We humans are social creatures. While there is a spectrum of social interaction that differs from person to person, we all find ourselves wanting to be with others from time to time. Friendly conversations, fun outings, and camaraderie are all benefits of spending time with others. But on the other side of the coin are the difficult situations that can arise when we spend time with people. Fights with family members, heated debates about hot button issues with friends or co-workers, and hurt feelings all around are some of the downsides to the relationships we have with others. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but there are a few things you can do to control your own reactions. So next time you find yourself starting to fume at the family dinner table, try some of the following tips and see if you can find a little peace.
- Breathe. A lot. Consciously. Whether you practice a simple pranayama like squared breathing, or a Buddhist inspired practice like “breathing in I smile, breathing out I smile,” breathing has a powerful impact on the nervous system. When we get tense, our breathing tends to become more shallow and rapid. Taking time to consciously and deeply inhale, and slowly and fully exhale can help to relax the body and mind in times of stress.
- Chant or pray. Pick a short mantra or prayer that you can repeat to yourself in the moment. Whether you are chanting “Wahe Guru” or “Let there be Peace on Earth,” focusing your attention on something positive can create a mental oasis in spite of whatever may be going on around you. Linking it with your breath is a great way to combine two stress relieving practices into one.
- Don’t let yourself be baited. Many people can relate to having a person in their life who loves to argue for the sake of arguing. Maybe they take the opposite viewpoint just for fun, or they like talking about politics or religion to people they know disagree. It’s important to remember that just because someone may be sharing opinions you disagree with, it doesn’t mean you have to get involved in a conversation about it. It can take a lot of discipline and resolve to hold your tongue, but making the choice to not engage in heated debates on hot topics can prevent lost tempers and hurt feelings.
- Self-analysis. Sometimes there is one person or one issue that is guaranteed to set us off, no matter what the situation. One minute everything is fine, and the next we’re flying off the handle because one of our buttons was pressed. Yoga has a long tradition of self-study, called svadhyaya in Sanskrit, which can help us in tough situations. Instead of spinning in our negative emotions, taking a step back and thinking about why we are upset can shake us out of it. This sort of “thinking about thinking” uses different parts of the brain than our emotional center, which allows us to make a choice between dwelling on our anger or lifting ourselves up. And this process of self-analysis can help prevent problems in the future as we learn more about the inner workings of our minds.
- Choose to be positive. If all else fails, remember that nothing is permanent and everything changes. So would you rather spend your time getting upset or spend it enjoying life? Sure your friend can’t get their life together, or your Aunt Jane won’t stop nagging you about your life. Smile and acknowledge that the different opinions and choices people make are all part of the diverse tapestry of life.