Finding Calm In A Busy City

Staying Calm Is Easy.


One of the most frequent complaints from my clients that I work with as a life coach is inability to stay calm or find the right moment and place to calm down. Big city life is indeed dynamic, intense and stressful. We naturally feel calm in an environment like the forest, mountains or sea side. Yet, the city makes us feel that it is impossible to feel calm. Its rhythm seems to never align with our idea of a calm pace. The truth is, calm is more of a “how” than of a “where”. You can always find ways to calm down virtually anywhere, even in the heart of the central business district. Here are just some simple tips on how, when and where to find calm in a big city such as Singapore.  

Touch the Grass


Walk out of your office or apartment, walk to the nearest lawn, take off your shoes and step on the grass. Barefoot. Close your eyes and just feel the grass and the soft soil beneath it. Direct your attention to your feet. Move your feet gently. Note what you feel, stay there with your sensations. You may try to breathe through your feet, mentally. Or just think about how deep the grass grows, how its roots hug each other and intertwine with the soil. Listen to the grass and the ground – how it breathes, moves, lives. Try making some small steps and feel how your feet move: are you touching the ground with your heels, or toes, or full foot? Once you are ready, slowly open your eyes and look around. Even a few minutes of interacting with nature can help bring down anxiety and clear your thoughts. 

Watch the Clouds


Go out into the street, or to the park, or just look out of the window of your home or office. Look at the clouds. They are fascinating. Think about how eternal and ephemeral they are: they have been here long before we were born, and they will be here after we are all gone; at the same time, they are transcendental – here now, gone in a moment. Watch how they move – fast, slow; how they change their shapes – resemble elephants or angel’s wings; what colour they are – white, grey, gentle pink or leaden black; guess their mood – are they serious, flirty, angry, quiet? If you are in a park, you may even lie down onto the lawn and just do cloud watching for a few minutes: this will also help relax your neck and back. Cloud watching is a very therapeutic experience which is absolutely free and accessible from anywhere. Try it.

Follow the Sounds


If you feel distracted, stressed or irritated by the loud noises, try to follow them. Neighbours drilling early in the morning? Colleagues laughing too loud? Kids yelling while you are trying to write that one important email? MRT brakes squealing or bus engine clunking? Just stay where you are, stand up or better sit down if possible, close your eyes, try to release all your feelings and emotions, and just follow the sounds or noises that you hear. Try to sort of blend with them, imagine you are a part of this sound. Follow the rhythm, the pace, the pitch, the tone, the melody of the sound. Is the noise audible or inaudible? Does it pause and start over or is it continuous? Does it sound like an angry grandma or like a naughty kid? Try not to give any estimates to what you hear, switch off your thoughts and just let the sound carry you away. This practice is known to have an unwinding and soothing effect since it helps to reload your brain. In fact, it comes from a specific type of meditation: meditation on sound. So, if you like this practice, you may further explore it. 

Do “the human peep-show” 


Often to calm down we just need to direct our attention to something different. In a big city we are always surrounded by people. Whereas people might be the cause of our stress, they may as well serve as a relaxation tool. If you feel stressed, try “the human peep-show” or people watching. Look at the people around you, wherever you are: in a supermarket queue, on a bus, in your office, in a park. Don’t stare at anybody in particular. Just observe all the people coming past you. Try not to estimate, evaluate, label or give opinions such as “oh, this person looks beautiful” or “what a silly tee”. Instead, just watch people like you watch a movie. Notice what people are wearing, what they are talking about, what emotions you can see on their faces. Try to guess what makes them feel this way. You may even play a quest: find two people wearing similar bags or 5 people with similar hairstyles. If you can, find any particular acts of kindness such as people helping each other, or smiling at each other. Think about how it makes people feel when strangers smile at them or give them a hand. This is something you might consider doing more of. Doing a human peep-show may help you relax, ease your tensions, and be more observant and kinder to others.

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