Whether we are aware of it or not, we make choices that impact our overall health in every moment of every day.
What to eat and how (or whether) to exercise are often two of the most important considerations.
But to truly be healthy—energetic, joyful, peaceful—throughout the entirety of our mind, body, and soul, it is equally important that we attend to our inner life. Here, I’d like to discuss two important components of our inner life, and offer suggestions to make them healthier, too.
First, our daily self-talk. All day long, voices such as our inner critic, our narcissist, and our victim, all chatter away. They fight, they argue, and they try to control our actions. Did we wear the right thing? Say the right thing? Are we being too harsh? Not harsh enough?
Imagine that our inner dialogue could be printed out at the end of the day for our review. I’m sure it would bring a laugh or two. But since we can’t actually hold that theoretical printout, we often have no means of monitoring our inner dialogue. We miss, or at least relegate as a side-note, the ongoing tone and tenor of how we treat ourselves.
Second, there is our emotional life. Here too, a single day in the life of our emotions might surprise us if we saw it in black and white. Perhaps we’d see how we are happy and laughing one minute, but feel a twinge of regret in the next. Maybe fear rises suddenly, and then is quickly replaced with anger before transforming into shame.
It’s strange, our human condition—but it’s better to become aware of what’s happening under the hood, rather than leave it running without supervision.
Taking care of our inner world doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does take some focused attention.
Start by spending time each day to go inward and observe. This relationship with our inner life can begin through the act of a formal meditation practice, or it can be done simply as you’re taking a walk, or a drive, or exercising on an elliptical machine.
Take the role of quiet observer, as if watching a movie, and turn the projector inward. Try not to change what you notice, and try not to cringe. There’s no need to replace any negative thoughts with positive affirmations, because we have nothing to fear from our thoughts just as they are. Neither should we attempt to force negative thoughts and emotions to disappear, for that tends to only fire them up more. It’s best to settle in with them and let them be.
Watch how thoughts and feelings are like clouds in the sky—they come, exist for a while, and then evaporate.
You may notice that in the beginning, your thoughts “behave” better simply from the act of being watched. But wait around a little longer. They will soon forget you’re there, and will reveal their true selves.
In the beginning, this practice of coming into a deeper relationship with our inner life might draw up defensiveness and denial—it’s not easy to see how poorly we sometimes treat ourselves, or how we justify our actions, or how often our emotions trade out in an attempt to find balance. But over time, it will feel less personal, and more just a part of being a confused, frustrated, sanctimonious, bored, fearful person.
In other words, a totally normal human being.
It may seem that this is a passive practice, and on the surface, it is. But here’s the magic of the practice: though we do not actively seek to change or deny our thoughts and emotions, they will evolve on their own, and become healthier over time, as a direct result of this practice. Think of your thoughts and emotions as unruly children who have gone too long without receiving attention or care. Of course they’re running wild, pulling on us this way and that, keeping us forever off balance!
Now, finally, we are giving them the attention they’ve long craved. Soon, they will tell us how their day was, or what their fears for the future are. They will show us the truth as they witness life. Slowly, like that unruly child now appeased, our emotions and thoughts will settle down, and let the adults in the room—that would be us—experience some true peace and quiet.
Author: Keri Mangis
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis