A state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It is also a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.
Life can be a complete bitch. You're never going to be happy ALL the time. And the people who claim to be are full of shit. It's completely normal to have moments of pure chaos inside your head. If we would never go through tough times, we'd never question anything, we'd never evolve; and the world would be filled with even more douchey people.
Sometimes you may feel like the universe simply could not have dealt you a better hand. You're shooting rainbows from every orifice of your body. Everything is wonderful, and you just KNOW that at that moment, everything is completely balanced in mind and body. But all of a sudden BOOM! Something happens and...
You feel like there's a cloud hanging over your head, and no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to shake the shadow it's casting over your life. You're tired and stressed out.
Most of your life is in order, but one area of your life isn't quite where you want it to be, you are letting it affect the way you feel about everything else. When this happens things are not balanced in mind and body. Being zen is something that comes from within, even though we tend to let outside factors affect it. Whether it's your job, your love life, or family stuff.
You've been here before, and you've always managed to crawl out of the sinkhole. But while you're in it, climbing back up for air always seems nearly impossible, forcing you to see everything from a very negative perspective. So how do you snap out of it in the healthiest way possible? How do you prevent this from festering only to morph into a deep well of self-pity?
1. Call yourself on your bullshit
Sometimes all you need is a swift kick in the keister by the person who knows you best. You! A few times a year, I need to have a chat with myself, to see what's working, and what isn't. It's good to check yourself once in a while. Have that inner monologue and ask yourself what you need to work on. What makes you happy, and what needs to change in order for you to feel balanced. Because what made you happy last year might be different this year. Outside factors are constantly changing, and so are you.
Once you've figured out what needs to change in order for you to be at peace, own the shit out of your feelings without feeling guilty for them. Feel them completely. Don't keep your feelings bottled up. Don't pretend that everything's peachy because the last self-help book you read told you to "be positive". That will just end badly like the time Ned Flanders had a complete breakdown.
Eat the tub of ice cream, cry in the shower, listen to the 2006 James Blunt album on repeat. Your significant other may start wondering why you've been wearing yoga pants everyday that week, but if you feel like yoga pants are essential to your well-being at the time, so be it. After the necessary time has passed, find your balls (goes for ladies too, it's a figure of speech), step away from the yoga pants, put a plan into place, and make the necessary changes to your life.
You don't want to be that person always complaining about their life yet doing nothing to make it better do you? No one is perfect, not even you, but you have to recognize your faults. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself "Is it something I can change?" If the answer is yes than go for it. If it's something you can't change how can you adapt to make it work. Only you can make those changes. You don't like your job, find another one. You're miserable in your relationship, you have two choices, try your hardest to fix it and be happy, or leave. Whatever it is that's bothering you, whatever's sucking you dry from your energy, change it.
2. Have a plan and celebrate small victories
But how do you put a plan together if I have no idea where to start? I start by writing in my journal, the things that make me happy, and what I'm grateful for. Then I make a list of what I truly want in all areas of my life. And before I know it, I know what I need to do, and what my next move should be. It's as simple as that.
Every couple of months I also make a vision board made of photos I cut our from magazines, I post it up on the fridge, and look at it every morning. I try to include an image that represents how I envision every aspect of my life. Work, Love, Health, Money. Not only does this remind me what I'm grateful for, it allows me to visualize daily what I truly want in life. And most of the stuff I put on there actually happens. Every time something positive happens, recognizing how far I've come is enough of a celebration.
3. Stop listening to people
Some of the worst mistakes I've made have been from not trusting my instincts. I've also made some poor decisions all on my own but for some reason, I always felt at my most balanced while navigating through those self-inflicted decisions, regardless of the struggle. Because they came from my most important confidant, myself. When it comes to knowing what's best for you, you're the only one who truly knows what's best. Don't get me wrong sometimes it's good to get an outsider's opinion. But be careful who you choose to listen to. Everyone has an opinion but not everyone is your friend. And it's important to recognize the difference.
Only the people who accept your choices without judgement, the ones who will be there if you fall flat on your face. But not to coddle you, they are usually the first ones to stare you in the face, unafraid to give you the harsh truth, pointing out exactly where you went wrong. They are the allies responsible for making you see the things you can't on your own.
By putting yourself in a bubble and being able to ignore all that static, you open yourself up to a world of constructive criticism only; by yourself and your trusted allies. But make sure to take that advice and work on your shortcomings, otherwise you're just another entitled A hole.
4. Get laid... or... snuggle
Humans require physical contact to be healthy. And it's not all about sex. Of course getting laid on a regular basis is awesome. And sex also has many health benefits such as: better mood, stronger immune system and it helps promote better sleep.
But if you're in a dry spell as dry as the desert, any physical contact will have just as many benefits. Hugging, snuggling, getting a massage and even eye contact and a pat on the back helps promote a healthy, well-balanced life. All those things can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. Serotonin levels also increase, elevating mood and creating happiness.
5. Get off your ass
Here's the thing... We all know physical exercise solves a lot of problems, specially when it comes to mental health. We already know that endorphins are stimulated during exercise and they help promote happiness. But damn it's hard to get motivated when it's January in the middle of a snow storm, and you're feeling a little low. In moments like these I find myself being like a kid going through terrible twos "but I don't wanna!!" Even though I know damn well what's best for me, all I want to do is lie there and binge watch a show that will let me escape from reality.
I've realized that the best bet when this happens is to cut myself some slack. I don't force it. Instead I do something light, even if I know I'm not getting much of a workout. As long as long I'm moving and sticking to a routine, it makes me feel better. It's not always about sweating your ass off, and pumping iron like Arnold in the 90s. Do some stretching, some abs and some squats in your living room while watching your shows. It's the perfect compromise, and you'll be back to your regular routine, feeling like your old self again in no time.
6. Eat your vegetables
A healthy diet obviously affects the way you feel physically, which affects the way you feel mentally. And we always seem to crave crappy food when we're feeling a little off. But going on a Mc Donald's is not going to solve your problems. On the other hand I would be a hypocrite if I told you to cut out all the refined sugars, and anything deep-fried, or processed. Honestly I'm all about the 80/20 rule. Personally, it works for me.
Everything in moderation (unless of course you're training for some sort of competition) Eat your fruits and veggies during the week, eat smaller portions of meat and carbs, and you'll be bouncing off the walls with new-found energy in no time. In my opinion what's worse than the occasional bag of Doritos is when people start obsessing over their diet 24/7. This actually causes more stress. Have the piece of cake for crying out loud, no one will remember you for your abs.
While we're on the subject of shoving things in your mouth (insert obvious joke here..) try to stay away from alcoholic beverages when you're feeling low. In addition to the empty calorie consumption, as much as alcohol will make you feel invincible for a brief moment, it's actually a depressant and will amplify any strong feelings you may be going through...that includes the lethargic mood you'll be in the next day when you're hungover.. Drink water instead!
Every health blog on the planet would tell you to ditch the caffeine right now.. But I would never do such a thing. Blasphemy!! If you need that cup of joe to function in the morning, then that's what you need to do. Just don't drink 5 of them in a day. Balance is key!
At the end of the day, everyone is different, so it's up to you to figure out what makes YOU feel balanced.
7. Stop doing things you don't want to do
I'm not saying to just get up one morning and decide you don't feel like going to work anymore. I've done that... once ...and...I don't recommend it. Everyone has bills to pay. But there are limited hours in a day, and full-time work doesn't leave much time to do the things you actually want to do. So you have to be choosy.
How many times have you made plans, and then last-minute you just don't feel like going anymore, you still go along with it, but are miserable the whole time. Stop doing that. Stop committing to stuff you're not truly passionate about. That was like me and camping, I would always go because all of my friends were going, and it just wasn't for me. My life is so much better now that I've stopped pretending.
And guess what! Focusing on spending time doing the things that make you happy will make you a more attentive and caring person. And you'll start surrounding yourself with more like-minded individuals. It's win-win! Thinking about your well-being is not selfish, it's a necessity.
8. Put. Down. Your. Phone.
We are all addicted to having our phone in our hand at all times. We are constantly overstimulated and don't know how to just BE anymore. Sometimes I feel panic when I sit on the toilet and realize "Crap, I've forgotten my phone." That's when I know I need to disconnect for a bit.
And the worst part about looking at social media when you're a little down in the dumps is that you're bombarded with photos of how awesome people's lives are. Because that's what social media is for right? To show people how great you are at life. Leave your phone in the other room for an evening, or leave it at home when you go out somewhere. You might feel like you're missing a limb at first, but at the end of the night you'll feel liberated!
The most important thing to take from all of this is that you're not alone. Everyone goes through ups, and downs. Learning to deal with the lows in a healthy way is part of the ride. Life is meant to be enjoyed. When things aren't quite in sync, live through your emotions, find what it is you need, make a plan, and move on. And in no time you'll have that moment where you feel like shouting "I'm back baby"!