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Like so many people in the world of yoga, natural healing, and meditation, my initial draw to these arts was rooted in a deep-seated desire to become “happy.”
“Surely if I find a guru, all my problems will be solved.”
“If I do yoga every day, I will become emotionally balanced.”
“If I eat right, everything else will fall into place.”
These are all routes I’ve traveled down with varying degrees of success. While the aforementioned activities have been wonderful for my overall health, it often felt like the results were short-lived. I would go to a yoga class, feel great, then find myself wandering back into the same dark places of negativity and self-criticism I struggled with for many years. I was beyond frustrated and didn’t know what to do to create the emotional peace I was so desperately seeking.
The truth is that I was falling back into physical and mental patterns without even realizing it, and one activity alone was not enough to change this.
Then one day, it happened. I finally pieced together the four keys to long-lasting happiness and mastery over our emotional state. Our happiness need not be a prisoner to the circumstances that life is offering and should be ushered back into the realms of our control and responsibility, stat. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling hopeless about our negative emotional patterns, and that’s why I’m sharing these concepts—because we all deserve to shine.
Please note, these tips are not magical pills we can take to solve all our problems. They are tools that serve to guide us on the path to getting and staying awesome, healthy, and happy—if we so choose. The power is in our hands.
So here they are—the four keys to releasing our sh*tty emotional patterns:
Prakruti is a Sanskrit word used to describe your constitution at birth.
Each mind-body type of vāta, pitta, and kapha has different requirements to achieve balance, and come with emotional markers to let us know what is in and out of balance.
Healthy: free flowing, spontaneous, unattached, the creative
Unhealthy: anxious, fearful, unable to make choices, constant waffling
Healthy: committed, focused, inquisitive, the team leader
Unhealthy: critical, angry, fanatical, bullheaded
Healthy: generous, loving, compassionate, the caregiver
Unhealthy: lethargic, attached, greedy, unyielding
Correct understanding of your constitutional needs is like having the manual to your car—with it, everything is obvious, so you don’t make silly mistakes like pouring coolant into the wrong tank. But trying to figure out even simple things without it can be beyond frustrating, like “where is my fuse box?” or “what does that light on my dashboard mean?!”
To save ourselves some stress and confusion, learn about these concepts and apply them to your diet and lifestyle to help you achieve balance.
The takeaway: Never underestimate the power of diet and lifestyle to seriously f*ck you up.
Our experience of the world has little to do with what is actually happening, and everything to do with how we interpret it. What does that mean practically, and how can we use that to our advantage?
The only thing we can control in life is our response—period.
We can’t control the wind or rain or snow or sun, but we can control whether we b*tch about it or revel in its wild glory. We can’t control if someone cuts us off in L.A. traffic, but we can control whether we start cursing and honking, or simply shrug it off and continue in a peaceful state.
So how can we learn to harness this and use it to feel better? First of all, it is critical to understand why we perceive things the way we do. Everyone has an emotional home, and we manipulate our perception of the world to help us go there.
It might be time to change your address.
What does that mean? It means that every person has an emotional state they return to frequently because it is familiar and fulfills a need. That emotional home directly colors our perception so that we can easily get back to where we feel “comfortable.” The way we perceive things is directly connected to where our mind wants to go to feel safe. It might sound crazy and strange, but by golly, it’s the truth.
Mine used to be fear, and then it became anger. There were years of my life where I spent the majority of my waking hours in a constant state of anxiety. “What if” was the dominant precursor to all of my thoughts, and my brain became quite good at sending me into extreme states of distress by focusing on all the bad things that could possibly happen. This was further propelled by my incessant caffeine intake and lack of food that led me into a state of being vāta deranged and physically depleted.
What happened next was I started to become angry. Fear is an emotion of uncertainty, and anger is extremely certain, so I used anger to manage my fear. I was tired of being scared and uncertain, and at some point my brain figured that anger was an effective way to overcome uncertainty. So I got pissed.
How did I get here? Through my perception.
It was not a good pattern and certainly not one I recommend to anyone. But the truth is this: I unwittingly chose to interpret events in a way that would lead me back to an emotional home that was fulfilling a need that wasn’t being met. We do it all the time and paying attention to the way we interpret events can provide powerful insight into what our emotional needs really are. It is also an opportunity to tease fact from fiction.
Every emotion we generate is our brain’s attempt at meeting a need, and we must learn to untangle habits from helpful, reaction from reasoning, and perception from reality.
We have two choices: change our perception or change our response. I am not telling you to ignore your perception, because we need this to help us make good choices. What am saying is we must learn to discriminate bad patterns from real warning signs.
Is your partner consistently letting you down? You have to figure out if it’s because they are not the one for you, or if it’s because you are putting unreasonable expectations on them. Does them not returning your call mean they don’t care about you? Or does it mean that they are stressed out because their workload is overwhelming? That is for you to determine and decide, and understanding how your perception colors your judgment is a powerful tool for making decisions from a place of clarity rather than confusion.
Can I let you in on a secret? Posture plays a tremendous role in how we feel. This is a major reason why regular exercise is critical to a healthy emotional state, as it gives us the muscle tone to have the upright, open posture of confidence we so greatly desire.
Posture is a powerful tool for putting us into emotional states, negative or positive.
Here’s what I mean: if I asked you to mimic a depressed person, what would you do? Slump your shoulders. Angry person? Wide eyes, tense jaw, open chest, clenched fists. Happy person? Smiling face, relaxed shoulders, receptive posture. Do we smile because we are happy, or are we happy because we smile? While this might feel like a chicken/egg question, research has shown that we can trigger emotional states through actions like smiling or frowning.
If you find yourself struggling with repeated emotional patterning, it’s likely you are struggling with physical patterning as well.
Our posture is intimately connected to our emotional state, and that’s awesome. Why? Because we can use posture to help achieve the emotional state we want. Start paying attention to the posture you choose when going into a negative spiral, and radically change it. Feeling angry? Shake it like a Polaroid picture and let that tension go! Feeling sad? Put the biggest, most ridiculous grin on your face and force yourself to laugh.
Sound and look crazy? Who gives a sh*t! What’s even crazier is living your life in a state of misery when you could be living in bliss.
To really feel happy in life, we don’t need perfection—what we really need is progress.
If achieving one goal was enough to feel happy, we’d all still be walking around with huge grins because of that “Spelling Bee Champion” award we got in the first grade. Achieving a goal is never the end destination; it is the progress along the way that provides us with fulfillment and lasting satisfaction.
It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, if we’re not making mistakes, we’re living life too cautiously and in a bubble. Mistakes are our greatest teachers, so don’t avoid them, seek them out and immerse yourself in their teachings. This is where the juiciest lessons in life live. Slumps and dumps come from feeling stagnant and less so from being wrong. So set some goals, learn something new, and keep going, kimosabe. You got this!
And keep doing yoga—it won’t solve all of your problems, but it will help your body and mind relax so you can achieve positive mental states. Which is what we’re all after, isn’t it?