Yogi On Lithium: 8 Ways To Stay Sane In The Crazy City (Holiday Edition)
In the “Yoga Sutras” by Pantanjali, a saint from India (150 BC), yoga is defined as the “Cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”. In other words, Yoga is the stopping of movement (thoughts) in our mind. Today we think of yoga as involving lots of poses (asanas) and maybe even some fancy clothes or hot rooms. According to the tradition, the primary goal of yoga is actually to still the mind.
Meditation and yoga go hand-in-hand. For most people, this is a challenge; but for anyone like me, who has experienced a manic episode, controlling your thoughts at times is nearly impossible. I’ve written in depth on the subject of the challenges of yoga and mental health here. I live in New York City and it even at the best of times it can be a challenge to create a mentally healthy state within the frenzy of city life. But add the holidays into the mix and even the most even-keeled may find themselves off balance.
Here are a few of the things I do to stay sane in the city :
1) Practice Yoga
In any guide from a yogi’s perspective, the first piece of advice will always be to practice yoga. Yoga can significantly improve both your state of mind and your body. As the popularity of yoga has grown so much in recent years, it is also easily accessible. Most gyms offer yoga classes and there are many local studios (which is my personal recommendation). If you prefer the comfort of your home, many great yoga videos can be accessed via the internet.
2) Get Outside
This is the biggest key to my happiness. I need to spend time surrounded by nature. I walk almost every day in the fresh air. Vitamin D, trees and wildlife makes me feel grounded. This is how I find my peace in the hustle and bustle. And if family drama gets too heated, going for “some air” is always a reasonable request.
3) Wear Headphones/Listen to Music
Living in the city is stimulating. It can be exciting, but when I’m feeling highly sensitive it can also be over-stimulating. One of my tools is a trusty pair of headphones. Music is healing and makes the everyday city life a bit easier. Around family gatherings, a great playlist can shift the mood and bring together the room. It gets us out of our own heads and reminds everyone that being together, in the present is the greatest gift.
4) Take a Break From the Media
Shut off the news; and not just during the holidays, but throughout the year. Make a conscious effort to limit your intake. Same with social media, these tools were meant to connect us but often have us comparing our lives to others and wishing for something else. I remind myself that I have no idea of the struggles that person has and would not trade my life for anyone else’s life. When I get into a negative state of mind, I try to decide whether it is necessary to take a “social media fast.”
5) Surround Yourself with Beauty
It doesn’t cost a lot to make an impact in your environment. A handwritten affirmation or beautiful quote somewhere you look every day can do a lot when things get hectic. Go for the sweet personalized touches when giving gifts.
6) Be Grateful
The holidays can often feel all about commodities. Whether or not your cup runneth over financially, there is still abundance in your life. A gratitude journal is a great way to start and end your day. It’s important to have a journal dedicated just to your gratitude. You can write down a list first thing in the morning and then again at bedtime. If you just need a place to start, just begin with “thank you, I am grateful for waking up.” Even on those days when you may not mean it, repeat it and you will begin to believe it.
7) Be Kind
This may be the most challenging piece of advice on this list, but it has the biggest payoff (which obviously isn’t the reason to do it). A selfless act of service is known as Seva in Sanskrit. It’s doing a good deed. Doing something genuinely kind for someone else, whether it’s a friend or a stranger, is the highest act we can do.
This time of year ( really always) there are endless ways to give, like financially, donating toys and coats, and volunteering your time.
How often do we forget about our breath? This is something that we have complete control over that can make us feel infinitely better. In order to take control of your breath, first, make sure you are breathing like you did when you came into this world. That means when you inhale your belly gets big, when you exhale all the air come out like a deflated balloon. Take three deep breaths inhaling through your nose and exhaling out through your nose. Anytime, anywhere, you can return to your breath. It’s always with you.
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