A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Seven Habits of Highly Peaceful People

By Victor M

While waiting in a long line at a coffee shop, one woman remains calm and content while the one behind her is experiencing irritation and frustration.

When cut off in traffic, one man simply continues driving toward his destination while another man blows the car horn shouting obscenities.

If nothing is going on, one person sits quietly and enjoys a moment of relaxation while another begins frantically scrolling through a social media feed on a mobile phone.

Those three examples reflect the two types of people we are all capable of being: calm, tranquil and peaceful or agitated, anxious and easily angered. The difference between the two types is a narrow one and is dependent upon personal behaviour. Here are the seven habits of highly peaceful people which anyone can incorporate into daily life.


1. They have a routine

To have a peaceful mind, it's essential to establish and maintain rhythm and routine day by day. Generally, those who exhibit high levels of peace and calm are individuals who regulate their daily activities carefully. They go to bed at the same time and awaken at the same time; they eat their meals at the same time; they engage in their spiritual practices at the same times each day. Though they are not full-time monks or nuns, peaceful people structure their daily life in patterns similar to those found in a monastic setting. In so doing, their nervous system knows what to expect rather than constantly being thrown off by an erratic, unfamiliar schedule. Regularity is foundational for cultivating a harmonious and peaceful mind.

2. They respond rather than react

When an unwelcome situation emerges for them, highly peaceful people create a space, a pause. In that brief moment they adjust their thinking and emotions so that they act in a skillful way. Actor and martial arts expert Chuck Norris relates a story told to him by a friend who is also a high-level martial artist. This man was at a stop sign waiting for a break in traffic that would allow him to cross a major street safely. The person in the car behind him was impatient and kept honking his horn. Finally losing patience, that driver got out and began to threaten Norris’ friend if he didn’t "find the accelerator quickly". Norris’ friend paused, then rolled down the car window and said, “You want to fight. Okay, but I have a bad back and you will have to help me out of the car”. The angry man stared briefly, shook his head in confusion and returned to his car. Norris says, “Luckily for the impatient driver, the situation had been defused by humour. He had no idea how close he had come to being thrashed”.

3. They meditate

"Meditation is training for the mind, helping us become less controlled by stressful thoughts and emotions", explains Buddhist monk Gelong Thubten author of A Monk's Guide To Happiness: Meditation in the 21st Century. This ancient wisdom which teaches that meditation reduces stress and increases peace is now being verified by modern science. One recent study revealed that just a single, introductory meditation session delivers a positive impact for the treatment of anxiety, one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Researchers recruited fourteen participants with high levels of anxiety. The group was led through a 60-minute guided introductory meditation session focusing on breathing and awareness of one's thoughts. Before and after the meditation session, participants were measured for factors related to cardiovascular functioning such as heart rate, blood pressure and specifically blood pressure in the aorta.

"Our results show a clear reduction in anxiety in the first hour after the meditation session, and our preliminary results suggest that anxiety was significantly lower one week after the meditation session", said lead study author John J. Durocher, PhD, an assistant professor of physiology in the department of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University. "Participants also had reduced mechanical stress on their arteries an hour after the session. This could help to reduce stress on organs like the brain and kidneys and help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure".

4. They spend time outside

Being in a natural setting is vital for an overall sense of peacefulness and harmony. That's why Buddhist monks prefer to meditate outside in natural settings. Science now confirms the wisdom that being outdoors is calming and soothing. For one study, researchers recruited 280 healthy people in Japan where visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect has become a popular practice called Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. On one day, half the group was instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists found that being outside resulted in “lower concentrations of cortisol (the body's stress hormone), lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure”, among other things.

5. They don't judge

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin once received, in the mail, this anonymous prayer which he finds softens the human tendency to judge harshly. "Help us to remember that the 'jerk' who cut us off in traffic last night may be a single mother who worked nine hours that day and who is now rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious minutes with her children. Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, uninterested young man who couldn't make change correctly at the register today is a worried nineteen year old student who is preoccupied with whether he passed his final exams and with his fear of not getting a student loan for next semester. Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking 'bum' begging for money in the same spot every day is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares. Help us to realise that the old couple walking so slowly through the store aisles, blocking our shopping cart, are savouring this moment, because they know that, based on the biopsy report she got back yesterday, this might be the last year they will go shopping together".

6. They are not troubled by trouble

Peaceful people know that life is unpredictable and constantly shifting. So, they anticipate good times as well as difficult times, flowing with life's changes and challenges. Buddhist meditation teacher and author Toni Bernhard explains "Waking up to the realities of the human condition is crucial so that we know what to expect in life. If we’re deluded about what to expect, we suffer mentally when things don’t go our way. And so, I want to be awake to the fact that life can be hard at times and that many of my desires and wishes will go unfulfilled. Understanding this helps me accept and be content with my life as it is, because I know that I simply cannot always get what I want—no one can. It’s a reality of the human condition".

7. They forgive

"Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is therefore the means for correcting our misperceptions”, notes Gerald Jampolsky, MD., and author of Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All. It's impossible to be a peaceful person while holding a grudge, harbouring feelings of resentment or entertaining thoughts of revenge. That's why author Karen Salmansohn gives this advice: "Forgive them. All of them. The more thems you can forgive, the better you will feel".

To have inner peace on earth simply means increasing attitudes and actions which bring calm and tranquility, while reducing those which generate disorder and chaos.

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