The Past May Have Shaped Us, But We Have the Power to Change

“If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.” ~Toni Morrison

Our very first relationship is the one we develop with ourselves. However, even that one is shaped by outside forces.

You may or may not believe that we choose our family. Regardless of your position regarding how your soul made it to your parents’ household, the truth is that the environment we are born into determines a great deal of the rest of our lives. This is especially true about the way we relate with ourselves and others.

We learn by observing and experiencing the dynamics in our home. Our brains absorb the discourses. The judgments passed over us and the stories told about us become a part of our personality. The words we hear from the voices around us become embedded into our inner voice.

We end up with a creation from the hands of Dr. Frankenstein: a patched up combination of voices that we later adopt as our own. That voice plays a huge role in how we develop a relationship with ourselves and, therefore, with those around us.

The outside world shaped the inner reality that, in turn, will facilitate how we relate to that outer world.

We learn from the way that our caregivers react to stress, from how they manage their anger, and how they engage in arguments.

We learn from how they treat themselves, us, and the rest of the world.

We learn about limitations and about fear.

We learn to worry and to lie.

We learn to yell out and to bottle it all in.

We learn to over-react and to act like leaves at the mercy of the wind.

We learn to micromanage and to be oblivious to life.

We can learn the extremes. However, we can also learn balance.

What is your vision for yourself? I’m talking about a real life vision, not about your annual income goal, or your income-to-debt ratio, or that degree you’ve been meaning to get. I’m not talking about the car you want or the trip you’ve dreamed of. Not that those things are bad or meaningless; they’re simply not a vision, they’re goals.

What I am asking is: What is your vision? What state of being do you wish to create for yourself? What kind of relationships to you want to nurture? How do you want to feel? 

My parents did their best to give me the best they had to give. I learned about hard work, being of service in the community, and believing in the divine. However, I did not develop anger management and conflict resolution skills, calming strategies, a healthy self-concept, or effective communication and decision-making skills.

In other words, I was a typical clueless adult who was able to make money and run the rat race functionally. But I knew very little of myself, or how to develop healthy relationships with myself and others.

As a matter of fact, I had no idea what healthy relationships looked and felt like. This led to a bumpy road that involved quite a few panic attacks, aggression, toxic relationships, isolation, and a social media and sugar addiction. The details of my journey are truly irrelevant. However, the lessons gained do have value.

It started with answering questions I had never asked myself. Also, tools such as meditation, counseling, spiritual work, a lot of reading, journaling, praying, and developing a support village assisted me in the journey.

Being open to the process is quintessential. So, I invite you to address the following questions with an open heart and observe your thoughts about yourself and others.

Take note of the things you visualize on a daily basis. Do your visualizations match your vision? Or are they hindering it?

What does a healthy relationship with yourself feel like?

How about the conversations you have with yourself? How did that voice form?

Where do these stories about yourself come from? Are you truly that person?

How is your relationship with yourself? Are you hyper-critical? Do you “bash” on yourself? Or do you make excuses for yourself?

What type of relationships do you envision for your journey?

What type of narratives do you create in your mind with those who surround you? Do you imagine arguments? Do you mentally practice “come back phrases”? Do you spend time rehearsing irrelevant hypothetical situations? Do you declare negative labels on the rest of the world?

Your early caregivers started the work of raising you, but you are the one responsible for continuing it. We are never done growing. You are not done. The universe is not done with you. Now it’s your turn to help yourself create the reality you envision for yourself.

About Oñi Adda

Oñi Adda is a Yoruba Iyalosha. She is also a teacher of children with special needs, a mother to a wonderful four-year-old walking piece of sunshine on Earth, and a legendary bathtub singer. She believes that our journey on the material plane has one purpose: to grow. That growth leads to Light and Light leads to unity in our communities.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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You Aren’t Stuck in Life: Commit to Change and Get Started

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~Mark Twain

We all have big dreams, big goals, and big ideas on what we think our life should look like, or how we think life will end up.

Some of us meticulously plan out our lives, envisioning and letting ourselves daydream as we think about all the stuff we’d love to accomplish. I’d wager that our plans include some pretty big things in life that would make us feel pretty proud.

The problem is, a lot of us have trouble reaching the potential we’ve set for ourselves. Time kind of flies by, and we end up looking back and wondering what went wrong.

Well, one reason stands out like a sore thumb: We never really get started doing the things we truly want to do. We’re all guilty of it, and that includes me.

I’ve cooked up dozens (literally dozens) of ideas or things I wanted to try over the years. How many did I actually try? Far less than dozens; let’s just say the ratio isn’t exactly working in my favor.

Now, as time has gone by, I’ve been able to explore more of them. But as you know, some of them got shelved for good. I probably don’t even remember half of the things I wanted to try and never did.

Why did I not try? What was the reasoning behind it? Why did I lack the forward motion necessary to at least attempt something and see if it sticks? I, like you, are fully aware that not everything we do will end up being a calling in life. But you won’t know until you give it a shot.

To help you better understand this idea pertaining to a lack of motion, one must take a step back and realize that life, in a very big nutshell, is a series of decisions and actions. These two components are crucial for our self-growth and success in life and unfortunately are not mutually exclusive.

Without making a decision and following it up with action, we could spend our entire lives stuck in the exact same place.

If you make a decision but don’t take any action, not much will happen. On the other hand, if you take a bunch of actions without any decisions driving them, you’ll aimlessly float around.

Being stuck in the same place or floating around aimlessly sounds torturous, doesn’t it? It is, and a lot of people must be living real-life nightmares. I had to wake up from my own years ago.

Good or bad, where you are in life at this very moment is a reflection of all the past choices you’ve made. Some of us will read that and smile, maybe even give ourselves a little nod of appreciation if it’s good. On the other hand, a fair number of us will probably have a hard time digesting it.

If you aren’t quite where you thought you’d be, I’d like to start by just saying that it’s perfectly okay. Most of us aren’t really where we thought we’d be, and we’re still giving it our best shot.

There are generally two reasons you aren’t at your “ideal” place. A small chance is that life gave you an obstacle course with things completely out of your control; in other words, life got in the way temporarily. But there’s a bigger possibility you aren’t where you thought you’d be: you just flat out didn’t pursue something. And it was likely out of fear.

In other words, you didn’t really ever get started.

The Good And The Bad News

Let’s start with the bad news: You never got started, and now you’ve wasted some valuable time moving toward your goals. Your life isn’t really playing out like you thought it would, and you feel somewhat stuck with your current habits, lifestyle, relationships, career, and other things.

Pause for a moment and take a deep breath, as this might have hit closer to home than you’d prefer.

Good, you’re still with me.

Now let’s transition to the good news, because it’s actually really good:

You’re never stuck, and while the best time to start something was yesterday, the next best time is now.

You, yes you, have the ability to create the life you want, but it requires you to make moves. And while you may have fallen short previously, it doesn’t mean you will fall short going forward.

Here’s the bottom line: your past does not dictate your future. Your past habits and lifestyle do not have to determine your lot in life.

The Idea Behind Starting

You’ve probably heard the quote “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, it sure is true. Because really, is anything built in a day?

Was your house fully built on top of a piece of land in a day? Was that skyscraper completely erected in a day? Did you apply for, interview, and start working at your job in the span of twenty-four hours?

Things take time to build. Let’s say you’ve been wanting to switch careers because your soul has been sucked completely dry. You planted the career switching seed a while ago, and you’ve been letting it marinate for far too long.

Yet you haven’t made any moves, and in the meantime, nothing has changed. Does this sound familiar? I found myself in this exact position years ago. I was miserable at a job I didn’t enjoy. I wanted to change, but I got scared of the unknown and didn’t make any changes.

Years passed by before I got a kick in the pants and decided to take a change. It took getting laid off, but it was the best thing that happened to me. I decided enough was enough. It was time to ultimately change my entire career, and also start exploring other smaller avenues on the side.

But unfortunately, I didn’t really know the one thing I needed to do professionally in order to be more fulfilled. I knew what I didn’t want to do (hello old career), but I also didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I began formulating. Writing goals. Crafting some business plans. Attending meetups and networking around areas I found interesting. It was through this meetup that I came across a three-month program being offered in a particular field that I had once tinkered with in high school, but walked away from.

And voila, I am now in my new career. You can put the pieces together, but I took a leap and joined the program. Fear and all. I was scared, but now I am in a field that is 180 degrees from my previous one. And all it took was attending a meetup. Funny how life works.

Self-doubt and fear are the two biggest barriers in our quest to make moves. A third, and less talked about one, is pure overwhelm: seeing where you are and looking where you want to go leaves you exasperated.

This is where movement comes into play. You take steps, however small, toward your visions and goals. You make sure you’re moving forward.

And here’s the cool thing: The force that you apply, in other words the actions you take, can be extremely small and still produce positive results. This is the idea of micro-movement.

What does this mean? If you’re scared to make a move because you’re overwhelmed by the end result of where you think you need to go, it’s really important to realize one big thing: your collection of small steps equals big results.

No one takes a leap of faith and accomplishes life’s biggest goals in the same breath. Life rewards those who take consistent, measurable action, while enjoying a dose of patience and commitment.

Putting All The Pieces Together

Most people have an idea of some higher-level goals they’d love to accomplish in their lives. Be it personal, health, finances, career, relationships, or all five, every single one of us has fallen victim to overwhelm and the paralyzing nature of fear.

But a few things are happening in your favor.

Namely, the universe is here to aid you in your dreams and desires if you let it.

It just requires a few things:

  • A decision made internally to change
  • A desire to take the steps required
  • A realization that micro-movements forward are perfectly normal
  • Actually making moves
  • A dose of patience and commitment

Then, the laws of motion will help you take care of the rest because you’ll have built movement and momentum.

You aren’t stuck in life. You are capable of making a lot of power moves.

The key is just getting started.

About Adam Bergen

Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a site aimed at showing others how they can reach their potential through focusing on themselves and staying authentic. Generally most people don’t enjoy Mondays, but it’s not Mondays that are the problem; it’s your mindset. Change that, and you can change your views. You can find Adam at and

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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How I’ve Learned to Fully Appreciate the Little Time I Have on Earth

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins

Recently, my grandfather passed away. His departure was difficult for me but it has also left me with something I’ll keep for the rest of my life—an unlikely lesson about life and gratitude.

I hadn’t seen my grandfather often before he died because I’ve been living abroad for the last couple of years. But I was still fond of him and I warmly remembered the days we had spent together when I was young. So his passing was a shock and a tragedy for me. I felt the grief of losing someone close for the first time.

Yet, amid all the pain, some other feeling started to come up: a sense of gratitude. I began to feel grateful that I got the chance to say goodbye to him in person. I felt grateful for having known him and having shared so many good moments with him. And I felt grateful that he was able to live his life and even die the way he wanted.

At first I couldn’t figure out what to make of this weird mix of feelings. I did feel sadness and grief, no doubt. But how could I also experience gratitude? How was I supposed to react? Was it okay for me to feel gratitude or should I only feel sadness?

It took me a little while to give myself permission to just feel the way I felt. And then I realized that I could take this as a parting gift from him. I began to experience, firsthand, that even in the midst of tragedy, there is still hope. And there are things that I could still be grateful for.

Gradually, all those good things that are so easily overlooked became more obvious. The people we love, those daily moments of joy that we let go by unnoticed, the little things that make life easier. I began to appreciate all those things as I turned my attention to what I already had instead of what I thought I needed to become happier.

For my own sake and for the sake of my grandfather, I decided to keep this gratefulness alive and nurture it. Here are the four steps that I’ve been taking since.

1. Starting the day with gratitude

At first, the feeling of grief kept reminding me of my desire to be grateful. As long as my grief was fresh, it was easy to stick to this new intention. But I knew I needed something to keep me going when those strong feelings eventually subside.

That’s why I began to form a daily gratitude routine. It’s the simplest gratitude exercise imaginable and based on an idea that originally came from a positive psychology intervention (a scientifically validated exercise to increase one’s happiness) named three good things.

Every morning before starting my work, I now write down three things I’m grateful for. I usually think of someone or something that makes my life better until a feeling of gratitude arises. And I stay with this feeling for a little while, maybe a minute or two.

At times, it can be hard to connect with this feeling. That’s when I use a little trick that psychologists call mental subtraction. That means I’m not simply thinking about what is good in my life but I’m deliberately imagining it wasn’t there. This makes it much easier to feel grateful.

When we think about how great it is to be able to walk, it can be hard to appreciate. On the other hand, when we think of how much worse life would be if we were paralyzed, it’s easier to experience a sense of gratefulness.

I’m not suggesting we compare ourselves to people who have it worse than us. I don’t think gratitude is the appropriate response to other people’s misery. I’m simply saying that if we imagine our own life without something, we can help our brain see and appreciate it more.

2. Enjoying the present

A blow like the death of a loved one often makes people reflect on their lives. This was also true for me. I couldn’t help but notice how many of my life’s moments I have wasted.

There were so many evenings I spent alone instead of calling a friend to grab dinner. So many conversations when I didn’t listen properly in order to get to what I wanted to say. And so many unused opportunities to say I love you to my family.

But the past is gone, what’s left is to enjoy this very moment. Right now, I am grateful. I’m not in pain and I’m safe, I have enough to eat and a roof over my head. And I don’t have to fear any of this will be taken away from me any time soon. So this moment really offers everything to be enjoyed. It’s a fact that’s true for most moments.

Of course, being fully present for every moment is an impossible ideal (unless you’re an enlightened person, I guess). But aspiring toward more presence is something that we all can do.

To help me bring more awareness to my moments, I started to use an app that rings a mindfulness bell once every hour. It serves as a reminder to pause for a few seconds and simply enjoy life as it is. Every time the bell rings is an opportunity to be present.

3. Saying thank you

Not just moments of joy go by unnoticed; so do opportunities to say thank you. We overlook the kindness of the people closest to us because we take it for granted. Yet there are so many small acts of kindness that we could be grateful for.

In my case, it had never occurred to me to express my gratitude toward my grandfather. In fact, I haven’t really felt much gratitude toward him at all, because I never truly thought about all the sacrifices he’d made to provide for his children and grandchildren. It only dawned on me recently as I’ve thought (and read) about his life.

It’s likely that all of us have a person like this in our lives, or several people who have influenced our lives in a positive way who we’ve never properly thanked. There’s another positive psychology intervention that aims to remedy this situation. It’s writing a gratitude letter.

The exercise goes like this: You think of a person who’s had a positive impact in your life and then write a letter that tells them what they did and how it has affected you for the better. The letter can take any form, but the basic idea is to write as if you’d deliver it at the end.

Even though we don’t necessarily need science to tell us whether or not we’re happier after writing a gratitude letter, it’s good to know that research shows that this is one of the most powerful happiness exercises out there. I have to admit that I haven’t yet written a gratitude letter myself. But it’s next on my list. I don’t want to miss another opportunity to say thank you to the people I love.

4. Savoring good memories

There’s one more ingredient for gratefulness and it is hidden in our past. It’s those wonderful memories of joy and love that we carry around with us. Some of those memories might even seem forgotten, but that’s exactly why it’s so important to bring them back to life.

Looking through old photo albums and reminiscing with childhood friends about growing up are great ways to do that. Similarly, I’m glad that I’ve heard so many stories about my grandfather. They provide something to remember him by, and they’ve brought me closer to him and the rest of my family. Besides, it’s comforting to be able to keep him alive in my memories.

I now keep a picture of him at my desk, and he’s smiling back at me as I’m writing this post. And occasionally, when I feel bad, I remember those long gone days together—driving around in his car, walking in the woods, visiting his friends. Because sometimes, especially when life is difficult,  it can seem that all we have left are some good memories of the past.

I believe doing these four things regularly helps us appreciate how precious our little time on earth is. Of course, gratitude doesn’t inoculate us against feeling bad at all times, and it sure as hell doesn’t take away the grief. But it can be a powerful practice to help us live life fully while we have the chance—and to keep those alive who we have lost.

About Manuel Kraus

Manuel Kraus is the founder of Pocketcoach. It’s a chat bot that guides you through a program to manage stress and anxiety—step by step and one day at a time. You can try it for free here.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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3 Ways to Stop Worrying and Feel Less Anxious

“There isn’t enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there.” ~Sir Robertson

Do you consider yourself a worrier?

Maybe even a perfectionist or Type A personality?

When I’m not at my best, I can be all of those things combined. (Not cute, I know.)

Because of this, I know exactly what it feels like to be stuck in my head, with tightness in my chest and emotional wrenches in my gut.

If you also struggle with worry and anxiety, then I feel you. I rode the worry struggle bus for a long time—until I finally addressed my psychology.

Why Your Psychology Matters Most

My aunt once told me (after I called her in the middle of a freak out), “You’re worried because you’re trying to control the future Kari, and that’s impossible.”

Woah. Paradigm shift. That’s when it all ‘clicked’ and I realized that my issues with worry and anxiety were all self-created.

Then it got me wondering… If I created this worry and anxiety with my thoughts, maybe I can create relaxation with my thoughts too.

After researching the psychology of worry, I learned some practices that helped transition me from an uptight chronic worrier into a pretty relaxed person. I still have my moments, but it’s nothing like before.

Today, I’d like to share three of my best practices with you. I hope they can help you reduce your worry and anxiety too.

Let’s start with the most practical piece of advice.

1. Practice using coping imagery.

This involves visualizing yourself handling worst-case scenarios with confidence.

And just to be clear: You’re visualizing the worst-case scenario, not the best case. It’s like defensive pessimism, which can actually help with anxiety more than positive thinking.

So instead of worrying about being crushed by the worst-case scenario, try visualizing yourself handling it with confidence.

Here’s an example (that I cringe to share with you because it seems so silly in hindsight):

I recently started dating a guy who I developed some serious feelings for. I had the most successful first date of my life with him, and it’s been amazing ever since.

But instead of getting excited about the potential, I started worrying about all the things that could go wrong. (Like I said, being a worrier is self-created misery!)

Specifically, I was worried that in the future we wouldn’t be able to see each other for weeks because he was crazy busy. I grew anxious over feeling devastated in the future by the potential lack of quality time I crave.

Although it wasn’t even a problem yet, I started worrying about making plans to the point where I started sabotaging the romance by “trying too hard.”

I let my anxiety consume me, and I became the chaser instead of allowing something beautiful to naturally unfold. I hated that I started to sabotage something beautiful, but in that moment, (it felt like) I couldn’t help myself.

And this is where the switch happens.

Instead of worrying about how devastated I would feel if we couldn’t spend time together, I started visualizing myself feeling okay if I didn’t get to see him. (I chose “okay” instead of “happy” because it needs to be realistic.)

Instead of thinking about the void, I thought about all the other wonderful things I could do with my time, like surf or entertain my hobbies.

This seriously helped put my mind and body at ease! Here are more details for the process:

How to Do It

To practice using coping imagery, start by imagining the situation that brings you anxiety. How do you feel? What are you thinking?

Then, start to imagine a warm glow of confidence radiating from you. Imagine being in that situation feeling totally confident and capable. How does it feel? What are you thinking?

Then, imagine something going wrong—something that you’re worried about—and imagine yourself handling that situation with confidence and ease too. What thoughts and feelings helped you handle it

Get comfortable with these thoughts and feelings and keep mentally practicing them.

This “mental rehearsal” helps activate neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to rewire itself and form new neural connections, like new thought loops.

The more you practice using coping imagery, the more you strengthen the new thought loops for positive thinking (or defensive pessimism) and weaken the thought loops for worrying.

In time, you’ll naturally become less of a worrier because your brain has been trained to think confident thoughts instead of worrisome thoughts.

2. Be willing to feel uncomfortable.

Worry and anxiety often come from trying to protect yourself from pain. And I don’t blame you. Our primal brain is wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain; and anxiety is often caused by worrying about the potential pain that we might feel in the future.

Sometimes we’re so afraid of emotional pain and loss that we forget that they can’t physically harm us.

And this is where the saying “make peace with discomfort” will serve you very well; because your ability to be uncomfortable is directly related to your ability to be a relaxed person.

Sometimes we assume that we need to be comfortable in order to be relaxed. But sometimes being relaxed simply means feeling uncomfortable and being okay with that.

The more discomfort you’re able to tolerate, the less you’ll worry about preventing it from happening.

For me, I had to develop the skill of tolerating uncertainty (which is an uncomfortable feeling for me) in my dating life. Although uncertainty feels uncomfortable, I learned to make space for it instead of worrying about making it go away.

If you want to develop the skill of tolerating discomfort too, here’s how you can do it:

How to Do It

A great way to train yourself to tolerate discomfort is to take cold showers. Yup! Even just a five-minute cold shower a day can train your brain to tolerate discomfort.

Not into cold showers? Another great practice is setting aside fifteen minutes every day as your “uncomfortable practice periods.” These practice periods will help you develop the skill of tolerating discomfort.

So whenever you start to feel uncomfortable in your daily life, use it as practice. Hold space for the discomfort and make peace with it as best you can.

For example, if you really hate public speaking, then use your weekly company meeting as a place to practice being uncomfortable by speaking up at least once.

The more you practice feeling uncomfortable, the better you will get at being uncomfortable. And the more uncomfortable you’re willing to be, the less worry and anxiety you will feel.

You’ll learn to let life unfold naturally without worry.

3. Plan what you can and let the rest unfold.

During the months preceding graduation from college I experienced the biggest bout of anxiety and worry that ever consumed me.

What if I don’t get any interviews? What if I totally flunk the interview I get? What if I get the job and hate it? What if, what if, what if?

Fueled by tons of stress, I worked really hard to apply to dozens of jobs before I graduated. In constant panic mode, I refused to leave my desk to play because I was convinced that every ounce of my energy needed to be dedicated to solving this problem.

In the end, I ended up getting a job through a friend who happened to mention the opportunity through random conversation.

I couldn’t have planned for that.

All my preparation paid off, but there was one lesson that I took away from all the unnecessary worry and anxiety:

If I had done everything the same, but did it all in a relaxed fashion, I would have created the same result.

“Let go of the idea that gentle, relaxed people can’t be superachievers… One of the major reasons so many of us remain hurried, frightened, and competitive, and continue to live life as if it were one giant emergency, is our fear that if we were to become more peaceful and loving, we would suddenly stop achieving our goals.” ~Richard Carlson

Sometimes we get tripped up thinking that stress is somehow essential for getting things done. And while some stress is beneficial, extreme stress and anxiety are not necessary for success.

You can be a totally relaxed person and still get everything done—without worry.

How to Do It

Sit down and write down all the things you’re worried/stressed about. Then pretend like you’re coaching someone else with those problems.

What advice would you give them? What steps would you have them take?

Then, follow those steps and stop there. Don’t worry about whether or not you did enough. You followed your own advice, and you can relax about the rest.

Plan what you can, and then breathe. Don’t let your mind continue to race about all the things that could go wrong (unless you’re using Coping Imagery).

Just have faith that what’s meant to be will be, and let the universe carry you for a while.

You’ve Got This

Together, these three steps helped me seriously reduce my anxiety and worry. Will you join me and try them too?

Start by making coping imagery and “uncomfortable practice periods” daily habits. This will help you develop the skill of tolerating discomfort, and your worry and anxiety will lessen.

In time, you will get better at letting life unfold the way it was always meant to be.

Some days you might still find yourself on the worry struggle bus. But maybe this time you’ll feel like you’re in the driver’s seat.

About Kari Dahlgren

Kari Dahlgren is an anti-diet weight loss coach with a radical philosophy: You can love yourself lighter. Learn the tools to stop binge eating and love your body by subscribing to her new YouTube channel and following her blog!

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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How I Stopped Emotional Eating and Started Feeling Better About Life

“Don’t forget you’re human. It’s okay to have a meltdown, just don’t unpack and live there.” ~Unknown

For the longest time, I wanted to lose weight. I wasn’t terribly overweight but it seemed to me that if I could just have the perfect body, life would be amazing.

So, I threw everything but the kitchen sink at my food and exercise habits.

Never one to settle for small wins, I pushed myself to have the perfect diet—I prepped meals at home, didn’t eat out very much, and worked out as often as I could. Yes, the kind where I would run myself ragged and feel exhausted for the next two days.

My day until 7 p.m. would go according to plan. I’d use all of my willpower to eat right. The moment I finished work, though, life would go downhill. I would self-sabotage, stuffing myself at dinner and snacking until midnight to feel better.

I would fall asleep feeling guilty, sick, and ashamed of what I was doing. I would berate myself for not having the self-control and the discipline—this was just a pack of cookies and I couldn’t even say no to it?

I hated myself while I walked to the convenience store at midnight to sneakily buy another pack of chips. It seemed like I was compelled to eat against my will. My life felt out of control and there was nothing I could do about it. More than anything, it was this feeling of helplessness that really hurt.

At the same time, I had a career in Fortune 50—by all outward means a great job at an amazing company—yet I was sad, disenchanted, and felt like I didn’t belong in my first couple of years there.

In hindsight, I can see how I turned to food for comfort; it was why I always overate at night when I was drained out after a long day. It was the time when I needed soothing to make myself feel better, to numb the voices in my head that told me I didn’t belong, and to quieten my mind, which was always searching for answers to existentialist questions of “what is my purpose in life?”

The more and more I ate to soothe myself, the more and more my body craved food. I felt restless if I wasn’t stuffed. Instead of stopping to deal with the pain rationally, I tried to use diet, exercise, and willpower to exert some semblance of control over my otherwise clueless life.

Soon, I realized that I was in a deep hole and that all conventional attempts to get myself out of it weren’t working. I couldn’t go on feeling like this day in and day out, so I began to make a series of mindset and behavioral shifts to start feeling happy again.

As a bonus, I also lost twenty pounds in six months, stopped having cravings, and finally felt in control of my life again.

My biggest mindset shift was being compassionate with myself.

  • Where previously I judged myself harshly, now I try to do my best without criticism.
  • Where previously I would look for perfection, now I accept that I am dealing with a difficult period in my life and it’s okay to fail sometimes.
  • Where previously I would try to numb my emotions, now I accept that I can’t fix them immediately.
  • Where previously I would expect myself to overcome challenges in a jiffy, now I realize that these things take time.

My biggest behavioral shift was noticing and facing my emotions.

1. I began to notice and realize for the first time when I actually overate.

For me, it was at night after work, and no degree of willpower or keeping trigger foods out of reach seemed to help. Just noticing this pattern, however, helped me anticipate what was coming so I wasn’t caught off guard. Automatically, this made me feel more in control of what was going on with my eating.

2. I started noticing my feelings during the urge.

What was that emotion, raw and murky, that I sub-consciously didn’t want to face? Was it tiredness or sadness? Exhaustion or a pick-me-up? Often, the reality of a purposeless existence hit me hard once I was back home and all alone. The last thing I wanted to do at that point was deal with it, so I ate to forget it instead.

3. I honed it on what I actually wanted to feel—what was it that food would give me?

Did I want to be warm and comforted? In control? Alert? I was always seeking comfort, so I made myself some hot tea and sipped it mindfully, feeling the tea warming my entire body. I always eventually took a deep breath at the end of it and I felt much better.

Sometimes this relief was only temporary; I would be fine for a few hours, but by midnight I would be reaching out for food again. That’s when I realized that I also needed to face my emotions.

4. I had to take the hard step and allow myself to feel my emotions.

For me, it was sadness and hopelessness. I didn’t try to forget it. I didn’t try to distract myself from it. I just accepted the feeling.

Sometimes, it would wash over me like a tide and I’d feel like crying. At other times, I felt numb and empty. All of these feelings were only natural and perfectly normal. My body and mind were just seeking some acknowledgement and I would feel a sense of relief that the knot of emotion that was so tied up inside me was finally out.

5. On some days, allowing myself to feel my emotions was enough. On other days I had to address my feelings head on even if they made me uncomfortable.

I asked myself why I kept feeling this way. Was I just tired and overworked? Was I unhappy at where I was in life? I kept asking myself why again and again until I found a reason that resonated with me, that wasn’t just another justification to myself. I was experiencing a quarter-life crisis, it was affecting me every day and that was okay, because now I could deal with it rationally.

6. Lastly, I always gave myself the choice to eat at the end of this exercise.

If I still wanted to eat, that was fine. If I didn’t, that was fine too. It was important to me that I controlled my actions, and wasn’t a victim to my feelings.

In hindsight, I realize that at the end of the day, it’s not our conscious habits or behaviors that determine our happiness. It’s our unconscious desires, fears, and emotions that go unaddressed that eat us up from within, literally in this case.

If you want to stop emotional eating, recognize that it started as a symptom of something much larger—perhaps dissatisfaction with your career, finances, or relationships—something you didn’t want to face head on.

As the eating habit evolves, it gets more and more compulsive so there is a combination of mental, behavioral, and emotional hacks that all need to work together to heal. That is why conventional dieting and fitness advice doesn’t work. That is why relying on willpower doesn’t work. It’s normal that these things don’t help, and you’re normal for feeling this way.

Remember that how you respond to an emotion or a craving is your choice, always.

However hopeless you may be feeling now, know that you have the power to make changes that can transform your life. You just have to start again, even if you fail sometimes—but this time, start differently. Use your emotional awareness to beat comfort eating at its own game.

About Sai Aparajitha Gopalakrishnan

Sai helps ambitious women quit emotional eating and cravings so they can focus on their careers and families instead of fighting food all the time. A childhood psych buff and big-time foodie, Sai blogs at My Spoonful Of Soul. Get her three exclusive free gifts for Tiny Buddha readers that step-by-step guide them on their journey to quit emotional eating.

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3 Things That Are Helping Me Deal with Stress, Pain, and Loss

“Being on a spiritual path does not prevent you from facing times of darkness; but it teaches you how to use the darkness as a tool to grow.” ~Unknown

Life has not been kind lately.

My aunt passed away in October. She had been suffering from cancer, but her family kept the extent of her illness to themselves, and hence I did not have a chance to see her before she passed away. I felt bad about that.

My father followed her a month later, just after Thanksgiving. He had been ailing from Parkinson’s Disease, but his death as well was not expected when it happened.

Two weeks after him, a friend of mine who lives abroad informed me of her diagnosis with a rare form of incurable cancer. She has since passed away before I had a chance to visit her. She was not yet fifty years old.

Right after that happened, the veterinarian diagnosed my dog with heart failure, and his days too are numbered.

In mid-January, my mother, who had been depressed after my father’s death, collapsed with a seizure. A tumor was discovered in her brain. Though easily removed, it was traced back to her lung. She too has a rare form of aggressive cancer and though outwardly healthy, her life will probably be limited to months or a couple of years.

The whole ordeal until diagnosis unfolded over the course of an extremely stressful month, and the future is both frightening and terribly uncertain. Because of this uncertainty, I have needed to change my life plans—I had been ready to relocate and change jobs.

In the last two weeks, I have had another friend in her forties diagnosed with advanced cancer with a poor prognosis, and my sister’s marriage has come apart.

Every week it seems brings some new tragedy. As just about everyone who knows me has said: “It’s a lot.” It certainly is.

I can’t put a happy face on this. Life has just been awful, and I wake up each day praying for no more bad news. There has been such a procession of misfortune that I feel more numb than anything else.

And yet, I haven’t been destroyed. I’m not depressed. When someone is depressed, whether it’s situational or clinical, they often become self-obsessed and turn just about any event, however positive, into a negative commentary on their life. I’ve been there before, and this is not depression.

I’m scared, but I feel strong. I know I can handle this. And, I’m very thankful—thankful for what gave me the strength to endure these times: my spiritual journey.

In 2012, after a years-long series of illnesses, bad romantic relationships, frayed friendships, work drama, and general instability in my life, I had a total breakdown.

By “breakdown” I mean the whole nine yards—massive depression, professional psychological help, medication, and inability to work or even function normally. However, following this breakdown came the clichéd spiritual awakening.

This spiritual awakening taught me so many things, most of which you’ve probably already read about, for example: the ego, the importance of being present, the power of vulnerability, etc.

It was such a fragile period of intense learning and growth built atop a well of deep suffering. It felt terrible, but I learned and changed so much. Though it’s unlikely that I will experience such drastic spiritual growth in such a short period of time again, I realized that I had embarked on a life-long spiritual journey with no end.

Along the way, there have been fewer but no less rewarding “Aha moments” and new realizations made possible by the consciousness I had gained. Furthermore, there have been many spiritual tests, and each time I worry that I will fail to live the lessons I’ve already internalized, I surprise myself and come through.

And now I’ve reached an objectively extraordinarily difficult time. This is not a crisis of egoic drama or hurt feelings but real pain—physical suffering and death for so many people who I care about in a matter of months.

While the spiritual journey is a continuum with multiple themes that are difficult to unravel from each other, there are a few concepts that are sustaining me through it all:

1. Presence and the now

The weight of all of it has pushed me into a very intense NOW. I try not to hope because hope has let me down a lot recently, but perhaps more importantly, hope is focused on an unknowable and largely inalterable future. Though in the context of a lot of terrible events, rarely is there anything wrong with this very moment. Despite the pain of recent events, right now there is so much going right.

Choosing to focus on the good isn’t delusional—it’s an accurate reflection of reality.

My mother is dying. We don’t know when and there isn’t too much we can do, but thinking of that future is enough to ruin every day. And yet, with our time together now so valuable, I have no choice but to be fully present with her as much as I can.

I have experienced so much loss recently, but bitterly clinging to that loss will distract me from the precious time I have left with my mother and friends, and it will do nothing to bring back my dad, my aunt, or anyone else.

However, there isn’t much wrong with right now. My mom isn’t suffering, I’m lucky to be free from work to be with her, and my family has come together in support of each other. The birds sing each morning, the weather is fine, and the forest near our house is beautiful. That’s all real too, and there is much joy to be had in each moment.

Should something arise in the moment, that’s when I’ll deal with it. While I do occasionally find myself worrying over the future, that serves no purpose and only spoils the now.

2. Boundaries

In times of extreme stress when so many things are going wrong, it is critical to exercise self-care; you cannot be a positive force in the world if you’re falling apart inside.

Boundaries are key to protecting your time and energy, which are particularly challenged in very difficult times, from behaviors that drain them. However, most of the time life is much easier, so we allow people to skate by and “go along to get along” as not to be difficult. After all, we don’t want to seem mean or selfish or unforgiving. We aim to please.

However, while the importance of boundaries is particularly stark in times of crisis, even in normal times they play an important role in self-care and building healthy relationships.  This is clear when we see what can happen when we don’t enforce boundaries.

Oftentimes, trying to be nice and agreeable, we allow someone to repeatedly cross the line with no repercussions. As our resentment builds, we may act out in retaliation, doing nothing helpful for ourselves or the world.

A relationship of true intimacy and mutual respect should be able to easily withstand one party making his or her boundaries clear. If the other can’t handle that, then how deep of relationship is it anyway? In fact, establishing a level of trust with someone to feel comfortable enough to discuss boundaries is in itself a sign of a strong relationship.

Enforcing boundaries involves a level of honesty that can deepen relationships.

During my mother’s time in the hospital, frustrated with being confined to bed, she unleashed a stream of vitriol at me that were without a doubt the most hurtful words anyone has ever said to me.

As difficult as it was to do with her health in such a fragile state, I felt I had no choice; I had to enforce my boundaries. If I am to be her primary caregiver, I couldn’t endure a situation in which she directs her frustrations at me—it wouldn’t work for me, and it wouldn’t work for her. Unfortunately, it was a repeated behavior of hers over many years.

Without getting into the details, we had a very frank discussion about this, and to be fair, it’s something I let her get away with for a long time by not enforcing my boundaries.

While initially very painful, this talk led to me sharing deep dark memories and thoughts I never would have otherwise said and clearing a lot of what stood in the way of our relationship as mother and son. That very likely would not have happened had I not stood firm, and I never would have established that open a relationship with her.  However long she has left in this world, I know that this issue, my past hurt from her actions, won’t stand between us again.

3. Having an open mind

When faced with a diagnosis as dire as what my mom was given, unless you completely give up, keeping an open mind is often the only way to find good news that you would have otherwise overlooked.

For example, in beginning my research on this type of cancer, I was dismayed to learn that there has been no material change to the standard of care in about forty years. All of those recent breakthroughs in cancer treatment you’ve heard about, they don’t apply to this one!

However, rather than declaring defeat right away, I did decide to dig a little deeper. What I found was that there actually are a lot of clinical trials going on in our area for this type of cancer, many of which may provide a good second-line treatment option. Moreover, one of the trial drugs is very likely to get FDA approval in the next year, giving us some options where before there was none. Taking advantage of these would require changing hospitals, so these are developments I never would have learned about had I given up.

I’ve been reminded to keep an open mind about people too. My mother, typically pretty volatile, has faced this all with amazing strength and equanimity—certainly more than I’ve shown! For someone totally uninterested in spirituality, she shown a remarkable perspective on all of this in the context of her life, with which she is very satisfied.

My sister, also going through marital problems while taking care of her baby and usually very emotional, has coped perhaps the best of any of us and has exhibited some very healthy habits for staying even. My brother, on the other hand, himself a doctor, has probably been the most scattered and emotionally crippled by the recent events.

The point is that whatever you think you know about a person, it can change any day, any time. People can surprise you, for better or worse. While it’s totally rational to make judgment calls about peoples’ strengths and weaknesses, abilities and attributes, you must always realize that you can be wrong, or that the person might change—in fact, people are changing all of time!

Spirituality is not about finding a happy hiding place insulated from temporal concerns. It’s quite the opposite—it’s about moving through life with eyes and arms wide open to whatever happens. It’s the way we get down in the mud and go through the wringer and remain who we are.

Spirituality is a muscle. It gets stronger with exercise, and exercise causes discomfort. But once recuperated, you find you’re able to lift even more weight than before.

I’ve never had to deal with such a painful series of events, and hopefully I never will again. But however insignificant what I’ve already been through seems in comparison, that past started me on a spiritual journey that prepared me for this present time. Whatever happens, I know I’ll emerge stronger from this too.

About Joshua Kauffman

Joshua Kauffman is a recovering over-achiever and workaholic. Leaving behind a high-powered life in business, he has become a world traveler, aspiring coach, and entrepreneur of pretty things. Amateur author of a recent memoir Footprints Through The Desert, he is trying to find ways to share his awakening experience, particularly to those lost in the rat race like he was.

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It’s Okay to Have Feelings, So Stop Saying “I’m Fine” When You’re Not

I’d rather be honest and authentic and disappoint some people than to exhaust myself trying to keep up the façade of perfection.” ~Crystal Paine

So many people walk around each day masking their true feelings because they are considered the “strong one,” “the upbeat, bubbly one,” or, since they give so much of themselves supporting others, they’re not seen as having any emotions other than happy. If you’ve ever felt like you had to hold it together all the time to keep up a façade for others, there’s freedom in letting people know that you have feelings too.

Keeping it together has always been my thing. You know the phrase “never let ’em see you sweat”? Well, even in my worst moments, I would keep it all in place and poised for the public, but I’d be secretly dying on the inside, because of the pain or challenges I was going through.

It can catch some people off guard to see you be real, revealing that you don’t have it all together, and at times their responses can leave you wounded. I know that feeling all too well.

A few months back, I attended an event to support a colleague and I bumped into someone I knew well. He asked me how I was doing, and I responded honestly with “I’m hanging in there, but I’m fine.”

He immediately made a face and seemed disturbed by my response. He said, “Woooooah, you gotta change that. You sound too defeated and that’s not what I want to hear from you.”

He went on to say, “What you said makes me want to back away from you and go the opposite direction. It’s too much for me. You must always answer with a positive response.” He then went on to provide ways for me to respond in the near future.    

What this person didn’t know was, I was feeling down and discouraged because I felt I wasn’t as far as I should be in my life and business.

I had poured all of myself into doing things to get the business running consistently; however, whenever I looked at all the effort I put in and saw things not happening as quickly as I thought they should, I felt as if I’d failed. So, it was a tough time as I sorted through those different emotions.

At first, I felt lousy about my response, because with me being considered the “upbeat, strong one,” always smiling and helping others to feel better, there is an assumption of how I should be at all times. I thought I had somehow let that person down by revealing my true feelings in that moment. I also felt embarrassed, because I’d exposed a small part of myself and felt like I was rejected and told how I should sound.

But after I thought about it, I realized I was fine with my response because it was a genuine answer. I am on a path of making true connections with others, and I no longer want to “act” and pretend to be fine when I’m not.

While this person didn’t have any ill intent and actually thought he was being helpful in telling me how I should respond, it clearly made it uncomfortable for me to open up to him the next time around.

It made me think about why some people try to force others to hide behind a mask. Why do people expect you to always be “on”?

This was a moment for someone to find out what was truly going on with me, to find out why I seemed so down and to make a true connection, instead of offering me another mask to wear in his presence.

This led me to wonder, when we ask people “How are you doing?” are we really open to an honest response or are we looking to hear the template response we so often hear, “I’m fine”?

I also thought about how many people wear a mask every day or keep a façade to avoid showing their humanity and potentially making others feel uncomfortable. The people we interact with every day are carrying worries, concerns, and emotional pain within, and we cannot ask them to put on a fake smiley face and tell them to be on their way. These people need someone to truly see them.

If you sometimes hide your true feeling behind a mask, here are a few ways to begin opening up.

Practice honestly connecting with people, even if you start small.

As psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith wrote, “When you open your mouth, you’re also opening your heart. And knowing that someone truly hears what you are feeling and understands you is soothing to the soul.”

If you’re not accustomed to opening your heart to people, start small by sharing one thing you’re thinking or feeling but may be tempted to keep inside. Opening up to others will allow you the space to be yourself, and from there you’ll clearly see who’s willing to receive what you have to say with an open heart. You’ll also begin to forge deeper relationships through your honest connections.

Also, be the person who allows others the space to just be, and offer support and guidance as needed. Ask about their lives, and let them know you’re happy to be a nonjudgmental ear. Giving people room to share pieces of themselves lets them know you’re there for them and they can be honest with you.

Allow yourself space to feel.

Many times when we avoid sharing our feelings with others, it’s because we haven’t given ourselves space to identify and process our emotions. We try to cover them up or engage in activities to mask the pain, but they don’t go away when we do this. Left unprocessed, our feelings tend to leak out in other ways. For example, we may overreact in unrelated situations.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel, without judgment, and learn to recognize when you’re lying to yourself, telling yourself you’re “fine” when you’re not. The first step to being honest with others is being honest with yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

We tend to beat ourselves up when we do not respond, act, speak, or think how others believe we should. This can put pressure on us to shift to meet everyone else’s needs without truly acknowledging our own.

Get in the habit of checking in with yourself and meeting your emotional needs, whether that means processing your feelings in a journal or practicing self-care. The more you respect your truth and your needs, the better you’ll be able to communicate them to others.

It’s a heavy burden to hide behind a façade or wear a mask. Allow yourself to experience the freedom of being authentic in each moment and making genuine connections with people who can receive your feelings.

There’s power in putting down your super hero cape, being vulnerable, and sharing your truth. You don’t have to hide, pretend, or feel bad about not always being the “strong one.” You’re not weak, you’re human, and you never have to apologize for that.

About Raphaela Browne

Raphaela Browne is a Certified Transformation + Career Coach and Nonprofit Organizational Consultant, committed to supporting professional women and organizations with embracing change and transitioning seamlessly to their next big thing. Schedule a complimentary session by clicking the link Schedule your session here or visit her at for more information.

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How to Tune Out Your Inner Critic and Enjoy More of Your Life

“Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.” ~Lisa M. Hayes

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a laser-sharp focus on achieving “success.” From the outside, it looks like I’m pretty close to it, too. But on the inside, I wasn’t allowing myself to acknowledge any of it.

I never gave myself the chance to feel like I was doing something right. I started to think that the only way to ensure I keep growing, improving, and achieving was to stop allowing myself to experience the little victories completely. Satisfaction became a dangerous word.

My self-talk turned into “Okay, that was decent, but you can do better…” or “Alright, that’s over, and you need to focus on this now…”

I was giving myself no time to congratulate myself or realize my competence, and this mindset was draining.

In his book The Charge, Brendon Burchard wrote “if we don’t recognize what we’ve accomplished in life—even the small things—then we never feel accomplished.”

I can confirm this from personal experience.

When I was sixteen, I won a national track race in the 800m. When I look back at it, I realize how incredible of an accomplishment that was, and I’m proud of myself. But, in that moment, when I crossed the finish line first, I didn’t feel that amazing feeling of success that I had dreamed of. Don’t get me wrong, I was fully aware of what I had just done and how impressive it was, but the spark wasn’t there.

And that’s because I had dulled it. I hadn’t allowed it to have a voice, so it stopped talking. Instead, the voice that I was giving all the power to was my inner critic, and she definitely was not helping.

Not only was my inner critic present when I was achieving great things, but she practically took over when life was going downhill. After my successful track season, I was determined to reach my wildest goals and dreams in the next one. However, my perfectly defined plan got destroyed when I experienced my first real injury.

One week of disappointment turned into six weeks of agony. I couldn’t run, and I felt myself getting more and more out of shape every day. I was panicking, and my happiness disintegrated.

But I don’t even think that was the hardest part. I was severely mentally tested when I finally did get to train again.

I was so behind, and I was getting my butt kicked in every workout. My previous joy of crushing workouts was now replaced with merely trying to survive. I quickly realized that I couldn’t place my happiness in reaching goal times and slaying 400 repeats—I had to find something else to fuel my fire.

And I found it in gratefulness.

Instead of worrying about embarrassing myself in the next workout, I focused on this: I’m grateful I’m healthy, I’m grateful I get to do it, and I’m grateful that I get to experience the beautiful burn of getting in better shape.

Screw the outcome; I’m grateful for the process.

I wish I could say that I had an awesome track season, but I didn’t. I felt like I was getting thrown on the ground, kicked in the head, allowed to get back up, and then thrown down again.

I went back to the national meet and didn’t place anywhere close to where I had the previous year, got beat by people I knew I should’ve beaten, and got rejected from multiple colleges I was hoping to run at.

But, throughout this dark time, I found something that I had previously covered up and thrown in a dusty corner of my brain: my inner cheerleader.

Yes, I got beat badly at the national meet, but I ran with guts. Yes, my body was not in peak fitness, but I believed I would eventually get there. My inner cheerleader started to experience greater strength as I allowed myself to remember my little victories, and as she came to power, my inner critic began to weaken.

When it came time to prepare for track again, I decided that things were going to be different. I was done being stressed, worried, nervous, unhappy… I was going to run because I loved to run.

The focus was on gratitude. Yes, I was going to go for my goal times in workouts, but if I worked hard and didn’t hit them, it was okay. I was grateful I got to run.

Yes, I was going to put lots of emphasis on getting an adequate amount of sleep, but if I had to stay up later one night to finish a paper, I wasn’t going to beat myself up. I was grateful that I had the work ethic and motivation to do my paper.

In his book How Bad Do You Want It? Mark Fitzgerald wrote “‘Gratitude’ is about letting go of desired outcomes and fully embracing the privilege and process of pursuing goals and dreams.”

This mindset has not only helped me to regain that spark I had been missing, but it’s given me better results. I record all my workouts in a training journal, and ten times out of ten, my best workouts come from the ones when I am grateful and focused on the process, and not trying to force myself to hit certain times.

Even though I’ve made leaps and bounds, it’s a battle every day. And that’s okay, because all worthwhile things require a battle. When I do crush a workout, I find myself wanting to return back to my super-intense, outcome-focused, controlling mindset.

And sometimes I slip up and get consumed by my inner critic, but I always come back to my inner cheerleader once I realize I’m sucking all the fun out of my life. It’s an ongoing process, but it is one that I’m willing and excited to go through.

Turning off your inner critic can help everyone; if you want to succeed in life, giving power to your inner cheerleader will send you in the right direction. Here are three ways to get started:

1. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Start writing down all the awesome things you have done in the past five years.

Make sure you include even the smallest, seemingly trivial accomplishments. Give yourself at least five to ten minutes to do this (more if you want!) and once time is up, read it over. Use this to remind yourself that you are capable, competent, and amazing.

2. Know that you have power to choose your own conscious thoughts.

We all fall prey to negative thoughts, but at the same time, we all have the choice of how much strength we are going to give them. Your inner critic will continuously try to show up, but let the words pass by without giving them any weight or importance, and replace it with something from your inner cheerleader. It’s not a forced shunning of your inner critic, but instead, lack of response to it.

3. Laugh more.

I interviewed a man who ran 100-mile races, and his suggestion for dealing with negative thoughts was “laugh them off as soon as they pop into your head.” Don’t stress about everything, instead, finding it funny that you are even stressing about it.

As a final thought, life is meant to be enjoyed. It’s a gift. Stop worrying about being perfect, doing everything right, and achieving “success,” and start living. When you focus on the journey, life is so much more beautiful, and it will allow you to appreciate the victories so much more. And I promise you, you’re going to have victories. So, smile, because the future is bright.

About Brynn Sauer

Brynn Sauer is a high school senior who loves running, reading, yoga, and studying successful people. She is obsessed with the brain and how much power it holds, and loves to listen to podcasts and read books on the topic. You can find her at where blogs about ways to get an edge in life, and follow her on Instagram @brynn_sauer.

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Loving Yourself Through Addiction and Relapse: Be Patient with the Process

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~Nelson Mandela

It’s a cold winter day. As I plunge my hand down into the wax paper bag, I fully expect to find another bite or two. But, alas, there are only crumbs.

A distinct wave of sadness shoots through my heart. The chocolate scone is gone. And I don’t even remember eating it.

It is in this moment that I wake up. I quickly shake my head from side to side, as if rousing myself from a long night of troubled dreams.

What have I just done? What about the vow I’ve made to myself, again and again?

For years I have known that the best thing for my body’s healing process is to eat fresh, whole, organic foods (lots of leafy greens, fruits, and nuts!) and to avoid ingredients that overstimulate my endocrine and nervous systems, such as sugar and wheat flour.

And yet, today, here I am again. Eating some stupid, cheap scone I picked up on impulse at the local bakery. Full of who-knows-what ingredients.

Here I am again. Ignoring my own wisdom. Falling back into the food addiction that has plagued me since childhood.

Today I have lost control.

I pull my car over into a parking lot. (Yes, I have been mindlessly scarfing that darned scone while driving!) I take a deep breath.

Now is definitely the time for some self-love.

Addiction is a Dirty Band-Aid 

Whether you struggle with a food addiction like I do or you deal with drug or alcohol addiction, every addiction is the same. An addiction is a loss of control over one’s behavior.

Our addictive behaviors don’t just randomly happen for no reason. They are a symptom of a deeper issue.

Why do we get addicted?

That scone or that cocktail or that cigarette brings about a temporary cessation of suffering. They block sadness, tension, fear, pain, boredom, and anger. They numb any and all negative emotions.

To put it simply, an addiction is a coping mechanism. It allows us to trudge onward in life, but without really looking toward the deeper issues.

An addiction may be a short-lived, temporary cure for the pain—but, as we all know, it’s not a long-term solution.

Running to our addiction is like slapping a Band-Aid on the wound—a Band-Aid that is dirty. Over time, the wound gets infected with the dirt and grime, and it worsens rather than heals.

The Addiction is Not the Problem

Here’s the thing about addiction, dear friends: The addiction is not really the problem. The addiction is the glaring symptom.

If we can look deeper than the symptom and see the situation from a holistic point of view, then we may begin to bring about a resolution to much of the suffering in our lives.

So, what is the deeper issue? What lies at the root of addiction?

Ultimately, all addiction—no matter the type or the severity—stems from a lack of connection. When we feel disconnected from other people, from our society, from our deepest hopes and dreams, and from a sense of love, then this disconnection brings about powerful emotions. These emotions hurt, and so we run to the seeming solace of the addiction.

The addiction may seem, on the surface, as if it’s the problem, but actually it’s not. The addiction is, in reality, a helpful pointer, showing us that there’s some internal healing we need to do.

The wonderful thing about addiction is that it is a powerful red STOP sign. It screams loudly: “Look! There’s a problem!”

Addictions help us get in touch with our inner self. Just like a cough helps us connect with the needs of our lungs (do I need fresh air? do I need more exercise? do I need to take certain herbs?), an addiction helps us get in touch with the needs of our heart.

Our heart is the seat of all emotion. Our heart is where feelings arise, are felt, and then released.

When we feel a lack of connection and love, we do not feel safe. We do not feel safe enough to explore the many emotions that can arise as a human being in our daily lives.

When we feel disconnected, negative emotions can feel overwhelming and scary. This is particularly true for those with abuse or trauma in their life history.

The addictive behavior is a misguided attempt to self-soothe. We believe that if we eat that scone or we drink that beer, then those scary emotions will stop and we will somehow be safe, somehow feel connected again.

But we all know that doesn’t work. What ends up happening is that, once the temporary high wears off, we are left feeling crappier than ever.

The addiction is not the problem. The problem, rather, is the false perception that there is no love, no connection.

Rising from Bottom

The cliché of the “rock bottom” is a cliché because it’s true. Most addicts eventually experience it.

Rock bottom looks different for everyone. It will have varying levels of intensity and consequences.

For some, the bottom is drastic: a suicide attempt, an illness, or a hospitalization. For some, it will simply be a very sad day when they realize that the time has come to change.

This time of rock bottom is the moment when we begin to wake up. It’s the time when the healing can truly begin.

For me, my rock bottom with food addiction came when my body had disintegrated nearly to the point of death.

I was on my perhaps my tenth round of antibiotics that year and having a severe allergic reaction to the medication. Delusional with a high fever, unable to lift myself from bed and barely able to call for help, I realized I probably would not live much longer if I did not change just about everything in my life. Shortly after, I began to explore the world of alternative medicine and began to clean up my diet.

We can think of this rock bottom—this intense realization that things need to shift—as the bottom of a spiral. This spiral begins at ground zero, and it moves upward through time.

As the days, weeks, and months pass, and we dedicate ourselves to a new way of being, we will have various challenges that arise. We will learn and grow and allow our emotions to be felt, rather than running from them. We will heal old wounds from childhood that have been lurking for many years.

Over time, with patience, we will be slowly shifting our perspective. We will become a new and better version. We will be moving from contracted perceptions of disconnection, lack, and fear, into expanded perspectives of connection, abundance, and love.

Through the adoption of various healing practices such as meditation, support groups, therapy, prayer, Reiki, or exercise, we come into greater harmony within ourselves. We learn to love ourselves.

Relapses and the Spiral of Evolution

In my struggle with addiction (not just with food, but with many other substances over the years), I have realized I am grateful to addiction. Addiction has played a very powerful role in my spiritual evolution.

Addiction is a powerful point of change. It is a journey inward. It the journey of becoming aware and conscious.

As we humans make this journey, and break the cycles of addiction, it’s so important to remember that change is not linear and it’s often not easy. Relapses happen.

The spiral analogy can be helpful. If we imagine that we are travelling upwards in consciousness, to greater and greater levels of joy, power, and self-awareness, then we can avoid traps of self-blame when we do occasionally relapse.

That day when I woke up to find scone crumbs on my lap was a challenging day indeed. I’d just had a disagreement with my roommate and was struggling with money issues. When I stopped at the bakery that day, intent on buying some tea, those scones whispered sweet love songs to me and I could not find the willpower to resist.

In that relapse, I temporarily lost sight of my own truth: That I want to avoid sugar and wheat flour in order to heal my body.

In that relapse, I was returning to the particular side of the spiral that was so known and comfortable: running to unhealthy food for comfort.

And yet, even though I had returned to that old familiar side of the spiral, I actually experienced this relapse from a greater height! In other words, in this relapse, I was able to more quickly move past it and get back to my own power.

It took just a few minutes and I forgave myself and moved into self-acceptance. I did not beat myself up.

In that cold car on that cold winter day, I placed my hands on my heart, and whispered some words of love and reassurance to myself. In the past, in the beginning of my healing journey with food, I might have added a cookie or a brownie on top of the scone, as a way to escape the terrible emotions of self-judgment and guilt. But—this time I didn’t! 

Love Yourself and Heal 

A relapse is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens.

If you or someone you love has been healing a pattern of addiction, please know that patience is key.

The spiral of evolution will bring you situations that will test your courage and self-awareness. Sometimes you will succumb. And that’s okay!

If you wake up and suddenly find yourself acting in a way that you know is not your highest good, then congratulate yourself for waking up. Take stock of your long-term changes and pat yourself on the back for coming this far.

Notice how you can more quickly bounce back from the relapse, with greater levels of patience and self-love. Notice how awesome you are!

Ultimately, the journey of addiction recovery is a journey of healing. And it’s a journey all humans go through, as we refine to greater and greater levels what it means to love and care for ourselves.

About Anya Light

Anya Light, PhD, is the author of Opening Love: Intentional Relationships & the Evolution of Consciousness. Her soul mission is to inspire people to greater and greater levels of self-love. Anya offers intuitive life coaching sessions at

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The post Loving Yourself Through Addiction and Relapse: Be Patient with the Process appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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