Do you know how to find inner peace?
Really find it.
What are the steps to finding inner peace, anyway? Perhaps the best place to start is with stress levels.
So, the real question becomes…
Are you stressed?
The answer to that question is often a resounding ‘yes’ with a look of desperation behind the reactive word. But then, if we probe a little bit deeper and ask more intimate questions, the answer becomes less clear.
You likely have a job. Though it may not be all that fulfilling, some might argue that warrants enough gratitude to eliminate much of life’s stressors. You likely have loved ones, and though they can be frustrating they often serve as a security to life’s stressors. You are likely fed well enough and have at least somewhere to sleep at night. Again, all good things.
Then why are you stressed?
Because in between all of those good things are the little things. They are the things that eat away at you, stripping away your coping mechanisms and exposing you to the 21st century’s unique and ongoing version of stress.
Don’t believe me?
Imagine this. You wake up in the morning to the sound of your alarm. You have a certain amount of time to feed yourself, wash yourself, dress yourself, and organize yourself. (Not including the same responsibilities for any children!) Maybe you have the television on while you get ready, in which case you are likely bombarded with the latest (stressful) news from around the world. Or maybe you’re watching a friendly morning show, in which case you are likely bombarded with messages about how you should be.
When you finally make it to your car to get to work, you probably continue with the same sort of morning program via the radio. Messages of doom and gloom are intertwined with advertisements about how to be a better version of yourself. Traffic is always a wild guess of unforgiving traffic lights and hurried masses trying to beat the unforgiving clock.
By the time you finally make it to your destination you are tasked with finding a parking spot. The neighboring employees flow into the parking lot at the same time as you. At this point, you are left feeling more like you are fighting in the Battle of Thermopylae than finding a parking spot.
Only now are you reaching your desk. All of this whirlwind has happened before your actual day has even begun.
So, how are you to cope? How are you supposed to de-stress and find a moment of inner peace? This is the million dollar question that has fueled anxiety help apps in recent years. Before jumping online and downloading your very own stress relief app, let’s first break down stress and how we can combat it.
Why (Some) Stress is Good For You
Stress really all comes down to basic evolution and our species’ strong desire to survive. The “fight or flight” response is the body’s natural response to stress. When stress is detected, the adrenal glands release adrenaline. Adrenaline serves as a boost of energy to help you either fight off your potential attackers or to escape with enough energy to outrun your enemies.
Before the Industrial Revolution and before the comfort of Apple products and pillow-top mattresses, our stress response system was crucially important to our survival. In fact, this fight or flight response is what helped us gain our position at the top of the food chain.
Our brains don’t know that we are no longer living in a constant state of survival. Instead of pulling back on the natural stress response system, the brain continues to treat everything as a potential threat.
Rush hour traffic turns into impending doom and an overflowing inbox appears as a threat to survival. The brain registers these signals as if they were serious threats to our well-being and pumps out adrenaline as a response.
However, instead of fighting or flying, we sit at our desks and safeguard the adrenaline. It swirls around in our blood until it eats away at our psyche. Then comes inflammation, disease, and mental illness.
Once we learn how to recognize stress, we are better equipped to fight it. The problem is that we are triggered into the stress response virtually all day, every day.
Advertising is Adding Too Much Stress
Perhaps one of the most stress-inducing parts of modern society is its advertising. The advertising companies work to sell products to us, as much as possible and as often as possible.
They do this by convincing us that they are solving a problem that we did not know we previously had. Instead of seeking out our problems and working to fix them, though, they create problems for us.
Suddenly, we feel that our food is not tasty enough, our clothes are not cool enough, our hair is not soft enough, our beer is not cold enough, our homes are not comfortable enough. In a place where life was otherwise quite alright, we are told that it is not alright enough.
Many of us would firmly report that we are not that influenced by advertising as if our willpower is the guiding force behind our purchases.
This may be true for a single item, or even maybe a handful of items. But advertising is all around us. It is on the fancy television that we watch (and the successful advertising that led you to buy it), it is on the billboards along the roads that we drive, on the radio programs that we listen to, on the grocery shelves that we peruse; it is everywhere.
We are constantly being told that our lives are not enough as they are. Eventually, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that drives us to want more.
Don’t feel bad about it, though. Humans are incredibly social creatures. We like to fit in with the people around us simply because it helps ensure our survival.
This isn’t just an advertisement theory, either. In many social psychology experiments, researchers find the this to be true, over and over again. When an individual is placed in a group that has clear opinions about something, the individual begins to adopt those opinions, too. Even if they know that they are wrong.
Because our psychological nature pushes us to fit in, rather than stand out. It was important to our survival at the beginning of time and it is important to our survival today.
So imagine how this must be, every single day. With each hour of your day, you are being told that your fillintheblankhere is not good enough and that there is an easy way to fix it.
Now, let’s bring this basic survival instinct of fitting in and compare it to our basic survival instinct of fight-or-flight. Originally, the two survival instincts worked synergistically so that we could make it through each day in one piece.
As you can imagine, though, our modern lives have taxed these two systems to the point of misery.
Instead of living each day with happiness as our guiding motivation, we are rushing to a life standard that will never be enough. As a result, an entire industry has formed in order to help us de-stress and find some inner peace (sold by marketing strategies, ironically).
The Rise of the Guided Meditation App
In an effort to combat this stressful life that we are living in, many companies have created some form of a meditation app or a relaxing app. The idea is that these apps can help us relax in a way that we are not capable of doing on our own.
The problem with these apps is that they mostly do all of the relaxing for us. Instead of teaching us how to use our own voices to calm ourselves, we end up listening to the voice of artificial intelligence. Rather than empowering us to learn healthy ways to de-stress, we are sucked in, once again, into a marketing scheme that sells us more, gives us more, and demands more.
So what are we to do?
Instead of turning to an outside source to fix our not-good-enough-lives, again, we should find a way to become our own helpers. Rather than downloading an app that meditates for you, find one that builds autonomy.
Because what is the benefit of a meditation app if it doesn’t actually train your brain how to meditate? Find one that teaches you how to use positive affirmations to combat the negative messages you are bombarded with throughout the day. Find one that empowers you.
Find a way to create your own personal meditation practice rather than relying on the meditation be done for you.
Reducing stress doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor. With the help of technology, you can certainly create a wonderful meditation practice to help you reach a moment of inner peace. Stress may be an unavoidable fact of life, but with a little help, we can find a little bit of relief, as well.