The Common Habit That's Keeping You From Being Happy
It's a day and age with the most conveniences and the least satisfaction. With all the good things at your fingertips also come the bad, and in our social media-obsessed society, it's essential to know how to find inner peace and happiness within yourself — and not on your Instagram feed. Sharing your creativity while connecting with friends, family, and people you admire is easier than ever before. But with that, images of your ex's new love and people with (seemingly) perfect lives are also bombarding your phone screens. In the midst of keeping up the facade, it's easy to forget that you should be living for you — not for how you appear to everyone else.
"The truth is, inner peace begins with our ability to see and appreciate ourselves holistically: flaws and all," says Amanda Huggins, an anxiety coach, yoga, and meditation teacher. "It’s confidence. It’s acceptance. It’s deep self-love." Yes, it's about enjoying being who you are, where you are, no matter what it looks like on Instagram.
Ahead, four yogis and mental health gurus discuss multiple facets of finding contentment within yourself. From letting go of the chase for validation, to quitting the comparison game, to trusting yourself and achieving self-love, point out why these obstacles are preventing you from being your best self; and what to do to break these bad habits. If you've been dealing with self-doubt — despite your flawless Insta account — you're certainly not alone.
How To: Stop Seeking Validation
You're in an exciting new relationship, and your cynical friend thinks you're moving too fast; you tell your family about your promotion, but they shrug it off; you show your sister your edgy new handbag and she wrinkles her nose. The joy you once had for something (or someone) can be zapped in a nanosecond if you seek validation from others, but don't receive it. So how do you stop chasing approval and learn to be content with yourself and your decisions?
"Seeking validation from others is really our fear and anxiety manifesting," explains Molly Sommerhalder a certified yoga trainer, certified wellness coach, and owner and founder of Swan in the Lotus Yoga and Wellness. "We are too afraid to sit and [listen to ourselves], for fear of what we might have to say. We instead turn to others for guidance so we don’t have to blame ourselves in the end."
The key here is to learn to value your own judgement. Gill Wall, a certified Hatha Yoga Therapy teacher and certified wellness coach, says to start by doing a deep-dive into why you're searching for approval. "Write down why it is that you seek approval all of the time," she suggests. "Write down where it gets you and how this habit makes you feel. When you can understand why you engage in behavior and habits that aren’t self-serving, it becomes easier to change them and turn them around."
Another simple tactic, she says, is to repeat positive affirmations, such as “I truly approve of myself," in the mirror.
How To: Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Thanks to social media, you may feel like everyone is eons ahead of you — whether in terms of getting married, buying a house, progressing in their career, etc. — and you're certainly not alone. But chances are, everyone's lives aren't as "perfect" as they appear.
Tania Mather, a Watsu, Ai-Chi, and yoga teacher, wellness retreat designer, and certified master wellness coach, gives this notion another perspective. "We tend to compare ourselves to others who have much more than we do, or so it seems," she says. "We seldom compare ourselves to the millions of people who have so much less than we do, and when we do this, we realize how fortunate we are."
If scrolling through your social always leaves you feeling inadequate, Huggins recommends spring cleaning your accounts. "Practice the Social Media Golden Rule: unfollow or 'mute' posts from anyone who makes you feel less-than," she says. "Beyond that, it’s so important to remind yourself that social media only shows a sliver of real life. Instagram specifically is a highlight reel, and everyone partakes in a bit of curation."
But when you do decide to browse (and, it may be a good idea to limit your screen time), Huggins says to adapt a different mindset. "You see someone with a cute little family take a sweet photo at the beach? Be happy for them! You scroll past a cute couples photo? Send them a little love! The circulation of positive energy is powerful; it tells the universe that you appreciate the love and success of others, and that you're open to receiving the same."
How To: Trust Your Intuition
If you don't think you're intuitive, these yogis assure that you are. It's all a matter of slowing down and calming your mind. "There is a limitless source of authentic wisdom within ourselves," says Mather. "We just need to stop, quiet the mind and allow the answers to come to us."
To do this, Wall shares a quick re-centering routine. "The Mini Check-In is a helpful tool to use when something comes up and you feel the pressure of making a decision right away but feel confused about which route to take," she explains. "Find a quiet and private place to sit in stillness, close your eyes, take deep belly breaths and consciously check in with yourself. Place your hand on your belly, inhale and release with a sigh, then ask yourself the question at hand, beginning with ‘How do I feel about ...?’
She says to meditate for about five minutes, and if the answer doesn't come, don't worry. Instead, take your focus off the issue by doing something else, preferably spending time in nature, and eventually, all will be clear.
Huggins also points out that practice will only make your decisiveness stronger. "I like to call intuition the 'invisible muscle," she says. "We’ve got to put it to work to strengthen it and build trust in our own capacity."
How To: Be Less Self-Critical & More Self-Loving
Above all else, you must love yourself; when you've mastered that, peace, trust, and happiness will follow.
"Did you know that every single cell in our body has a tiny membrane that 'hears,' 'sees,' and 'feels' all of our thoughts?" asks Mather. "So when you are having hurtful thoughts about yourself, you are essentially hurting your body."
Huggings agrees that negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies. "There’s a phrase in neuroscience that says 'neurons that fire together, wire together,' meaning if we’ve held a certain belief about ourselves over time. We’ve literally wired our brains to believe that thought pattern." The solution? Huggins is a huge believer in mantras to stop the toxic cycle and "reprogram our minds to see ourselves in a more positive light."
Sommerhalder adds that it's imperative to connect your spiritual self with your physical self, which can be especially helpful for women working through body confidence issues. "Live in your body," she says. "Explore, move and become one with it. When we live in our bodies, our minds can’t take over, so we can be fully present in loving ourselves.
"And mostly, remember your body is a place to hold your soul. The more you connect to yourself and love yourself, the more the world and you will see you beyond your physical appearance."