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In the past few months or since last year, a few of my friends have been commenting, “Sweta, you look younger every time I see you,” or “Your skin is glowing.”
Some have even said, “You look brighter.”
Who doesn’t enjoy a heartfelt compliment? As someone who lives with an autoimmune, those words mean even more. That said, my analytical mind started to think and dig deeper: what was I doing differently?
I have now had a yoga, pranayama, and meditation practice for close to two decades. I do cardio diligently and lift weights. I eat, live, and navigate the world mindfully 80 percent of the time. Then there are 20 percent of the times when I like to be face down in pecan pie without any judgment. I haven’t changed any Ayurvedic skincare products, and I always drink warm water (helps eliminate toxins from the body). I have never been into wearing makeup, so what changed?
I think it’s fair to summarize that glowing skin is something many people strive to have. Yes, diet and lifestyle absolutely help. If you are skilled and know how to wear appropriate makeup for your skin type, that could add a glow too.
But what my friends were seeing was a lightness within me. I sense it in my heart, in my sleep, in my laughter, and in my human connections. I haven’t always been blessed with the ability to let go and move on. I used to be the person who felt personally attacked in every conversation that turned unsavory. I would add more meaning and weight to emotions than needed. I would keep a tab on human engagements. Despite my humorous attitude, a sense of heaviness lingered over me. The perils of caring deeply and having expectations in return.
In the past couple of years, my sadhana has deepened. Sadhana is a Sanskrit term used to refer to a daily spiritual practice. I think of it as a practice where we surrender the ego through awareness, discipline, and intention. Once the ego is tamed and self-realization starts to surface, our mindset changes. I started to show up to life with abundance of love in my heart. I started to take care of my own needs as I tended to others. Because my sadhana trained me to see the world and human behavior from other people’s perspectives as well, I became more grounded.
Here are the five things I did for achieving (it wasn’t my intention or goal but grateful that it is an outcome) the inner glow:
When we hold on to anger, grudges, grievance, shame, guilt, and pain, it takes a toll on our mind and body. There is increased release of hormones like cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline (triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response). Being in that heightened state increases our stress and anxiety. It can also disrupt our sleep.
That said, as soon as we start to get rid of the emotional toxicity, our body immediately begins to return to homeostasis, which is a state of self-healing and self-regulation. Ultimately, forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. Forgiveness isn’t about condoning an action that caused you pain; forgiveness is about not letting anyone hold any power over your emotions. It restores peace in your heart. Forgiveness makes you a better person. It reduces stress and anxiety—sworn enemies of skin. Isn’t it good to know that forgiveness helps you stay young?
According to Ayurveda, digestion is key to everything. What we feed ourselves (both food and thoughts) impacts how we feel both in our mind as well as our body. Much as I love my desserts, if that’s all you eat for a week…you know how sluggish it can make you feel. All that sugar can also lead to mood swings. Our digestive fire, agni, is the source of being. I have always been conscious of what foods I put in my body. Over the past few years, I have become even more conscientious about the company I keep and the conversations I nourish my mind with. I pay acute attention to who is draining me out as I am susceptible to taking on other people’s baggage.
When I was growing up, I was often told (or picked up snippets of adult conversations) that keeping others happy was integral to our existence. I remember asking my parents, “Since when did humans become brownies or pizza? How can we be responsible for someone else’s happiness?” Like them, I grew up trying to take care of others, their needs, and mood swings. It was only as an adult (that too in the recent past), I started to set healthy boundaries.
There were times I found myself running around like a headless chicken trying to keep everyone contented—some of it was due to my own assumptions of what others wanted. There was also guilt about saying a no. But once I started to prioritize myself in my own life and started acknowledging my own worth, I started to radiate. It could be because I stopped overextending myself and the resentment simultaneously vanished. The brightness of a healed heart.
Human beings are wired to connect. No matter what the gurus tell you, we all need people. How you engage with your community, the frequency of meetings, types of interaction, how many people you like to hang out with, and so on might all differ based on many variables. But having a strong support system helps people overcome challenges more easily and maintain a state of well-being.
For me, the pandemic has been an exercise in eliminating the fluff in my life. Prior to the lockdowns and mayhem, with the constant rush and hustle of life in New York City, I never really paused to assess who is my ride or die. I made assumptions about the people I could always rely on and the people I would show up for, no matter what. It was humbling to be proven both right and wrong. In this journey of self-growth, I have found so much clarity, security, and sense of belonging that I don’t dwell on “who’s there for me?”
Overwhelming evidence suggests compassion is good for our health and good for the world. It may reduce anxiety and depression, and it makes us feel more connected to others. Even though I have prided myself on being compassionate with others, I haven’t always extended myself the same courtesy. But the Coronavirus made me pause and examine life closely. How could I serve others if I was ignoring my needs in the process? I was under no obligation to ignore myself. Did you know that self-compassion is associated with positive aging? It can help reduce burnout and positively impact our emotional and mental well-being.
These are the emotional tools that have helped me grow as a person and increased my happiness quotient, which some define as “inner glow.”
Find out what lights you up. Explore what keeps you centered. Our mind and body are connected.
“No one can take away our inner glow. Nothing is more beautiful than a kind heart!” ~ Jyoti Patel