It’s understood in the Yoga Tradition, and has even been scientifically proven, that simply moving and stretching the body with breath awareness as an anchor can begin to shift the habitual patterns of our brain. Therefore, the state of our brain can be directly related to so much of what is ailing our physical body. But a new variable in this equation is the link between social media and how it’s forming habitual patterns that we may or may not be in control of.
How we perceive the world and what makes up our daily mental chatter has a direct relationship to the physical condition of the body.
If your mental space is caught up in a spiral of negative thoughts, this in turn will likely lead you to feel depressed, agitated, anxious, or dull. How you digest your thoughts can also have a tremendous effect on how you digest your food. How many times have you scrolled through your phone, email, instagram, or any other form of social media and felt really good and energized afterwards? Do you find yourself reaching for a device when you’re not feeling your best? Unfortunately, social media platforms, which were originally created in an effort to connect us, are now seeking to keep us addicted and caught in a dangerous loop of distraction and dissatisfaction. Which in turn leads us towards more and more disconnect with ourselves, with those around us, and the environment in which we live.
One of the core teachings behind the Tantrik Yoga Tradition is that our Prana (energy) follows our focus and what we choose to focus our attention on will also direct our energy.
When our energy goes into mental processing in a push towards personal perfection, more possessions, or fame, it becomes a never-ending process that can lead to a deep sense that we can never be fulfilled, that life is never enough, and a deep insecurity and fear begin to set it. According to the wisdom of Ayurveda and Tantra, it happens because we are confused (or experiencing avidya – mis-knowing) and we have forgotten that the continual processing towards perfection, a quest to avoid pain, disappointment and gain things that feel good, leads us to the false belief that we are not good enough already.
It is in this confusion that we forget that, deep within, lies a bottomless well of support and freedom, and it is this light that will bridge the gap of freedom from the duality of good and bad, as well as a gateway into peace. Therefore, it is essential that we take recognition of this interplay happening within our internet communities. It is time to take charge in order to intentionally use such platforms for a source of good and constructive education (like they were initially intended to be). This will limit the power that it has over our physical and mental wellbeing.
How To Take Back Control
Work with the Brain
What are the negative beliefs about yourself that you tell yourself? The story you repeat to yourself?
How has it affected you? Your relationships? Your ability to be intimate? Your creativity? Gratification? Or, your ability to enjoy life?
Whatever your answer may be, most likely these are FEAR-based beliefs. We create beliefs steeped in fear when we are trying to protect ourselves from failing or falling short. We start to believe that a negative belief is better than being steeped in uncertainty, or failing. Then, we look for anything that supports our belief, so the lean towards the negative gets amplified. (This is what happens with endless scrolling, or fill in the blank with your negative addiction).
We must learn how to step out of this prison of fears and turn them into a source for healing and growth. When we live from love and awareness our whole world view becomes more focused. Neurologists have found this to be true. When studying the brain it was found that when we are feeling negative thoughts our learning centers shut down, which directly affects our body and our ability to respond to life.
Become aware of your thoughts.
This is the process of metacognition. Once we become mindful of our thoughts, we’ll have a better chance at not believing our thoughts. Your thoughts are a mental representation of reality. They are real and are happening, but they are NOT reality itself. You cannot always trust what you think as truth.
Whatever the tantrika focuses on, that will become the inclination of her mind.
If you know the difference between your a) thoughts, and b) reality, you can change how you respond and be less reactive. Start by making time for a daily practice that cultivates more objectivity (observer/Shiva consciousness) to wake you up out of your thoughts and allow stillness.
Start simple. This practice does not have to be difficult. It's about setting consistent intentions and finding time for silence.
Close your eyes, place one hand on your belly, and the other on your heart, skin to skin.
Take a few deep breaths into your own belly, your own heart. Keep breathing equal parts inhale into exhale until you taste a tiny drop of silence. Continue this practice daily until gradually your taste of silence becomes longer and longer. You can also pause throughout the day and come back to this morning's intention.
Make changes towards more of what you want
Where we live has a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. It’s important to feel supported by your environment and to love where you live. If you love where you are living you will be inspired and motivated to show up as the best version of yourself. Get clear on your living environment in order to fully thrive. And, if you feel like a change is necessary, make a practical timeline for change in order to gather the resources you need. If switching up your environment is somehow out of your control, really focus in on the other factors below.
Love the ones you're with. Being surrounded by like-minded people and loved ones elevates our serotonin and dopamine which helps combat the symptoms associated with times of high stress or fight-or-flight. This is especially important for women. We are biologically hard-wired to tend and befriend. If you are feeling low, unable to concentrate, or stuck in a negative spiral, make sure that you are getting in adequate time for friendship. And, it doesn’t have to be about you! Helping others (tend) also has a huge impact when it comes to enhancing your mood and the health of your brain.
Social Media Engagement
This is a big topic and perhaps the largest factor when it comes to society’s declining mental stability. We have become so dependent on these little devices. We are letting devices run the show and it is imperative that we take back the reins of our mental health. Start by setting guidelines on how often you allow yourself to use social media. This includes instagram, facebook, youtube, email, podcasts, etc. Maybe even designate certain days throughout the week where you completely eliminate your usage. (Keep a lookout for our ongoing community digital detoxes, including the #ShaktiShutDown in a couple of weeks). Be selective about accounts you follow. Are they helping to lift you up? Look through who you follow and delete accounts/people who are not positive or do not bring you joy. Only you can determine your personal healthy boundaries. Make a plan, stay consistent, and perhaps have an accountability buddy to keep you on track. This is your brain we’re talking about! The iPhone now has a Screen Time function that allows you to put a limit on how long you spend on certain apps and when you use them. Set up your preference. There’s a version of this app in the Google Play store for Android users.
Check out this new documentary: The Social Dilemma (2020)
And these studies:
Of course it’s important to do some form of exercise every day. This doesn’t have to be a HIIT class every day, but even a daily walk will help stimulate and regulate the mind in a positive way. Pay attention to what your body needs. Some days you will need to sweat and some days you will need to create space for rest. (Don’t forget that deep rest is just, if not more, important than being active). It’s also helpful to maintain low levels of exercise throughout the day. This can help to stabilize your mind and will allow for you to come back to that morning intention. If you work at a desk, set a timer on the hour for every hour you sit. Get up and do 10 air squats, 10 lunges, 10 windmills of your arms. Draw your shoulders back and open your chest. This will help to relieve stress and stagnation. You can also do this throughout the day even if you do not have a desk job.
Are you living out your life’s purpose? Are you being lit up by what you do? That might be mothering your child, bagging groceries, or slinging that CEO life, but whatever it is you should be doing it with JOY and feeling inspired on a regular basis. Our working life makes up so much of our daily lives, so it’s important that we love what we are doing. And, of course every job (dream job or not) will have dull moments. That is normal and healthy. It’s important to face challenges for growth and renewal. Overall your job should give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, week, or month. And, if it’s constantly causing you more stress. Change it up! I know it’s scary to make big changes, especially when they have financial consequences, but if you are truly unhappy with what you are doing, I promise you that by listening to your passions combined with your unique skills, success is sure to follow. And, if you are really struggling to find just what that purpose is, our flagship one-year Ayurveda training might be the container you need to open your eyes to your soul’s deepest longing 🙂
Notice how this is last on the list? If you are reading this blog post chances are you already have a pretty good start when it comes to what you are feeding your body. And if not, we have plenty of good resources for you in The Shakti School Blog. But when it comes to brain health and dealing with stubborn negative thought patterns, often we cannot clean-eat our way out of it. Of course research shows us that high doses of vitamin D, upping our omega 3’s, and getting enough high quality oils can boost our brain health; but it is still essential to work through the other obstacles that are keeping you from your ultimate freedom. It’s always smart to eat whole foods that are nutrient dense, lightly cooked, and spiced according to the season and to your constitution. Eat in a calm atmosphere, give gratitude before meals, and eat until you are 75% full. To put it simply, when your life feels chaotic, simplify your plate.