The call for calm: how to free up space in our heads

Soft mobility, meditation, slowness… Faced with the cult of urgency, the aspiration to go slower is constantly growing. How to find a new serenity?

Hyperconnected, perpetually reachable, drowned in an uninterrupted flow of information, always in a hurry in the real world and on the lookout in the virtual world, we have become those whom Sylvain Tesson calls the “21st century neo-restless” in the foreword to his Small treatise on the immensity of the world.

The search for slow

However, is it an effect of the confinement or the saturation of our minds, the quest for calm radiates as if by reaction in all sections of our society. Soft mobility is developing in cities, coaches recommend phlegm, ecological sobriety is combined with an increasingly necessary slowdown in our lifestyles, manuals on tranquility and zen are selling as much as cookbooks . And now even some teenagers are equipping themselves with old generation telephones and imitating their mother, at the end of her mental load, by falling asleep in front of videos ofASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), sound montages of light noises that would release certain endorphins.

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Finding peace has never been easy. Seneca already wrote before our era: “I force my mind to pay constant attention to itself and not to turn outwards”, and we also know the formula of Pascal, in the 17th century: “All the misfortune of men comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to remain at rest in a room.

But obviously, the digital age has come to complicate things. “Our technologies are over-demanding, deciphers Anthony Mahé, sociologist specializing in the attention economy and director of knowledge at Eranos. Many industries have believed that to capture attention, it was necessary to issue an ever-increasing quantity of alerts, notifications, but we have arrived at an inability of our brains to process all the signals. The overproduction of messages has led to their dilution, which today poses problems for many companies and brands. The yearning for calm is a reaction to this saturation.

This translates into new city planning: the dream city of the future has nothing to do with the connected smart city or the futuristic megacities of the Fifth Element. On the contrary. And the health crisis has further reinforced this desire for more tranquility, city dwellers aspire to localism, want small quarters self-sufficient, soft mobility. The analyst whom La Poste and the France Télévisions group called on on these economic questions takes the example of teleworking: “Companies have demonstrated that it is possible to recompose the rhythms. People do not work less, but they are attached to this reorganization of their time. Even the digital world integrates its parentheses of calm. Do you know ASMR videos? The hashtag is flourishing on TikTok. Mounted from small repetitive and slightly amplified noises, they would have soothing virtues and would help teenagers, and sometimes their parents, to fall asleep.
We see it in society, faced with the overflow, we sprinkle “slow” on the names of all sectors of activity: slow food, slow beauty, slow attitude, slow tech, slow fashion…

What if “doing better” rhymed with “doing less”

While the climate, health and diplomatic crises have made sobriety an imperative, fashion, champion of volumes, was one of the first, coming out of confinement, to question its model and to show the intention of wanting calm things down. And if the after resembles in certain respects the before, now “doing better” rhymes with “doing less”. This leads to a reconsideration of the relationship to time in our practices, in our work and even on our plates, which rediscover the rhythm of seasonality.

For everyone, calm is a matter of meaning. For some, it merges with silence. For others, it means isolation. Still others will claim more space. For still others, it’s a moment of digital disconnection

Caroline Jolivet, sophrologist and hypnotherapist

Another sector in which calm is in the spotlight: sport. Formerly marked by the unique performance, it now integrates soft disciplines and relaxation: Pilates, yoga, meditation never stop hybridizing. The relaxation centers are also in tune with the aspirations of the time. The Breton hemp-based skincare brand Ho Karan, in partnership with the Bloom meditation studio, offers a session in a flotation bubble. We immerse ourselves in water at 37°C full of salt, plugs in our ears, cut off from the world. The new generation calm time option for stressed city dwellers. For its part, the Hôtel de Crillon, in Paris, called on Lili Barbery-Coulon, yoga teacher and author, to imagine a complete well-being offer for its customers: QR code for audio meditation in the rooms, creation a massage formula with targeted playlist, meditative sound bath…

Our societal ecosystem includes more and more islands of calm, but the individual continues to be overheated. It is to find a little of this inner calm that the patients of Caroline Jolivet, sophrologist and hypnotherapist, come to consult. “By expressing the diversity of their needs, patients reveal the polysemy of the word, explains the practitioner. For everyone, calm is a matter of meaning. For some, it merges with silence. For others, it means isolation. Still others will claim more space. For still others, it is a moment of digital disconnection.

We thus distinguish the outer calm, which relates to the environment, and the inner, which can be contaminated by negative thoughts, ruminations. By working on the breath, sophrology helps to find an inner balance: “By focusing on the breath and letting memories of calm, security, tranquility emerge, we manage to tame anxiety“, adds Caroline Jolivet. The quests differ as much as the definitions of calm: some will set off on silent journeys, like the writer Sylvain Tesson, others will go to recharge their batteries in nature, still others will incorporate moments of pause into their timetable.

Train in peace

To hyperactivity, which says that “we want to do everything, have everything, be everything, right away, all the time”, doctor Serge Marquis, specialist in occupational medicine, adds another evil, which he calls the rise of the ego. This illusion which consists in believing that one must become someone to succeed in life. As a result, he says, we have lost what he calls “the faculty of patience.” To illustrate his point, the doctor uses, in a work published by Flammarion, the image of the hamster which turns in its wheel, and baptizes it Pensouillard. We ourselves are polluted by a quantity of thoughtful thoughts, which he invites us to get rid of through exercises in “personal growth” to chase away ruminations and other useless judgments. Like feng shui in our homes, it shows how to free up space in our heads.

Training is needed to bring attention back to the present

Serge Marquis, doctor specializing in occupational medicine

Calm is won, it’s a quest, a work, without effort but sometimes against nature: “Training is necessary to bring attention back to the present. And only then, the stress circuits are deactivated.” But once this calm is restored, what to do with it? “The possibilities of loving, creating, savoring, being amazed, learning and transmitting are then at their full potential”, underlines the author. After making room, one can live again.

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The call for calm: how to free up space in our heads

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