Yes, A Happy Life Does Include Painful Emotions (and why you need to know how to release them)

Dec 20, 2020

There is a common but erroneous assumption that a happy life is void of painful emotions. Maybe because we grew up watching the perfect ending to every fairytale, or the happy couple walking off into the sunset in so many of Hollywood's romance movies. But actual life is more complex, dynamic, fluid, and always changing-- and that includes our emotions.

The idea that if we were truly happy we'd live in a constant state of positive emotions only sets us up for more pain and less happiness. Feelings like sadness, anger, fear, jealousy, disappointment, or anxiety are too often viewed as something to avoid and in contradiction to a happy life.  But they are not. And when we learn the art and skill of allowing our emotions and releasing them, life and our happiness become even more beautiful and meaningful.

One of the most empowering aspects of any spiritual practice, especially yoga, is not that we are promised a life without pain, but that we are guided along a path to more awareness; and, therefore more and more capacity for personal freedom, from which we can choose our own way, through any circumstance, and every emotion. 

To understand our happiness, it's important to know that we have only one emotional pipeline or energy channel within us. That's why resisting our negative emotions can limit our capacity to experience our connection to our soul, and our happiness and joy. When we don't allow our difficult emotions to flow through us, they get trapped in our emotional channel, clog our system, and block our capacity for more joy and happiness. 

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. -- Kahlil Gibran

Day Two, Happiness Booster: 

Give Yourself Permission to be Human

One of the most valuable happiness boosters I teach my students is to give themselves permission to be human. To accept that negative and painful emotions are part of every life. And it is not a sign of failure.

As my positive psychology teacher would say, "the only people who do not experience unpleasant emotions are psychopaths or the dead". Your emotions are a sign that you are both human, and alive.

However, and, it is 100% necessary that you learn the vital skills necessary to both safely experience and release painful emotions as they arise. Because, although, a happy life includes difficult feelings, a truly happy life is not possible if we live in our painful emotions day after day or year after year, and allow the accumulations or unreleased emotions to block our energy channel.

One simple but very helpful practice is to notice where you feel your painful emotions in your body.

Do you feel heaviness in your belly or a constriction in your heart-center? Do you feel your chest is tight, or your jaw is gripping? Wherever you feel it in your body just bring your awareness to it. 

Then put your hands on your heart and extend some self-empathy and self-compassion toward yourself. You can simply say, "this is a moment of pain", or "this feels difficult and uncertain", or some other phrase that helps you hold compassion in your heart toward yourself. 

Then, breathe in and out deeply with extra attention on the area of your body where you feel the emotion is stuck or expressing. Be with the emotion for a moment without judgment or commentary. Just the emotion, not the story that may be creating the emotion. 

Then, when you're ready, start to breathe in even more deeply through your nose, and consciously breathe out through your nose. You can also breathe out through your mouth if that feels more releasing. Try both. Do this until you feel an energetic release; maybe a calming or grounding sensation.

End your practice with your eyes closed and smiling. Smiling helps to release chemicals in your body that are uplifting and energizing. Smiling send a signal to your mind and body that you are content and safe. 

Close our this practice by thanking yourself for being both courageous and open enough to care for yourself in this way. Gratitude is another powerful happiness booster I will address later in this 10-day series. 

Day Two, Anxiety Buster

Trade-in Worry for Optimism

Worry is a negative thought loop that allows your mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. This usually gives way to anxiety and fear. 

Therefore your anxiety tip for today is to dwell on three things that are going well. Write down what is going well in your life right now, and why it is going well. 

Research shows that most of us spend far more time thinking about how we can correct something that has gone wrong, rather than basking in what has already gone right.

We are quick to notice even the smallest of problems, yet we rarely spend any time at all dwelling on the good things. Things that brought us a quick smile or felt good are all too often forgotten or perhaps not even noticed in the first place.

Writing about WHY something went well is incredibly powerful because it promotes a consciousness of blessings and promotes an explanatory style of optimism which is correlated with a happier and more fulfilling life.

*** This blog post is part of a 10-DAY SERIES, Titled "10 DAYS OF JOY"

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P.S. Let's spread the joy, together. Please SHARE this post with any of the women in your life!

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