Mind

How to be a calmer person

Ever get days where you feel grumpy – or others drive you to despair? Fear not, we have eight ideas to keep things calm.

We can’t be calm and in control all the time, can we? Julian Hall, founder of Calm People, an organisation that helps individuals with anger management and emotional resilience, would disagree.

“That grumpiness comes from not feeling emotionally strong,” he says. “We have a tendency to bottle up our feelings in this country or, to put it another way, not to process them. If we build up our emotional resilience, we find it much easier to cope with whatever life throws at us.”

To build emotional strength he says there are three core areas that need to be addressed – “dealing with stress, processing feelings and building up self-esteem”.

Here are seven ways to address these factors and become calmer and more emotionally resilient. 

As a Benenden Health member, if you’re distressed and need help urgently, you can access the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline on 0800 414 8247 (select option 2). 

How to calm down

Learn how to tackle stress in a healthy way with these seven tips. Remember, you don't have to follow these tips perfectly to find calm - don't put too much pressure on yourself and have fun.

1. Keep a journal

Writing about feelings can help us process them. A University of California study found activity in the amygdala (the part of the brain which controls the intensity of emotions) was reduced by regular writing – especially if done by hand. The study found that keeping a journal was more effective for male participants.

“We often have events that continually play in our minds,” says Julian. “Writing them down is a way of emptying the head.” 

2. Get creative

Whether it’s making pottery or organising a remote sing-song, there is a wealth of evidence that creative activity is good for you. In 2017, the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing produced a report on creative health, which found that 82% of people who joined a participatory arts programme enjoyed greater wellbeing as a result. Creative activities encourage a sense of purpose, which helps build self-esteem. 

There are plenty of ways to get creative from the comfort of your own home. You could: 

  • Cook up a storm with new recipes

  • Express yourself using technology - you can take beautiful photos with your smartphone or make funny videos

  • Get crafty. Why not make gifts for your loved ones? 

  • Give old furniture new life by upcycling it

3. Be mindful

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions as they happen, so you recognise them and accept them rather than trying to control or suppress them.

“Raising awareness of how you’re feeling, and having absolute honesty about those feelings, is an important step,” says Julian. “But mindful meditation is called a practice for a reason: you have to practice every day without expectation. Changes don’t happen overnight.”

If you're a Benenden Health member, why not try out one of our online mindfulness classes.

4. Sleep enough

A bad night’s sleep can leave you exhausted – which often leads to snappiness and feeling less able to cope with stress. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered that it all goes back to the amygdala – the part of the brain that deals in heightened emotion. If the brain isn’t well rested it loses control of the amygdala, which makes you more emotional.

Study leader Professor Talma Hendler said: “We lose our neutrality. It’s as if suddenly everything is important.”

5. Learn how to breathe

Taking a deep breath is an age-old technique to induce calm. Researchers at Stanford University found that our brains contain what they have termed a “pacemaker for breathing”. This links respiratory neurons with those that control emotions – slower breathing is linked to feelings of calm, while faster breathing induces feelings of tension.

6. Get into nature

In 1982, the Japanese government introduced ‘shinrinyoku’ (forest bathing) to improve health and wellbeing. Shinrinyoku is about the pleasure of being among trees. Studies by Chiba University reported that 30 minutes in a forest environment can lower blood pressure, the pulse rate, and concentrations of cortisol, and enhance parasympathetic nerve activity.

7. Take exercise

It can be easy to overlook how important exercise is to mental health. Exercise doesn’t just produce dopamine – the “happy chemical” – but, scientists at Princeton University have found, it also boosts the brain’s ability to cope with stress by creating new neurons in the ventral region of the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to the regulation of anxiety.

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