In Ayurveda, we view the mind as a powerful generator of both well-being and illness. Your health and happiness (or lack thereof) directly reflect the quality of your mental patterns.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to spend time understanding how this process plays out in your own life. You can learn to disrupt negative patterns, making room for your natural state of peace and joy to blossom.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Brooke Castillo’s podcast for life coaches lately and love the simple formula she has to understand how feelings arise:
- You find yourself in circumstances. These are the details of where you are at in life, the world, your day, etc. Example: It’s winter.
- The mind then makes a judgement about those circumstances. Example: Winter is depressing.
- Those judgements then cause feelings. Example: I feel depressed/low/trapped, etc.
Pretty darn simple. And profound.
If your mind tends to make negative judgements about circumstances in your life (your job, your partner, your family, your weight, your worthiness, your finances, etc.) you are creating your negative feelings. We all do this. It’s how the mind works. And until you get conscious about this process, it will continue unceasingly.
So, there are two ways to hack this pattern.
1. Change your thoughts
Affirmations are a fantastic tool for this. I’ve done them for years and have felt a great deal of support from them. Here’s an exercise to help you generate your own:
- Choose an area in your life where you feel stuck or have unwanted feelings around.
- Using a piece of 8.5 x 11″ paper folded in the middle, make a list on the left side of all of your negative thoughts about that area of your life. Example: I don’t know how to meet new people. No one likes me. I am just a loner. Make it a long list.
- After you’ve made your list, take a few slow breaths and observe any feelings in your body.
- Have compassion for yourself and the pain these thoughts cause.
- On the right side of the paper, for each negative phrase write a positive affirmation about that phrase. Really come from your heart. Example: “no one likes me” becomes “people like me. I am lovable”. Or “I am a loner” becomes “I am part of a human family. We are all one.”. Choose affirmations that create a positive emotion sensation for you.
- Practice feeling that your affirmations are true. It’s common to get a lot of pushback from the mind at this point telling you why it can’t possibly be true. That’s okay. Sometimes affirmations work immediately, sometimes they take time, especially for deeper feelings. Just keep looking to feel that they are true, regardless of the circumstances in your life.
Incorporate your affirmations into both your morning and evening routines. Consistency will help reprogram the thoughts in your mind.
2. Process your feelings
The other way to come at this is to fully feel your uncomfortable feelings. Typically, we avoid feeling our feelings and instead try to escape them through busyness, social media, TV, food, alcohol, etc.
If you give yourself space to feel unwanted feelings as deeply as possible, they will loosen their grip on you. I know this can be scary but the relief it can bring is worth it. Of course, if you’re processing heavy trauma, please be sure to have additional support via a counselor or psychiatrist.
This following exercise is from my work with life coach Kate Swoboda.
- Find a private space, ideally where you can make noise. Give yourself about 20 minutes to start.
- Get still, breathe slowly and focus your attention on the feeling you’re working on. Stick to one feeling per session. Let the feeling command your full attention.
- Notice where the feeling is located in your body. Is it in the pit of your stomach? In clenched jaw or fists? Restricted breathing?
- Find a way to act on the feeling using your body. Example: crying, howling into a pillow, punching something, having an all out body tantrum on the floor. Spend about 10 minutes doing this.
- Let it go. Come back to a slow breathing pattern. Put your hand on your heart and feel compassion for yourself.
- Use your body in a fun way. Play music you like and dance around. Do some yoga. Whatever is fun and raises your positive energy.
Do this exercise daily for 21 days to really release a lot of emotional junk.
Reach out with any questions or reflections!