Long-term calmness is achieved by frequent training, physically and mentally;
while short-term calmness is achieved by certain techniques to do and calmness sources
to find when we need to calm down fast. There are many ways to trigger the release of
calming hormones naturally, most importantly serotonin, the endorphin
that gives a sense of well-being, harmony and peacefulness.
- Relaxing sensations, triggered by the following:
- Sights: looking gradually at light (esp. full-spectrum daylight) and
color shades, looking at greenery and vast
space (faraway sky/horizon/mountains/sea/desert and vast indoor/outdoor
structures), focusing on a static/monotonously moving object.
- Sounds. In nature: low, slow, hollow, echoing, and rhythmic sounds (of
wind, water, birds). In music: strings and woodwind instruments;
low and slow tempo (largo, adagio, andante); some music genres (nocturne,
romance, pavane, slow movements, etc.)
- Smells: incense, iodine, charcoal ...
- Tastes: ginseng, rosemary ...
- Touching smooth, soft, warm, cool, and mildly-exciting surfaces, slowly.
- Recitations: soothing words to repeat audibly.
- Certain foods: dairy products, carbohydrates, legumes, and meat.
- Relaxation exercises: minimizing tension in skin and inner or
outer organs, by slow rhythmic motion: "breathing," rubbing, rocking, swinging, whirling ...and
- Calmness after crying: relief after grief, when tears subside.
- Solitude: no social pressure, quarrel, disturbance ...
- Silence: no pressure on eardrums or vocal cords, nor the thoughts they
evoke. If conversation is inevitable, it should take minimum time, effort and volume.
- Stillness: no kinetic disturbance, nor the entire body commotion that
- Slowness: staying close to stillness while doing necessary daily
activities. Otherwise, we speed up with minimum effort, while "relaxed," which
makes us even faster and "lighter."
- Fasting: minimal digestive burden and activity.
- Abstinence: no libido interference.
- Sleep: a must to control mood, improve attention, consolidate memories,
synchronize body systems, loosen up muscles, renew cells, increase immunity, hone senses,
etc. Sleep recharges life.
- Relaxing thoughts: free fantasies (mind travel), good memories, counting one's
blessings, counting one's achievements, etc. The mere thought of relaxing physical pleasures
can be equally soothing, with the extra freedom the mind has that the physical world doesn't
- Mantra and transcendental meditation: repeating a word, sentence or longer
text, to focus one's attention and direct inner energy toward peaceful,
productive and enjoyable thoughts, emotions and actions.
- Temporary pessimistic or apathetic thoughts can be soothing in
situations requiring choosing between different "evils," where apathy becomes
a relief "by comparison" with other choices. Remembering death, the
fundamental fact in life, usually has such effect.
The calmness induced by dopamine has to be sought cautiously. Although
dopamine is a powerful sedative relieving the greatest pain, its effect doesn't last long, and a high dose of dopamine can be addictive, chaining us to the source of pleasure it gave, natural or artificial. The type of pleasure dopamine offers is best
described as intense pleasure. All intense pleasures are addictive, like
a jolting motion with a ripple effect that takes long to stop. Thus, one should be careful when choosing such pleasures, preferring those most available and least harmful, physically and mentally: the least distracting and conflicting with one's objectives. The intensity of pleasure depends on the dopamine dose:
- A high dose of dopamine is obtained faster from physical pleasures than
intellectual ones; yet the effect of the former is shorter, less useful, and
very harmful when overused.
It can be obtained artificially from drugs/alcohol/nicotine, or naturally, by
satisfying basic survival instincts: having sex, eating energy-boosting foods, taking risks, surviving death, achieving goals, etc.
- A moderate dose of dopamine is still quite relaxing, which we
should favor over an unnecessarily high one if relaxation is all we need. There are
many simple pleasures, equally handy and less harmful than the intense ones,
such as enjoying an intriguing puzzle, an absorbing book, a thrilling story, a cardio exercise, a morning stroll, a cold shower, a hearty laugh, a refreshing snack, an exciting piece of
music or dance, etc.
We need dopamine for motivation, as a great reward to look
forward to, to keep our desire to live. However, we cannot enjoy rewards
constantly, without working on, longing to, and thinking of them first. Also, we cannot
enjoy incoherent rewards that neutralize each other, causing pain instead:
eating to exhaustion, having sex nervously and unsafely, or any insecure pleasure.
Dopamine vs. Serotonin: While dopamine
creates motives, serotonin controls
such motives, so that they lead to deep, long, conscious pleasures. Serotonin can maximize a
simple pleasure, or minimize a great one: it's the catalyst/wild card of
pleasures. Like a fuel we go by, serotonin increases our stamina and energy,
which only needs a dopaminergic spark.
Oxytocin, or the fear-fighting hormone, is another shortcut to calmness. Yet,
it's not as available and safely obtained as serotonin is. Oxytocin requires
having warm weather, presence of other people, or physical contactówith oneself
(requiring practice) or with others. Unfortunately, most social bonds
oxytocin develops, that initially act as a source of calmness, can easily be
broken afterwards by various causes, leading to misery and instability, the total opposite of
calmness. Oxytocin causes bias too, against those we are not bonded to, with whom we feel insecure.
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