Thangka by Trungpa Rinpoche, via his estate.
I consider myself to be a happy person, but sometimes life is just plain uncomfortable.
Part of our life’s journey has to involve struggle, and challenging people and circumstances are often excellent catalysts for personal growth. Still, some days just stink.
So here are six easy ways to get out of a bad mood—and back into that happy, joyful person you’re meant to be.
1. Cry. I strongly dislike crying. My family and I have joked for years that I’m like Lindsay Bluth from Arrested Development. Often, I want to cry and can’t find the tears for it. Then, at precisely the wrong moment (like dropping my daughter off at school when a fellow parent and friend asks me a simple, “How are you today?”) the tears fall like rain. And you know what? Who cares. Crying is literally a physiological release that’s, in part, made to elevate your mood. (Wiki it; it’s fascinating.) When you can’t fight those tears anymore, don’t. Cry. It’s okay.
2. Practice yoga. It’s free and even a mat is optional. Move your body through a flowing series of poses that speak to you, with music or without. You will feel better. When I’m in a funk, I love either a good, sweaty yoga workout or a session of deep hip-releasing postures. As yogis, we believe that we store emotions in our soft tissues, and simply going through these asanas and working out the kinks can by default relieve you of mental stress and tension. If you doubt this, think about how you grip and clench muscles in your abdomen, hips or jaw when you feel upset. (If you want to go deeper into this theory check out the book Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert that goes about scientifically proving this concept.)
3. Take a shower. If you’ve never tried this, it might sound too easy to work—but it does. The key, however, is to focus on the act of bathing. Let it become a kind of moving meditation, concentrating all of your mental energy on the sensations of washing your skin and hair. From a chakra standpoint, this is extremely cleansing to your root chakra, a chakra that’s easily affected by stress and sadness.
4. Wallow—and then pick yourself up by your bootstraps. Most of us don’t have the luxury of wallowing for too long anyways, because work or child rearing calls us back to reality. Still, we need to allow ourselves the time to feel our unhappiness in order to fully let it go. Embrace your bad mood.
Let yourself wallow—and then force yourself to get back into daily life. Easier said than done, I know, but allowing yourself a brief window of time (a day or two) to sulk is great—as long as you very quickly hop back into your daily requirements. Remember, even if you’re still feeling down, the mere act of going through your routine motions will bring you a sense of ease. So have that private pity party—and then fake it ’til you make it. In other words, cry, mope and whine—and then put on a smile, take a shower and get back in the game of life.
5. Get outside. Going outdoors is so healing. The lush greens of nature are cleansing to your heart chakra, which can take a big hit during times of depression or sorrow. Clean, fresh air is good for you—body, mind and soul. It’s easy to stagnate in a foul mood when we live in the synthetic world we’re forced to inhabit. For me, getting in touch with nature helps me get in touch with my self: that calm, still part of me that exists like smooth, glassy water just underneath the occasionally overwhelming currents of life.
6. Breathe. When you feel panicked or upset take long, slow, deep breaths. Try this three-part breathing technique, which immediately relieves anxiety. Think of your lungs as pitchers. Like a pitcher, you’ll “pour” the air into the bottom; inhaling from your belly (deep into your lungs), up into your chest and finally into your throat. Also like a pitcher, you’ll pour the air out from the top down; exhaling out your throat, chest and belly.
Inside of you lives a happy, relaxed soul, but this real you has to live the life of a human being—with a person’s ups and downs, trials and errors.
In order to get in touch with this joyful, authentic you, it’s necessary to first own your emotions and thoughts. Pretending you don’t feel or think a certain way is dishonest—and dishonesty doesn’t lead to oneness with your higher inner-self or, for that matter, to happiness.
Essentially, I’m talking in layman’s terms about the yoga sutra’s principle of non-attachment.
Non-attachment doesn’t mean that you don’t acknowledge your struggles and your triumphs. Rather, it’s a practice—like all other things worth your effort—in learning to separate your fleeting external self (and life) from your internal, eternal one. Say what?
When you have a bad day, you know it won’t last.
How do you know this? Because there’s a deeper part of you that understands a mood doesn’t last forever; that our days are temporary, and likewise that there’s an enduring part of you that will survive anything and move on. This part is that authentic you, and this authentic you can get through anything—one breath, one shower at a time.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger