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How to Have A Harmonious 2017

A new year has started, and you’ve probably made yourself some promises. In case you haven’t, here are some suggestions: try to achieve serenity, to feel calmer, more peaceful, less worried. Tranquility may seem an elusive goal, but it’s one that can change your life. Here are a few tips to help you get going:

Music isn’t just for your ears

Internationally acclaimed classical pianist Helene Grimaud has said that “music is a humanist panacea meant to salve the soul.” You don’t have to be an expert on Beethoven or Brahms to feel uplifted by Grimaud’s work. For maximum soothing, check out her recordings of Brahms Concertos.

Or open your mouth and sing yourself. One of the most cheerful things we can do is sing. It’s been scientifically proven that singing alters brain chemistry. When you sing, musical vibrations move through you, affecting your physical and emotional landscape. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what you sing. When you sing, oxytocin and endorphins are released, which in turn lessen feelings of depression and loneliness. Regular singing also reduces levels of  cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Most important, the effects are cumulative.

Pick up a good book (or a diverting catalog or magazine)

I asked friends what they read when they want to relax. The responses were surprising! Stephanie Gangi, author of The Next, a novel of love, revenge, and a clingy ghost, said “I love sitting down with a glass of wine and a stack of fancy catalogues; home décor, clothing, art, make-up, whatever. I flag all the things I want to buy, and then when I’m finished the stack, it all goes into the recycling.”

Another woman said she loves leafing through shelter magazines. “I imagine living in other rooms, other homes, as a way of escape,” she laughed. Some people like to get out of their own heads by immersing themselves in a good mystery. When I asked if anyone has a strong preference for an inspirational author, Pema Chodron came up. She’s an American Tibetan Buddhist. An ordained nun, Chodrun is the director of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. She’s written many books, but the most admired and recommended is The Wisdom of No Escape, which offers down to earth guidance in cultivating basic sanity.

There’s also a lot to be said for returning to old favorites. “As soon as I get on a plane, I pull out my copy of The Velveteen Rabbit one nervous flyer said. “I find it very soothing.”

Breathe in your peace

Aromatherapy is a time-honored tool for restoring mental and emotional balance. Several essential oils are proven relaxants. Bergamot’s citrusy “Earl Grey” tea aroma is recognized for its calming effects. Chamomile is for dispelling anger. It clears the mind and brings stability to emotions. Drink it or inhale it. It all works. Frankincense is popular at Christmas, but it works year round. A scientific study done in 2008 showed Frankincense has properties that lower anxiety and depressive behavior. No wonder it’s been used since for eons during prayer and meditation. Neroli, also known as Orange Blossom, is distilled from orange flowers. Its aroma promotes confidence, peace, and sensuality. Lavender is the most well known of the relaxing essential oils. Lavender has the amazing ability to calm you down while at the same time making you more alert. How many sedatives can make that claim? The beauty of lavender is it works equally well on everyone. Many people mix it with water and spray a little on their pillow before they go to sleep at night.

Meditation

More and more people rely on apps to help them meditate. That’s because you don’t have to sit still to have a session. You can listen while you’re out jogging or while you’re commuting. A very popular meditation app called Headspace has been endorsed by Wired, Tech Crunch and the Financial Times, has caused a cultural shift in how we think and talk about meditation. More than a blog, it’s a daily dose of mindfulness whether you’re focused on sports, school, or just getting calm. Many people call Headspace their own personal “mind trainer.” The app can be downloaded on to your smartphone. It even has emergency tabs to get you through melt-down moments. Also recommended are the apps Left Brain Buddha and Quigong with Robert Peng. Deirdre Breen, a professional Reiki master and yoga teacher, recommends Chakra Meditation by Alan Finger. “It includes instructions on pre-yoga and breathing, and then guided visualization for each Chakra,” Breen said.

Reiki

Reiki is a Japanese energy healing method. Without actually going to a Reiki master for a calming, peaceful healing, I don’t think it gets any better than referring to the book The Reiki Magic Guide to Self-Attunement” by Brett Bevell. A Reiki master since 1995, Bevell teaches Reiki trainings worldwide, most notably at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. In his book he teaches readers how to attune themselves to the healing energy of Reiki so they can self-heal. Learn the basic breathing techniques and hand movements and Japanese Reiki symbols without attending a single class or workshop. No time to read or get a personal Reiki treatment? Tune into Spirit of Reiki Radio on Pandora (www.pandora.com). I find just listening to the music while I’m unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry to be exceptionally soothing.

Spend more time outdoors

Licensed massage therapist and founder of Forest Moon Healing Arts , Rachel Sather is a practitioner of massage, shamanic healing and sacred ceremony. “All ancient spiritual practices from around the world are rooted in nature,” she says. Sather recommends spending more time in nature – even as simple an action as culviating some plants. “The natural aroma of plant life has the ability to reset and renew our mood and uplift our spirits.” Time spent outdoors, she says, can bring on a state of deep relaxation and give us clarity.

Eve Marx is a book author and certified Reiki Master practicing on the north coast of Oregon.