Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Serenity Now

Most people upon hearing the words "serenity now!" recall the famous Seinfeld episode where Frank Costanza is advised to say "serenity now" aloud every time his blood pressure is in danger of going up. The episode's plot was inspired by real-life events of writer Steve Koren who, while driving with his arguing parents, was bewildered to hear his father shout "Serenity now" at the top of his lungs as part of a rage controlling exercise. 

"Calmness of mind" James Allen wrote, "is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control." Like Frank Costanza screaming "serenity now," a churning mind eventually may lead one to blow. 

Often we become anxious about things we cannot change: the economy, the weather, our commute to work. Recognizing the difference between what we can and cannot change can help us live more peaceful and productive lives. Patience and perseverance leads to success in our endeavors.

The Serenity Prayer has special meaning to those who are often looking for peace during times of turmoil, despair, or uncertainty in their lives. Closely associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, the Serenity Prayer offers strength and calm into those seeking a more stable life. Written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, most people are familiar with this first stanza:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

However, Niebuhr's prayer also included these concepts:
  • Living one day at a time
  • Enjoying one moment at a time
  • Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace
Managing stress is a pathway to having serenity now. Meditation and mindful prayer help the mind and the body to relax and focus. As psychologist Ron Breazeale wrote in an article for Psychology Today entitled "WaysTo Manage Chronic Stress, "these techniques can give you "insight into new perspectives, to develop self-compassion and forgiveness and to begin to rethink the priorities in your life."

Here are a few ABCs to bring serenity into your life now:

Ask:  . . . yourself this question -- What is it about this situation that I can manage?

Breathe: Stop and take 10 mindful breaths. Nothing special is required to do so, just focus. Be aware of your breath coming in and then going out.

Connect:  . . . with a friend. Don’t e-mail or text. Pick up the phone and hear his or her voice. Better yet, plan some face time together. (That's Face time as in getting together, not Facebook time!)

Do: … absolutely nothing! Spend time with yourself, your thoughts, your dreams.

Exercise: Go for a walk, a bike ride, kayak down a peaceful.

Forgive: . . . yourself first, then others.