This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Are you always tense and agitated? Do you have difficulty relaxing and just “muting” your problems for even a short time?
People have difficulty relaxing and this stops them from living a full life. If you are always on edge and can’t relax easily, try to slow down: consciously do everything more easily, slowly, and without pressure.
Here are some relaxation tips from Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking.
Try Slowing Down
If you can’t relax even after everything has been taken care of, practice slowing down.
Baseball illustrates this idea. In baseball, the best way to hit is with a relaxed body; the muscles are flexible and work together. But when a batter tries to kill the ball and overdo it, he might miss it altogether. The baseball legend Ty Cobb was known for being in rhythm with his bat, a master of “easy power.”
This holds true for anyone who is a master at anything; they are efficient, able to do great things with a minimum of effort—maximum power for minimum effort.
A man Peale knew seemed to be always at ease, getting a great deal done calmly and efficiently. He attributed his “easy power” to keeping himself in tune with God. Each morning he and his wife spent a quiet 15 minutes together reading an inspirational message. They meditated together and pictured God filling them with quiet energy and strength. This man always felt he had more energy than he needed.
Sitting quietly and relaxing, getting yourself in tune with God, renews your power and gives you the energy you need. It’s important to keep a quiet mind and practice peaceful thinking. During the day, stop hectic reactions; instead, keep your tempo down and conserve energy.
An example of this is Peale’s acquaintance Eddie Rickenbacker, with whom Peale was filming a show. When filming was delayed, many people were agitated and worried, but Rickenbacker was unperturbed. He sat quietly and stayed calm and composed. His secret to staying calm, he said, was a three-point formula:
- First, several times a day, practice relaxing all your muscles. Think of yourself as a jellyfish or a bag of potatoes that has been cut open, letting all the potatoes fall out.
- Next, empty your mind of all your negative thoughts—irritation, disappointment, frustration. Drain your mind of any unhappy ideas.
- Keep yourself in tune with God’s harmony by regularly thinking about God. This fills you with peace.
Relaxing during the workday is difficult, but important because you ultimately get more done.
For example, a doctor friend of Peale’s built up his ability to work in a relaxed state. In moments when he’s most under pressure, he will stop, take a moment, and ask God for peace, healing, and help conserving his energy so he can help those who need him. He finds opportunities to relax and renew throughout the day, even during a traffic jam.
A congressman friend of Peale’s had the ability to remain relaxed even in tense and hostile meetings. His method was to breathe deeply, speak quietly, stay calm, hold his temper, and trust that God would help him through the situation.
How to Master the Skill of Relaxing and Renewing Your Power
There are 10 rules to help you relax, do your work more easily, and enjoy “easy power.”
- Don’t take yourself so seriously; know that the world isn’t on your shoulders.
- Like what you do. When you’re doing something you like, it doesn’t seem like drudgery. You don’t need to change your job—just change yourself.
- Create a plan for your work so you feel organized and not swamped and overwhelmed.
- Take things one at a time, not all at once.
- Put your thoughts to work for you. When you think that what you’re doing is difficult, it will be difficult. Think it’s easy and it will become easy.
- Get good at your job; learn what you need to learn to do it right. This helps you become more efficient.
- Practice being relaxed; take things in stride.
- Keep on schedule. Not finishing your work and leaving more to do tomorrow just makes it harder on you.
- Keep your work in your prayers.
- Take God as your partner; he will help make your work easy.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Power of Positive Thinking summary :
- That there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer
- The practical techniques of applied Christianity
- How to take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them