You know that person—your co-worker, friend, or family member who’s endlessly optimistic through the ups and downs of everyday life. Whether the skies are sunny, or tensions are high, they keep their cool—and bring a sense of calm to everyone around them.
You may think they were simply born with this character trait. Although genetics might have something to do with it, there are plenty of holistic habits relaxed people use to—pardon the cliché—keep calm and carry on.
Your brain isn’t the only organ controlling how you think or feel. There’s a strong connection between your mind and microbiome, called the gut-brain axis. It may sound bizarre, but think about the knot you feel in your stomach before a first date, or the butterflies flittering about as you prep for a big presentation. These feelings can be partially attributed to the trillions of bacteria in your belly. When they’re well-fed, you feel good.
The peace-keeping folks in your life likely enjoy a balanced, gut-nourishing diet full of whole foods and the right ratio of macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Eating certain kinds of carbs, like whole vegetables and fruits, also ensures you’re filling up on fiber—an absolute all-star for feeding gut bacteria and maintaining regularity. You can also support a balanced belly with probiotic-rich foods to add billions of friendly bacteria to your body’s microbiome.
Make Time to Move
Most level-headed individuals turn to exercise to stop frustrations from building up over time. Engaging in regular moderate aerobic activity is super beneficial for both your body and brain. Working up a sweat increases endorphins like serotonin and dopamine, making motion a great way to reduce occasional stress and increase mental resilience—a few of the many mental health benefits of exercise .
And working out doesn’t have to involve a packed gym or brisk 5:00 a.m. runs. (Seriously, who does that?) Engage your whole body at home with a few affordable exercise equipment staples, like a kettlebell and yoga mat. Lots of other activities count as exercise, too, like hiking, gardening, and washing your car.
Review this Harvard Health Publishing article to see how many calories you burn with everyday movement.
Slow to React, Quick to Act
Life is a matter of perspective. The coolest head in the room can take constructive criticism in stride. Anger isn’t an option. In fact, they probably slow their breathing and pause to meditate on each situation.
Meditation, a form of mindfulness, is shown to boost emotional intelligence. It also increases awareness, washes away unnecessary sources of worry, and allows your mind room to wander, often revealing a different point of view.
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr
Outside of heated moments, purposeful breathing exercises produce physical changes in the brain. One qualified study showed mindfulness-based therapy increased the amount of time between low moods in participants. It only takes a few months of mindfulness to see the brighter side of life.
Don’t Go It Alone
When you stop to admire an unflappable person, you may envy their depth of personal strength. What you can’t see is the network of supportive friends, family, co-workers, and perhaps even a personal therapist or other mental healthcare professional. These people may possess a deep sense of well-being, but that proverbial reservoir is constantly refilled by the people close to them.
Maintaining your social life offers endless physiological benefits at any age, and it’s key to combat loneliness—shown to be as dangerous for your health as obesity. In this day and age of virtual relationships, it’s more important than ever to carve out time from your busy schedule to enjoy one another’s company IRL (in real life).
Put purposeful events on your calendar. They don’t have to be expensive or elaborate plans—you’ll enjoy the same social health perks playing a board game as you do carving Jack-o’-lanterns together.
Cultivate Your Calm
Your state of mind is more malleable than you could imagine. A calming presence isn’t gifted— it’s a garden. Living a balanced life, consuming the right foods, engaging your body and brain in exercises, and staying in touch with your social network all contribute to cultivating a cheerful attitude.
MercyCare, “Health Benefits of Social Interaction”
PubMed.gov, “Specific Transcriptome Changes Associated with Blood Pressure Reduction in Hypertensive Patients After Relaxation Response Training”
PMC, “The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems”
ScienceDirect, “The Fiber Gap and the Disappearing Gut Microbiome: Implications for Human Nutrition”
WebMD, “Loneliness Rivals Obesity, Smoking as Health Risk”
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