By Marie-Ève Trudel, wellness contributor, yoga teacher and founder of yogacamp.co
Considering that summer is at our doorstep, it is the perfect time to do a mid-year evaluation. How about making the last months of 2017 months of happiness? Beginning with a summer where we think a little more about ourselves and little less about the problems ahead. A summer where we begin to think and act differently. A summer where we decide to fearlessly dive in and discover ourselves in order to realize our full potential.
The idea of progressing, of overcoming stress, anxiety and ending those negative thoughts once and for all might seem like a gigantic and unattainable goal. But you will be happy to learn that there are several tools that can help you get there. First of all, have you ever noticed how much easier it is for us to ponder over our problems than to talk about good memories? Women, by the way, have a greater tendency to do so. Do you recognize yourself? Don’t feel guilty, it is the way the human brain works, but it is possible to turn the tide by practicing something called mindfulness.
What is mindfulness? It simply refers to the alertness of our own thoughts, actions and intentions. Many western psychologists use this approach to reduce stress and depression in their patients. Mindfulness doesn’t only mean meditation, on the contrary, it can be practiced any time of the day by paying attention to the present moment, the felt sensations and the objects that surround us. One mother recently told me that when she did not have time to do her yoga practice at the studio, she decided to be more conscious while giving her children their bath. Breathing deeply, feeling the water on her hands, carefully washing her children, gently rubbing their bodies, feeling their smooth skin and watching them play in the water with new eyes. As a result she was able to find calmness and even bliss. This is the essence of a life lived in consciousness. The key to peace and happiness lies within us.
Some negative thoughts and stressful situations may seem more difficult to manage. The first step to ease the anger, stress or anxiety, is to become aware of the emotion and to breathe. Breathing exercises like the one provided in Nicole Bordeleau’s book (L’art de se réinventer, Éditions de l’Homme, 2015) prove to be very effective: breathe in for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 and breathe out for 8. Another interesting exercise consists of observing where the feeling takes shape and then trying to relax this part of the body with each exhalation. Afterwards, it is liberating to keep your distance from these thoughts and emotions. I recently received the following mantra that I now use regularly: “I am here and now, a non-judging witness of everything around me.”
Don’t try to achieve just any goal, and especially not to be better, less anxious or happier, but instead let’s begin by accepting what is. If we are calmer and more connected to ourselves, we are subsequently able to master our thoughts.
Thanks to this ability, we realize that these negative thoughts or stories ruminating through our mind don’t bring us anything constructive. Besides, I never felt great after reacting angrily. Anger and negative thoughts only serve to satisfy us momentarily. I learned, however, that when I channel that energy, and try to understand the positive aspect the situation has to teach me, I always come out winning. Lately, when I have been confronted with a situation that made me angry, rather than being led by my emotions, I tried to see the positive: by giving the person the benefit of the doubt, putting judgment aside and smiling. I recognized that these thoughts were of now use to me, in fact they were even wrong. That’s how I was able to avert my attention from the negative thoughts and calmly benefit from the moment.
If this article caught your attention, it is not a coincidence. You have the will to evolve, to become and be the person you really are meant to be, without a mask, without social labels, without the latest and greatest fashionable glasses. Although I have nothing against luxury, I believe that the objective is simply to no longer consider it as a necessity and, above all, as a reflection of who we are.
To do this, we also must learn to love ourselves and have compassion for ourselves. Too often, I found myself being imperfect, even though I have a lot of compassion towards others. I had to realize that. And once we are aware of it and integrate it into our lives, we are on the right path, our path.
After detaching yourself from the situation, breathing deeply and understanding the pitfalls of negative thoughts, it is time to change the perspective. You didn’t get the long-awaited promotion at the office; your relationship is falling apart? Before questioning yourself whether you are competent enough or whether you are with the right person, ask yourself the following: “In which situation did I demonstrate competence in the past?” and “What learning experience is this relationship offering me? What do I have to learn from my partner?”
Since necessity is the mother of all innovations, negative thoughts, stress and anxiety give us the opportunity to wake up, use our creativity and get out of our comfort zone in order to leave them behind. To achieve just that, the approach through mindfulness offers guaranteed results, but it is also necessary to be rigorous… And in our world that is in full evolution mode, consciousness is now more than ever the key to happiness.
*New York Times: Judith Beck, psychologist at Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy (Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, USA) and Rick Hanson, fellow at the University of California (USA).
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