Inner peace evokes concepts of stillness, comfort, peace and fulfillment. While most of us have moments where we feel balanced and at peace, what does it truly mean to have a sense of inner serenity that remains almost all of the time, even when faced with stressful situations?
Concepts and experiences that people associate with a state of inner peace include:
- Acceptance of what is
- Staying calm in the face of adversity
- Fewer desires and cravings
- Feeling a variety of emotions, and allowing them to be as they are
- Absence of guilt
- Absence of inner conflict
- Knowing right action
- Having an understanding of one’s own spiritual truth
- Absence of fear
These are just a few examples, and the definition of inner peace will vary across individuals.
The practice of mindfulness has received broad interest and has been researched as a technique that helps to develop inner peace. It is important to look at inner peace not as a state that switches on and off, but as a gradual waking up to a greater sense of inner wellness, that becomes a new and normal state of being.
Mindfulness is commonly defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Mindfulness is a technique used by Nurse Practitioners in a variety of settings to help individuals cope with stress, life change, illness, and gain greater peace with their current circumstances. While much of the medical research on mindfulness, inner peace and serenity focuses on individuals coping with illness, the concepts work just as well for anyone managing day to day stress.
Being mindful includes
- you have awareness what is happening in the moment
- you are paying attention, and accepting of the moment
- you keep checking in to the moment to see how it changes, or how your response to it changes
Let’s look a bit closer at these.
When you are aware, you are present in that moment. You don’t lose yourself and start identifying with external circumstances or experiences.
Let’s consider pain. When you are in pain, it’s easy to let the pain consume you. You forget everything else and are completely identified with “pain”. Awareness brings you back to a deeper place within. You are not only pain, you are a being that experiences pain, and there is more to you than just pain. This awareness creates a buffer.
Awareness helps you observe what is going on, without believing you are completely defined by what is going on.
Once you have awareness, you attempt to pay attention to awareness. That attention stays with you in the many moments that make up your day. Often we are focused outward on people, events and tasks. It is possible to maintain focus on the things we have to do while still being aware of our own self.
Why is this helpful?
It helps prevent us from getting lost, or caught up in stressful situations.
This one can be a bit harder. It teaches us not to be in conflict with what is happening in the moment.
When you consider what makes up inner peace, then it also become clear that conflict, avoidance and frustration are not part of feeling serene. By accepting what is, in the very moment it happens, you save energy and reduce stress.
That is not to say you don’t try to progress beyond what is happening! Accepting is not giving up. It’s just letting go of conflict when you can’t change anything in that moment.
Here is an example!
There are interesting research studies that explore the experience of pain, and how acceptance and mindfulness reduce the experience of pain.
Pain → Fighting Against Pain → Increases Stress → Increases Pain
Pain →Being accepting of pain →Decreases Stress → Reduces Pain
The lessons from these studies is that by accepting, we reduce the overall negativity of an experience. In a more relaxed and peaceful state we can then focus on solutions, and stay stronger.
Being mindful is a circular and constant process. Mindfulness allows a shift in how a situation is defined, and how you choose to cope with it. Just as in the pain example, accepting the pain lowers stress which results in less pain. In many life situations accepting the moment saves energy. That energy then helps keep you remain stronger and more focused. Instead of spiraling downward into negativity, you are able to focus your energy into progressing beyond something that is uncomfortable. You are detached from the events, and observing them. This gives you a greater sense of control and peacefulness.
Society teaches us to be reactive, so how do we hit the Rest button? Creating a safe space for rest and relaxation can make a big difference. It can be as simple as a corner in a room.
In a study of building inner resilience in New York City schools, teachers created a “peace corner” in their classrooms and found children gravitated to the space, decorating it with art and using it during times of inner turmoil (Lantieri, 2008). Creating a space in the home that is your peace corner, where you only spend time in self-reflection, meditation, or stillness, can be regenerating.
You can also do this at work. If you sit in a cubicle or office, create a space that you can turn to during the day, with decorations images that remind you to pay attention to your deeper, inner self.
Inner peace is a process, and there is no right or wrong way to feel at peace. Desiring to find greater peace within is the first step of becoming aware, and breaking free from identifying with everything around you, to observing everything around you.
The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed medical professional. It is essential that you discuss with your primary care provider any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.
Lantieri, L. (2008). Building Inner Resilience. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 17(2), 43-46.
Williams H1, Simmons LA2, Tanabe P2. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Advanced Nursing Practice: A Nonpharmacologic Approach to Health Promotion, Chronic Disease Management, and Symptom Control. J Holist Nurs. 2015 Sep;33(3):247-59. doi: 10.1177/0898010115569349. Epub 2015 Feb 11.
Davis, M. C., Zautra, A. J., Wolf, L. D., Tennen, H., & Yeung, E. W. (2015). Mindfulness and cognitive–behavioral interventions for chronic pain: Differential effects on daily pain reactivity and stress reactivity. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology, 83(1), 24-35. doi:10.1037/a0038200
White, L. (2014). Mindfulness in nursing: An evolutionary concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70,
McCracken, L. M., & Keogh, E. (2009). Original Report: Acceptance, Mindfulness, and Values-Based Action May Counteract Fear and Avoidance of Emotions in Chronic Pain: An Analysis of Anxiety Sensitivity. Journal Of Pain, 10408-415. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2008.09.015