Podcast # 91 – How To Find Happiness When You Have Hit Rock Bottom
The pursuit of happiness when you have hit rock bottom
As a personal trainer it is not uncommon for me to see clients when they are at the lowest of lows. This might be due to putting on a large amount of weight, losing their job or confronting a divorce. Heartbreak, money, stress, loss, illness are all contributors of emotional anguish.
Unfortunately for those experiencing these personal struggles, life as they know it seems to be crumbling before their eyes and they struggle to maintain any sense of happiness and joy.
Regardless of our personal set of circumstances, when you hit rock bottom it feels as though everything negative is coming crashing down all at once with no light at the end of the tunnel. Most of us have been there. And the thought of true happiness seems unattainable.
If this is sounding familiar, you will be happy to know that there are ways you can crawl out of this emotional black hole and rebuild your life. But you don’t have to have hit rock bottom to benefit from these techniques. Maybe you are stuck in a rut and struggling to manifest the life you have always visualised. Or perhaps you are strapped onto the emotional rollercoaster on a downward spiral knowing that if you don’t take control you are going to hit an all-time low.
Over the years of being a coach to a variety of people, I discovered the way to truly find happiness and repair your life when you have hit rock bottom is to work with realigning your mind and body. Sure going on a run or doing a session of high intensity training such as boxing can help relieve stress and enable you to ditch some emotional baggage, but it is a short term solution. Just as finding another job, refinancing your loans or losing weight on a diet is only going to be a band-aide unless you sort out the underlying issues.
This is where yoga comes into play. It is one of the main forms of exercise where the foundations of the practice lies in balancing the mind, body and spirit. It’s not about slimming down, getting more flexible or improving posture. It is about working on the health of your inner and outer body, connecting with your inner self and restoring balance. And if you have hit rock bottom or are on your way down, this truly is a practice you should take advantage of.
Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest particular yoga poses make us happy, there is substantial evidence that the practice of yoga relates directly to increased positive mood and happiness. It is suggested that certain body posturing, breathing techniques and positive thinking play a huge role in our emotional and physical make-up.
So let’s talk a little about how the practice of yoga can be utilised to improve your level of happiness and help you gain control over your life, emotions and wellbeing.
Yoga teaching you to be present
Yoga helps you learn to be present and focus on each and every moment. When we are going through an emotional struggle we often spend time getting upset over the events that have already occur and start feeling anxious over what might happen next as a result. In fact, a 2010 Harvard study found people spend 47% of their time worrying about things that aren’t happening right at that moment.
Yoga practice teaches us to focus on the moment at hand. As you focus on your breath and your body’s position, in that particular moment your world isn’t falling apart. This allows your mind to rest and your emotions to stabilise as you in a sense pause the noise and drama of your life and reset.
Once you have learnt how to quieten your mind through the practice of yoga and you are able focus on the exact moment in front of you, you can draw on this skill throughout the day. When you are feeling the anxiety levels spike or the pressure becoming too much, connect with your breath and take the moment to discover that little window of happiness, contentment and joy.
Yoga allows you to build confidence
Many of the postures in yoga are designed to open up the body in order to re-energise and reinvigorate the mind and body. As you hold a pose you are breathing in oxygen to a particular area and nurturing your internal tissues and organs. Not only that, according to a 2010 Harvard Study by holding an open-body posture such as warrior, you are decreasing the cortisol levels and increasing testosterone levels in your body. Testosterone is a confidence boosting hormone which helps reduce anxiety and increase your self-assuredness.
These power poses are created to build strength from within and open up the body in the process. When you commit to practice yoga regularly, you will be surprised at how your confidence improves not only in your practice by in your abilities and self.
Yoga helps you find gratitude
When you are in the midst of a mental breakdown or are struggling to see the light at the end of a tunnel, being thankful is almost impossible. And by thankful, I am not referring to the ‘thanks’ you give to the barrister who made your morning coffee or to the cab driver who got you to your meeting on time. I’m talking about real, sincere gratitude.
A study published by the Journal of Happiness looked into the effects of being grateful has on our overall levels of happiness. Through a study of 219 men and women who wrote down a note of gratitude each week, they found that in just a 3 week period participants felt an increase in life satisfaction and overall happiness as well as a decrease in depressive symptoms.
As you take to your mat in yoga, you start to appreciate your body. You block out the noise and focus on restoring balance rather than worrying about the upsets and stresses occurring in your life. You start connecting with yourself and you become grateful for the smallest things at that particular moment.
You might be grateful for your mat providing you a layer of cushion between your feet and the floor. Perhaps you can feel grateful for your health, grateful you have made the time to heal from your pain or grateful for the food you nourish your body with.
Yoga allows you to accept
When you come to your yoga mat and commence the practice you should always try to do so with no expectations or preconceived ideas. As you being moving through a sequence of poses and start to connect with your breath and realign your mind and body, you start to accept who you are. You accept the teacher for who she or he is. You accept the tightness and strain of some of your muscles. You accept your limitations and the feelings you experience throughout the class.
This acceptance often continues when you step back into your busy life. Instead of expecting things to turn out a certain way or expecting someone to act a certain way, you start to learn you can’t control everything. You learn to put your expectations aside and to permit life to flow at its own pace.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have goals and expectations for yourself, but you have to learn there are some things that are out of your control. You can’t control how someone is going to act and there are many situations you can’t control the outcome. Coming to terms with this and learning expectance can aid in healing as well as preventing disappointment, heartache and stress in future situations.
Yoga provides the space you need to relax and recall memories
Yoga is possibly one of the greatest forms of exercise to feel relaxed during your practice. Being relaxed helps reduce the perception of stress, allows you to collect your thoughts and take a breath from the emotional pain.
The University of Southampton discover when you allow yourself to relax you can pretty much think your way into happiness! By recalling a happy memory or visualising an experience or place that you felt joy can actually make you happier. This can raise your self-esteem, heightens your optimism and in turn improves your overall wellbeing.
So when you are in the Shavasan position at the end of your practice, allow your body to regroup, reset and focus your attention on positive moments in your life. Recall how you felt and let that bring a smile on your face.
At the end of the day taking care of ourselves particularly during times when you are feeling out of control is essential to our overall health and wellbeing. Too often though, we let ourselves hit rock bottom before we act. Indulging in moments of happiness while nurturing your body and mind can help stop things from falling apart. It’s important to tap into that inner well of joy and to restore the balance between your inner and outer body before you get overwhelmed with the journey of life.
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