I was meditating and had a strong moment of clarity about something I’ve known my whole life.
Everything we are on the outside is a side effect of what we are on the inside.
I’ve been saying this to myself all morning and it’s really making my gears turn.
Think about it: let’s say you’re super stressed and eat greasy takeout all week. Probably miss out on some solid sleep while you’re at it. There’s a good chance you’re going to break out, get a cold, or be super sluggish by the end of that week.
If you focus on self care, your reaction might be different. Maybe you go to bed early and eat extra healthy. You’ll probably make it through that same hard week with more stability.
But it’s not just the physical things.
I was severely depressed in high school and can count the good days (there weren’t many of them). Those good days? My dad would pick me up after school and drive me two hours through the mountains to Denver. This was our rock show ritual.
I would save up to buy my tickets. My dad would drop me off and wait for me in the parking lot for four hours while I went inside the venue and moshed my heart out.
Yes, he is an absolute champ. (And, if you’re wondering, I did invite him to the shows. He, for whatever reason, preferred to stay away from crowds of sweaty teenagers.)
No matter what happened at school, I had a smile inside me. Those days were good because I made them good.
I stubbornly decided, despite my depression, “today is going to be a good day no matter what because I’m seeing my favorite band play.”
I didn’t put two and two together until I got older. I started eating better, sleeping right, and worked on my own schedule. Now, I’m the one who gets to decide if I have a good day or a bad day. No matter what happens on the outside, it’s how I choose to react that determines how I feel.
Sometimes we react so quickly we miss the moment when we still have a choice. Our instincts take over and we forget we can choose. We forget to give ourselves permission to stay the course when it’s hard or suddenly change the way we live after a lifetime of habit.
We’re conditioned to be reactive.
Think about it: when was the last time you got a notification on your phone or saw an ad?
Button pops up? Click it.
Someone bumps into you during rush hour? Blow up in their face.
Email alert! It’s 70% off at your favorite store. Spend like there’s no tomorrow!
We can learn to react slowly and dampen the effect of our reactive culture, but it takes work.
Consider this: In a nuclear power plant, a rapid, uncontrolled reaction would result in a giant explosion, a bomb.
On the other hand, a slow, controlled reaction generates sustained energy that powers our biggest cities.
The more we take time to practice slowing down time, the easier it gets to find that tiny moment of choice. Sometimes it happens when I meditate or when I run. Sometimes a savoring really good bowl of acorn squash soup will do the trick.
And I get it – some reactions can’t be helped.
When I found out my dog Spot died, I started crying immediately. I grew up with him. I couldn’t choose to be happy in that moment. I gave myself permission to give up. It was a relief to stop pushing past my sadness. I released the flood gates.
I’ve found that the more I take care of myself, the more my instincts turn toward love. When something embarrassing happens, I instinctively start telling myself how ridiculous the situation is and how funny it will be to tell my friends. Things immediately feel lighter.
Either way, it’s hard to notice tiny moments when we’re not used to seeing them. We have to train ourselves to slow down. And for some of us, like me, it has to hurt enough before we decide to stop flying through every moment just to get to the next one.
In every moment we have a choice, even if we don’t feel like we do. If we are physically limited, we can still choose how we react internally.
I’m curious, do you have plans to become less reactive? What helps you stay grounded and sustain your energy? Join the discussion and leave a comment below!