Last week, we discussed spirit-lifting practices – practices that ignite our energetic flow. We touched on stimulating the body with movement, nurturing the heart with self-love and connection, and enriching the mind. This week, I want to talk about spirit-calming practices to help bring balance and serenity, how to remain calm when we feel anxiety, anger, fear or imbalance. And, as before, I break these down into the same three categories: physical, emotional and mental.
Am I willing and able?
Now, before we get to the practices, I want to share one question I’ve been asked countless times recently. “Will it ever get easier?”
If we interpret this question, what is truly being asked? Are we asking:
- Will we begin to feel better, happier without drinking?
- Will we ever get over the cravings of wanting a drink?
- Does going through this change we’re experiencing ever get better?
The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” However, there are deeper questions that are being asked (and should be asked), specifically:
- How can I help bring balance, peace, and a sense of joy in my life?
- What can I do so things flow easier for me?
And getting to the heart of the matter, here are the two most important questions of all:
- Am I WILLING to learn new ideas?
- Based on what I learn, am I willing to DO it?!
The flow of these questions encapsulates all of recovery from alcohol use disorder. You see, recovery is the process of learning the answers to these questions so we can apply them to our lives. This is a combination of everything you are learning and putting into practice with the Stay-at-Home Sober Guide, AA’s Big Book and other materials, SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, 12 Step or Speaker meetings, Recovery books, recovery related podcasts, and talks such as those I’ve covered (and will cover in the future). But one must be open to learning new ideas and applying them for early sobriety to become easier. Make it personal! Apply it to your life!
One day at a time, the answers will become clearer, your recovery process will become more comfortable, and a whole new life will be created where alcohol has no place. That is why we say, “it will definitely get easier” and as most who’ve been there will say, “recovery is the greatest thing that’s ever happened for us!”
As I mentioned in a previous article, Same Strategies, Different Rules: Adapting Routines Amid the COVID-19 Virus, when we stop an old habit, we must replace it with a new habit to fill the void. It’s human nature to seek out comfort when we feel discomfort. In the past, when we were anxious or felt depressed or had any discomfort at all, we instinctively reached for alcohol. Well, in early sobriety, we are doing everything possible to no longer do that. However, our body still craves SOMETHING as a response to that stimuli.
Often, we replace the alcohol habit with other habits that seem to comfort us, but are actually harmful to our bodies, minds, and spirits. So, fundamentally a key goal in recovery is to replace the patterns of drinking with other sustainable HEALTHY patterns vs. unhealthy patterns. Examples of unhealthy patterns include: 1) food: overeating, consuming high-carb and/or high sugar (causing the sugar buzz, which has its own negative side-effects), 2) smoking or vaping, 3) over shopping, 4) binging on movies or social media (screen time), or 5) victim identity where blame is put on everyone and/or everything instead of taking personal responsibility. All of these patterns appear to soothe our discomfort, but actually contribute to greater sickness.
So, let’s look at healthy patterns that offer peace of mind, tranquility and balance. Let’s open the door to the classroom of recovery and choose to become students of life. Let’s be willing to learn new ideas and try them! Are you ready? I know you are.
Physical Spirit-Calming Practices
When we look at nature, what do we see? We see a world in perfect balance, harmony and synergy. Have you ever noticed when you sit and listen to the birds sing, smell the fragrance of flowers, fresh-cut grass or the salt from the ocean, how it calms us? Have you ever taken your shoes off and walked on a lush lawn and felt the grass blades between your toes and the tingling energy it gives? Or ever get up early and go see the sunrise, and when the light of the sun envelopes us, feel our bodies coming alive, as serotonin is released?
The Sun gives our world life! So, establishing our routines around it is powerful, as nature intended. There’s a reason why when there is sunlight serotonin is released to wake us up, and when its dark, melatonin is released to calm us down. Nature is saying it is good to start and end your day with the sun. Get up and go to sleep early. This nourishes our circadian rhythm and ensures our bodies are well rested.
During the day, take the time to BE in nature. Let’s go outside, take off our shoes and socks and walk on the grass and dirt. Feel that connection on your bare feet. Breath in the fresh air and fragrances. It’s almost immersive meditation. Then, take nature back inside with you. Bring flowers and plants into your home. They not only are pleasant and smell great, but they clean the air. Open the windows, if it’s cool enough, and let the sounds, breeze and fresh air permeate your home. And for those times we need the windows closed, there are apps we can download on our phones that can play those soothing sounds of the ocean, wind, rain and wildlife – our minds will do the rest.
Other things we can do include Epsom salt baths which are really soothing, calming teas in the evening, or whenever you need to relax, and using an essential oil diffuser. I even put essential oils on my body at pulse points like my wrists or jugular veins. Avoid electronic screens a minimum of 60 minutes before bedtime (90 is recommended). This will not only prevent us from seeing or reading something that may agitate, but the blue light acts like sunlight and causes serotonin to secrete, which wakes us up.
Emotional Spirit-Calming Practices
As we read in the previous article, Stay-At-Home Sober: Practice Emotional Support (Part 1), all parts work together and affect each other. Therefore, calming our heart with self-love and connection will not only help us be happier and at peace, it feeds the physical as well. This is why in both, my Stay-At-Home Sober Guide and the Self-Love Daily Practice (which you can receive for FREE when you subscribe to our newsletter), each have a 30-minute guided meditation.
Yes, Give me your newsletter and Self-Love Daily Practice!
You can also do self-meditation. The way to do this is to:
- Sit quietly; think of nothing. Avoid the temptation to think about your to-do list or anything coming up. Be in the here and now.
- As you sit there, just existing with no mental distractions, focus on the sounds and aromas around you.
This allows us to open up to the energy in the universe. Start with just a few minutes and grow from there.
Another is OM chanting. Humming the word OM creates a universal sound we are hardwired for, so it soothes. If you prefer, you can chant positive self-affirmations, like “I am resilient and strong today…” Chant it to a tune or just say it over and over. And do breathwork. Take long deep breaths and make sure when you exhale, it’s longer than your inhale. For some other options, Google Breath of Fire. It’s a balancing breath.
Finally, practice forgiveness. This is a topic all unto itself, so I am only touching on it here. Resentment and bitterness are powerful enemies. When you forgive, you let go of that resentment; it no longer holds its power over you. In the words of Jim Rohn, “Use your past as a school to learn from, not as a club to beat yourself with.” Also, Carrie Fisher summarizes very pointedly, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Mental Spirit-Calming Practices
On the mental side, it’s helpful to differentiate thought from emotion so we can adequately address them. While thoughts and emotions are often connected, the difference is that a thought may or may NOT be true. An emotion is always true. How that emotion was sparked is not the issue; the fact you FEEL that emotion IS true.
A thought, which can feed our emotions, is not always true; hence if we can determine the thought is false and let it go, we forego having to feel the uncomfortable emotion. For example, if I were to think I have a dysfunctional relationship with my sister, and that it will ALWAYS be dysfunctional, this may or may not be true. Now, the relationship is currently dysfunctional – true. However, to assume it will ALWAYS be dysfunctional may NOT be true.
Staying with this scenario, the new trajectory of my life (now that I am in recovery) is changing how I see myself and live, how I treat and interact with others, etc. This now may be the cause for our relationship to actually heal and no longer be dysfunctional. Therefore, focusing on the positive that may be, rather than on a negative that may not be true will change my mental state, which will affect my emotions, which in turn affects my entire state of being.
If you’d like more information, watch my Facebook video from May 2, 2020, titled, Emotional Support, Part 2: Calming Practices. Until the next time, Namaste!