8 Ways to Prevent Negative Experiences from Getting You DownNone By Matt Alesevich
We all know people who use their past to justify negative behavior patterns like cynicism and negativity, or even worse, addiction and violent behavior. We might even catch ourselves playing the blame game when times get tough.
Today, we wanted to share some inspiration and advice from Anneke Lucas, a former victim of child sex trafficking and founder of Liberation Prison Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to maximum security prison inmates. Her experiences show that breaking negative behavior patterns is an inside job.
Here are Anneke's top eight strategies for preventing a negative past from turning into an even more negative future:
Remember It’s All About You
When I feel critical of someone, or I'm blaming someone, I remind myself of this truth: the external world is a reflection of my inner world, and whatever quality I'm critical of is something that resides within me. It's difficult not to feel like the victim sometimes, but when I feel hurt by someone, I understand that this new pain is old pain trying to express itself, which can be healing.
It’s important to recognize and accept, not deny and suppress, whatever difficult emotion or depressed state we’re encountering. It’s an acquired habit to welcome negativity and understand that it is an expression of an unmet need, but self-acceptance is the first step toward meeting that unmet need or grieving that loss you never allowed yourself to grieve.
Reach Out to Others
I have a solid network of friends and acquaintances from support groups, and know I can always pick up the phone to call someone. Twelve step groups are a great resource and a wonderful way to connect with people working on similar issues. There are all sorts of specific groups, from Co-Dependents Anonymous to Debtors Anonymous, that offer great emotional support.
Try Practicing Yoga Regularly
Yoga relaxes and rejuvenates. Some yoga poses are natural selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which organically simulate antidepressants. Studies have also shown that yoga increases the brain’s GABA levels, which calm the nervous system. One student in my sex trafficking survivor's class told me that she used to jump straight to drugs when she faced a problem. Now because of yoga, she allows herself to sit with the discomfort knowing that everything will be okay.
Use Positive Affirmations
While Liberation Prison Yoga’s board member, Ivy Woolf Turk, was incarcerated, she wrote a list of affirmations that have greatly benefited my students. I use these every day and they include statements like "I trust the flow and the process of life" and "I forgive and release the past as I move into joy." You can find popular affirmations online or write your own to remind yourself of the things habitual negativity tries to make you forget. The important thing is that they feel true to you.
Observe Your Mind
Learning about the science of trauma helps us to observe our own mind without added shame or guilt. Dr. Dan Siegel, author of Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, has taken this one step further and developed a simple mindfulness tool: looking at our fist as a model for our brain. It allows us to help visually identify where in the brain our programmed, yet sometimes irrational behavior emanates from, which in turn promotes neural integration healing.
Serve, Teach and Share
Service awakens empathy and empathy promotes emotional well‑being. When we don't get caught up playing the role of the expert or wanting to change those around us, connections made become therapeutically authentic. To make a human connection in a place where there is little human connection, like prison, is beautiful and powerful. Service is the key to happiness, and I need to hear my message of self-love as much as my students do.
When I feel down, it’s tempting to let go of self-care and then feel even worse. Practicing yoga, taking a bath or taking a walk are all important forms of self-care that help put the mind in a better place. When negative emotions surface, it can be hard to get motivated, so taking a deep breath, going outside or cleaning the house a little, while not doing more than you can handle, is very important. Self-care shows self-respect when self-love is too much to ask.
To learn more about Anneke, her story and her program, please visit Liberation Prison Yoga’s official website page.
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