with my spouse in early retirement.
I’ve discovered I can enjoy serenity when I am not focused on my inner chaos. There are some specific tools I use to stay out of chaos. My effort is not perfect – but I am always trying, and learning.
I’ll use my personal challenges to show you my five ways to find inner peace. Some examples involve travel or relocation, some don’t.
I’m not a life-coach or counselor. I share these points simply because no matter where I am in the world I am — traveling or not — these work for me. My hope is they might work for you, too.
5 ways to find inner peace
When I am in a turbulent state of mind, it’s almost always because I’m in denial of something. When I am in denial, I’m fighting against the truth and unable to accept whatever situation is in front of me.
When I accept something, I am truthful to myself about it. I’m no longer fighting against that ‘something.’ I am able to focus on potential solutions or resolutions that will bring me back to inner peace, instead of fighting against a truth, or ignoring it.
The other four points on this list all build on acceptance. It’s why it’s number one on this list of five ways to find inner peace. It’s that important.
In order to accept something, I have to be honest about that ‘something’ — honest to my self.
Example: acceptance as honesty to self
I denied I had alcoholism for many years. My health deteriorated, as did my relationships. Everything in my life was affected by this disease. What started as a party ended as disaster. Daily life was a real struggle. I was intensely sick. Yet, I still denied I was an alcoholic.
I landed in detox. I was in pretty bad shape. At that point, something in me happened that allowed me to to be honest with myself. My life was an utter mess; I realized I was an alcoholic — and I accepted it. Finally. Instead of joking about it (“Yea, I’m an alcoholic,” as I had another drink), I accepted the fact, and its implications (“Yea, I’m an alcoholic,” as I asked for help).
This honesty with my self, this acceptance, put me on a path to receive the medical care – and other care – I needed. That initial acceptance saved my life. That acceptance was one of the first ways to find inner peace in my mind that was terribly sick.
Alcoholism is a large issue for a person to accept. But this acceptance is also for small, seemingly less important stuff. Anything I am in denial about can lead me to inner turmoil, and away from inner peace.
Think about your own life. In what areas are you waging an inner war? Think about accepting what you are fighting. Wouldn’t that help calm your mind?
Once I have accepted a situation or event or person or whatever, I need to be open-minded about attaining solutions. If I make assumptions without knowing all facts, I get stuck in that self-created chaotic state. I can accept something, but if I don’t have the right mindset to approach a challenge in order to get beyond it, I will simply bang my head against a wall.
Check this out: If I can accept a situation (I have breast cancer), and remain open-minded (there are many treatment options – I won’t die ‘tomorrow’), I can take a step back and review an issue or situation with clarity. And with clarity comes a measure of calm. We always fear what we don’t know. It’s human nature.
Example: Open-minded about cancer treatment
As you might imagine, a breast cancer diagnosis while traveling the world in early retirement at the age of 46 was … well, it sucked. For a brief moment, I wanted to run home to the U.S. and have treatment there. That thought didn’t last long, however, because I opened up my mind to the possibilities of treatment abroad.
Soon I saw it made sense in all ways for me to have surgical treatment as soon as possible with a well-respected doctor in Croatia. I did, and it went well. I healed from the operation; my husband and I kept traveling. We saved time and money, and my prognosis is excellent.
We could have gone “home.” I could have worked out some type of health insurance purchase (maybe?). I could have started the mammogram and biopsy process again (would American doctors take Croatian tests?). I could have scheduled and waited (who knows how long — months?) for a double mastectomy to be performed. I could have healed at ‘home’, which would really be a rental somewhere (our house has an annual tenant). We could have kept traveling after all of that. Maybe. If we weren’t broke.
Now, don’t get me wrong: no woman is likely to find deep inner peace over losing her breasts. But the uncertainty, aggravation, and expense of getting medical care in the U.S. was unnecessary once I had all the facts in front of me — facts I uncovered in research, thanks to an open mind.
My third of five ways to find inner peace is to possess willingness. This means I am ready to take action, ready to do something.
I can accept I have breast cancer, and be open-minded about treatment options, but if I am not ready to actually go through with the surgery in a foreign country, I am not willing to do it. And when I am not willing – or ready – I’m in a state of chaos and fear instead of peace. Let’s use another example.
Example: Career promotion
I had a few promotions in my working life, including one offer across the country. I also had a second offer to go elsewhere, but not as geographically as far. Each position had great points.
So then it came down to willingness. Was I ready to move so far away? Was I ready to commit to the action that would be needed?
A lot of people are anchored to their homes and communities, and moving across the country is not something they’d be ready to do – ever. And that’s totally fine – because willingness is a choice. It’s a decision on future action.
Isn’t it great to have choices?! (I chose the cross-country move.)
4. Honesty (about my role with others)
If I’m honest with myself, I can accept situations I probably don’t like. If I’m open-minded about solutions, I can see possible outcomes with clarity, and feel somewhat calm. If I am willing to move forward with solutions, I am ready to experience total inner peace. Right? Well, almost.
Next, I have to be honest with others because how I treat others affects my inner stability. My conscience is disturbed when I deceive; my conscience is calm when I come clean.
As one of the ways to find inner peace, honesty with others is the first effort outside of self. It means being honest with individual people, but also groups and institutions.
Example: student loan default
In my late 20s, I wasn’t making enough money to make loan payments, cover rent, car insurance, gas and maintenance, and the rest of life’s expenses. Something had to give. Out of forbearance periods, I defaulted on my student loans.
Eventually, I accepted those loans were not going away. I became open-minded on how to get that debt off my back and researched various options. I was willing to reign in spending to raise funds to make a settlement offer. I was honest about my financial situation, and pressed for a settlement. My second loan offer was accepted.
My credit was negatively impacted, of course. But I was young enough to recover. Honesty really was the best policy.
Finding more humility is one of the key ways to find inner peace. Humility is humbleness, modesty. To me, it can mean a person with humility is teachable, and can admit when he or she is wrong.
The opposite of humility is egoism. Egoism is self-centeredness, selfishness, perhaps with a dash of narcissism. Here is a person who is always right, and can never admit any wrongdoing.
I’m human and I make mistakes. And I try to keep my ego in check these days because it will ultimately lead me to serenity. With humility, I can accurately assess when I’ve done actual harm or wrong to someone else.
Example: my spouse’s photos
Over many years, I pointed out things I didn’t like about my husband’s photos. At some point along the way, he started saying, “I’m a terrible photographer,” whenever the topic of photographs came up. This bothered me for a couple of years whenever he said it.
Then, one evening on a beach walk before dinner, I complimented his work – I really meant it, as I always do when I compliment his shots. But he retorted, “Oh, I’m a terrible photographer,” over and over again. His reaction to my authentic feeling about his work filled me with turmoil. I had never said he was a terrible photographer, and I didn’t mean to imply that.
I took a step back. I accepted he thought I had belittled his efforts over a period of time. I was open-minded about how I might resolve the problem. I was willing to make an apology and talk it through. I was honest with him and told him his exaggerated statements bothered me. I had humility in my apology — in that I recognized I had made a big mistake in criticizing his work often, over many years.
I tried to set things right, and I worked through the ways I know to find inner peace – which include finding the humility to admit my actions hurt him – even if unintentional.
What about chocolate cake?
As I said, I’m no counselor or self-help coach. But I’ve lived life and made plenty of mistakes. I’ve also indulged the senses to find peace – like most people.
Many people think the ways to find inner peace are through external stimuli. Take a walk. Soak in a bubble bath. Listen to music. Eat chocolate cake. Buy something. Smoke, drink, take drugs. These all relate to the physical realm – and immediate gratification. But finish eating the chocolate cake, or having that drink, and you likely will return to your inner chaos and conflict once your outer distraction is gone.
That’s not to discount time in nature and meditation as additional ways to find inner peace – I’ve also used those tools in what I like to call Ellen’s “quiet time.” (Read more on how nature can affect your state of mind by a psychologist here and Thich Nhat Hanh here.)
But if you cannot get out into nature, and if you’re not practiced with mediation, these five ways to find inner peace are things you can practice right now: acceptance, open-mindedness, willingness, honesty, humility.
When these become habits, the payoff is always more satisfying than that chocolate cake.
Thanks for reading!
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