With everything going on today – economic fallout, impending elections, and a global pandemic – protecting your sanity is one of the most important things you can do.
As a mindfulness trainer, I studied and observed how people react to adversity for 10 years. And lately, friends and family members have been asking how to deal with today’s emotional challenges.
My simple advice is always the same: get rid of the bad habits that are holding you back. Here are some positive mental changes that can instantly improve your life:
1. Adopt a mindset that you can do.
I started doing yoga 15 years ago and I am grateful that it has helped not only improve my physical health, but also how I approach obstacles.
Whenever I encourage people to try, they often tell me, “I’ve always wanted to, but I can’t because I’m not flexible at all!” This mindset holds us back in many ways because we essentially think, it’s not me [X] enough so I can’t do that [Y].
In order to achieve goals, adjustments must be made in life, just as we adjust different parts of our body during yoga. If you take a moment to look at things with a “can” mentality, you will accomplish things that you previously thought were impossible.
2. Embrace the unpleasant things.
A mentor once said something that changed my path in life: “You can fake comfort or you can change. But you cannot do both.”
I really noticed that.
When things got bad, I did everything in my power not to talk about my feelings. But I quickly learned that you can only run away from them for so long; After all, you have to face reality.
On March 16, I was sent home from work on quarantine assignments. I remember feeling very scared and worried about what was coming next. But forcing myself to sit still with my thoughts – even though my mind was racing with fear – helped me regulate my emotions.
Little by little, I felt more connected and able to navigate the discomfort of insecurity.
3. Develop a desire to help others.
Socrates said, “Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting an uphill battle.”
Years ago I ran a bookstore in New York City. A blizzard hit and traffic had stalled, with busy streets suddenly covered in snow. A customer called and asked if we could hand-deliver a few books to her friend.
The weather was terrible and it wasn’t something we usually did, but I chose to do it anyway. When I got to her door, the woman’s eyes filled with tears of gratitude. She told me that she was getting a divorce and was recently diagnosed with cancer. These books were a refuge for her.
Small kind actions have a ripple effect, and those ripples can create a wave of positive changes in the world that could save us all.
4. Avoid social disconnection.
There is an African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
The people I have met through yoga classes and meditation retreats have been an incredible source of comfort in my darkest moments. Even when I’m with no friends and family for weeks, I pick up the phone and call someone to see how they’re doing.
This pandemic feels like a journey with no end in sight. The way we work and interact with one another has changed significantly. People feel more isolated than ever before. But I believe that connection and fellowship are the way to live a fuller life.
5. Be present.
Being mindful and present helps us survive turbulent times and come out stronger with a clearer meaning and purpose.
So many of us tend to spend our days on the autopilot, which is essentially the opposite of mindfulness. We could also fall into the trap of “distractions” like buying a bunch of things we don’t need or watching Netflix for days. While these actions can provide instant satisfaction, they are often very dangerous.
Mindfulness requires constant awareness and attention to the things that are going on around us. Time is a precious commodity. Don’t mentally rush through or wish it away. Enjoy the moments, even the ugly and unpleasant ones – because they too will pass.
Oneika Mays is a yoga and mindfulness trainer. She has used her many years of experience to support non-profit organizations for social justice, to facilitate workshops and to lead retreats. Oneika last appeared in the TBS series “Lost Resort”. Follow her on Twitter.
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