Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. -Mahatma Gandhi
I believe that when we live life from a heart-centered space we can truly be happy. When we choose our friends, jobs, and activities from a place of integrity, truth, and love—free of the ego and selfishness—then we can truly open ourselves to the happiness and experiences we deserve.
Many people spend time doing activities that fill the clock but do not fill their spirits or deepest desires. They spend time with people who bring them down or inspire poor choices. And they work jobs that pay the bills but lack fulfillment.
Often times, we end up in these situations because there is a void we are trying to fill and we are unaware that we are doing that. Other times we are aware, but the behavior is the only thing we know and its more comfortable dancing with the devil we know.
It Begins with What We Think
Once upon a time, I worked until I was sick and fatigued all the time. I also kept company with people whose influence brought out my less attractive qualities. Spending time with certain people perpetuated behaviors and attitudes that cost me mental and physical health. This makes sense since we can become who we spend time with and we are shaped by how we spend our days.
I believe the dialogue in my head influenced the unhealthy behaviors that slowly wore me down. Thoughts like “I don’t have enough of [this or that],” and “I have no choice” served as the anthem for my defeatist decisions. Melissa Ambrosini calls this her “Inner Mean Girl.” (If you’re male, this is your inner mean boy.) The key to breaking cycles like this is to cultivate awareness. When we become aware of where we are in life, we can determine how we got there. To do this, we need to understand how we truly feel. The simplest way to figure out how we feel is to pay attention to what we think. Once we recognize of the type of thoughts we think, we can see how those thoughts shape our feelings and how those feelings shape our actions.
Yoga & Behavior Modification
In yoga, we often begin mindfulness with asana practice because, as human beings made of flesh and bone, we can relate to the physical nature of life more easily than the esoteric. Through asana practice, we retrain the brain using movement and postures. It works because we are essentially asking our bodies to move or rest in different ways and positions, which requires the brain to adapt. We create new neural pathways in the brain, which assist us in these feats. This is not so different from what Dr. Albert Ellis coined as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
REBT asserts several principles of being human: 1) people are born with the potential to be rational or irrational, 2) people’s tendency toward irrational thinking is exacerbated by culture and family, and 3) people perceive, think, emote, and behave simultaneously. According to the book Current Psychotherapies 9th Edition (Raymond J. Corsini and Danny Wedding, 2010) the goal is to reduce the symptoms or behaviors through a variety of physical exercises, such as (but not limited to) desensitization and role-playing.
In yoga, when we strike a pose on the mat, we might think of ourselves as playing the role of an explorer. With each movement and posture, we explore the physical and emotional sensations we experience. Over time, we might begin to recognize thoughts and feelings that we were otherwise unaware of. Over time, this becomes familiar territory and we can get to the root of issues more efficiently. This is the process of listening to the inner self and becoming the witness. When we witness, we can be objective about our circumstances.
Tools for Happiness
I noticed that the more my “Inner Mean Girl” talked, the more frequently I made poor decisions. A friend asked how my yoga practice was going. I had not been meditating much at all and was lucky to get to one class in a month. My home practice consisted of stretching with a martini in-hand. She recommended I set the time aside to pick my practice back up at home or the studio. “Even 15 minutes a day,” she said. When I did, I started noticing the inner voice or “Inner Mean Girl,” and the power it had over my actions. I wanted to do something about it. So, I contacted my friend and author Lily Hills, and she taught me additional skills to reverse the negative talk that would eventually reverse the negative behaviors.
You Are Enough!
If I caught myself thinking, “I don’t fit in” or “No one likes me,” or “I’m not smart enough,” I’d pause. Then, I’d replace it with a healthier, more accurate statement, such as, “I am an interesting person,” “I am lovable,” or “I am knowledgeable.” Yoga teacher and author Kathryn Budig has talked about similar techniques and how we must always remind ourselves that we are enough.
When we notice behaviors or patterns that don’t work for us, we finally have the power to change them! Whether it’s an unkind voice inside our heads, an unhealthy routine, or a toxic relationship that brings out the worst in us, we can change it. As He-Man would say, you have the power! Say it with me, “I-HAVE-THE-POWER!”
If we want to be happy, ultimately, we must repair the relationship we have with ourselves. Then, we may begin to see we are enough!
You are what you think, so think beautiful thoughts! You are worth a life full of joy!