Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
This morning I meditated. I did abhyanga. I drank lemon water, ate a filling breakfast, and even did a handstand. And yet, I’m still in a bad mood. I still have this veil of sadness that’s resting like dust on all of the surfaces.
Didn’t I pay the happiness tax? Didn’t I do every self-care measure in the books?
There’s this perception that all emotions can be instantly healed. All we need to do is apply our organic band-aids, drink a green juice, and get a facial.
And while it is true that in our fast-paced world, healing often can come from taking more time to take care of your own body and mind, it’s not a magic formula for happiness.
So where does that leave us? As usual, all paths lead to acceptance of the present moment. I’ve checked off the boxes on sleep and food and exercise, so I don’t have to extra physical self-care. That means it’s time to move from action to listening. It’s time to be present in my body and mind. Here are some ways to do that:
Journal with the purpose of mapping your internal landscape.
This free-form writing is designed to help you uncover what’s the root cause of those negative feelings. Just write at the top of the page: “I’m feeling X”. And then write around the situation, your day, and what you’ve noticed. Maybe you’ll have an ah-ha moment that helps you realize what’s the cause of the bad mood and the solution to bring you back to positivity. Maybe you won’t. But this self-inquiry exists to let you step back from the thoughts and see them for what they are – just fleeting emotions.
In one of my favorite stories from Tara Brach, she tells the story of the Buddha when he was dealing with Mara, the symbol of all sadness, anxiety, and hate in the world. You can read the post for the full context of the story, but the moral is to simply be a witness to the anger and hurt. You don’t have to wish it away. You don’t have to get caught up in it. Simply acknowledge it, so that you can move alongside it. The negative feelings don’t have to consume you, and they also don’t have to be pushed away. They can exist alongside the rest of your being.
Listen to the whispers from your body and don’t rush the process
Our bodies are constantly communicating with our mind through nerve impulses, and sometimes our negative emotions are a message from our bodies on what it needs and how to move forward. My favorite example of this is procrastination: most of us think procrastination means you’re lazy, but I believe that procrastination has a purpose. It’s our bodies saying that we either need to wait or we’re not invested in this project that we’re doing.
Similarly, your anxiety or anger could be a sign that something isn’t right. Last January, I had a week of irritability and sadness. After a few days I realized that it was anticipation of a project I had agreed to do for a client. I was only able to make that connection because I was patient with that irritability. I didn’t try to rush it away, and by listening to it for a few days, I eventually could see how the irritability would ebb and flow based on my association with the project. Suddenly it all made sense, and I was able to rectify the situation. The sadness lifted immediately.
I can’t promise that all of your sadness will immediately be gone. I can’t promise that my anxiety will lift in the next 30 minutes. But I send this reminder to me and you that these emotions are fleeting. This too shall pass. And while we can and should do everything in our power to prevent them, if they need to be here, let them be. Their message will be revealed over time.
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.