Next week is the last week of January. It is known to be the most depressing week of the year and is started with the first day of the week called “blue Monday”. It is a day where people are reported to have the least amount of energy, least amount of motivation and a little more “down” than usual. At this time of year in places where people have seasonal changes, and are in the dead of winter, there is less daylight, less time outside, less vitamin D and less connections. No wonder there is less joy in our lives.
As we move into this week, I want to remind you of a very important reality in your life….YOU are responsible for your life. This is a hard pill to swallow if you are feeling depressed or blue. But the reality is…..YOU are responsible for your happiness. No one can make you happy. I know….the comment…I’ve written about it before…from the movie Jerry McGuire…”you complete me”. ARGGG. This is taking away self-responsibility and making others responsible for your happiness. Again I remind you ,YOU are responsible for YOUR happiness. If you look to others to make you happy you will always be seeking happiness because Happiness is an INSIDE job. Turn the lens on yourself and you will be able to sustain happiness. And I don’t mean over the moon bliss (although maybe that is possible), but a state of contentment where, no matter what is happening in your life, you know, in your deepest heart, that there is a steady, unchangeable state of content that lies behind every experience and event in your life.
The Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron declares: “You are the sky. Everything else is the weather and it changes constantly”. Let go of the struggle that there is something wrong with how you are feeling. Some days you will have soft fluffy clouds and some days they will feel dark and heavy. Other days there may be no clouds in your life. When you can remember this, you can begin to let go of attaching to any of the clouds. When you attach to any one emotion, there is a desire to do away with other emotions. If you only want to feel over the top bliss, then you will suppress other emotions and when they end up showing up, it will be difficult to receive them. So, my suggestion: do not attach to any state. Be willing to observe the states/clouds and let them flow past you rather than identifying yourself by them. An easy change in your language can help this: instead of saying “I am ….” followed by an emotion, say “I notice that I feel… at this moment.” This little change in your language takes you from defining yourself by your experience to witnessing that you are simply having an experience, one that will change in time, as certain as the sky is blue. In Sanskrit, this is called Spanda, the ebb and flow of life. The knowing that everything contracts and expands in perfect harmony with the flow of the Universe…just like YOU.
How can you begin to change then, this darkest time of year to one of happiness? First, you need to acknowledge a few universal truths:
- The world is not as it is it is as YOU are. That is, you see the world and your life through the projection of your lenses. If you don’t like what you see, change the lens. When you can begin to change to a growth mindset of happiness, that is, change your limiting beliefs that you will never be happy and believing that happiness is possible, you can begin to awaken to joy and happiness in your life. To create any change in the world you need to look inside and create a change in YOU.
- Wayne Dyer said “when you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.” Look for beauty and practice gratitude daily. Beauty is abundant, you just have to open your eyes to it. And there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.
- Allow space and room for all emotions. Whether joy, sadness, anger etc. Pause and feel all the emotions/clouds equally and remember they will flow with Spanda. Everything is impermanent, including your emotions. Resist grasping the “good” clouds as they too will flow. Rather, can you create a state of contentment knowing that all emotions are part of our embodied experiences. This requires self-compassion, gentleness and patience.
- Be brave enough to be ok with the feelings that are uncomfortable. Brene Brown says “ Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” That means that you have to sit in the darkness and face your shadows to be able to see it’s gift. Instead of avoiding difficult times and emotions, ask yourself “what can I learn from this?”. Often, these moments are your greatest teachers in disguise and Pema Chodrom says “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Try to listen the first time so you do not have to keep receiving the same lessons.
- Avoid labeling emotions as good/bad; right/wrong. They are simple states that happen. Become a witness to them without judgment.
- Become clear about what makes you happy. We all have different definitions of happiness. But, if you don’t know what makes you happy ,how can you be happy? Take time for self-inquiry, try new activities, explore new practices and note the effect of these on your emotions. There are many evidence based practices that can increase happiness: yoga, meditation, breathwork, exercise, being in nature, using Frankincense essential oils etc. Try one of these and see how if it creates a change. Once you know what makes you happy, try to do it EVERY day. Build Play into every day.
- Begin to notice what happiness feels like and remember it is not a destination but an experience that is part of this journey of life. Do regular “tune ins” where you can sit and notice your inner landscape. How do you feel? Where do you feel it? How is your breath? All of these will be very good indicators of how you are feeling.
- Take a detox break from social media. Social media projects false illusions of happiness that become self-comparisons. No one has a perfect life because…we are perfectly imperfect. Stop comparing yourself to someone else’s picture. They are only showing you one small snapshot of a perfectly imperfectly life.
- Practice mindfulness with your thoughts. Notice the thoughts that you run regularly around worry, self-judgement, fear, etc. When you become aware of these thoughts, acknowledge them and LET THEM GO. Do NOT attach to these thoughts. They are not your truth, they are not likely even real. They are simply like gremlins that want to stay on your shoulder but you do NOT have to carry them. You can use a mantra to release them (“I choose to release you)”, your breath (one breath can change your biochemistry in your body and nervous system thereby making it possible to move from fight/flight and fear to your reasonable brain that can recognize these false truths) or you can use visualization (imagine the thoughts or gremlins floating away). In time, with a regular mindfulness practice, you can begin to rewire your brain to move through these steps quicker.
- Your brain has a hard time distinguishing between real and imagined states. Therefore, if you simply imagine you are happy – perhaps create a peaceful and happy image in your mind, your brain starts to release the happy hormones into your body making you feel more happy. That is nothing short of MAGIC. And who doesn’t need a little more magic in their lives.
- Create meaningful communities and connections. It is easy to be in a “blue” state when alone in a cave. Force yourself to get together with people, perhaps in “circles” and see how the “cuddle” hormone, oxytocin, moving through your body creates a state of connection, purpose and happiness.
- Be in service. When you offer yourself in service to others, you will also increase your “feel good” hormones and this will create more happiness in your body. We are all meant to have purpose in our lives, explore what your purpose is (hint: what are you good at and what do you like to do for others?). Give your life more meaning and you will find that you receive more joy back.
- Make yourself accountable for your happiness. If you find it difficult to get out of the house at this time of the year and make a change, perhaps connect with a friend or a life coach who can hold you accountable to taking small steps to lean into the changes that you wish to bring into your life. You are more likely to do the things you say you're going to do if you tell people.
Wishing you contentment on this “blue” Monday and perhaps see if you can change the Colour of your Mood. Please take time on this week to connect to others who may need to have a little more colour in their lives.
With love and Blessings,
Diana Lockett is the founder of Anjeli Yoga Teaching Academy, Re-Alignment Life Coach, Public Speaker, Leadership Coach and Co-Founder of the Elephant P-O-O Project, Writer, Teacher and Life Adventurer. For public speaking engagements, yoga, wellness and coaching details, visit www.Dianalockett.com