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We’ve all had days like Alexander’s in the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. In case you haven’t read it (you should) one thing after another happens from the moment he wakes up: from finding gum in his hair, missing out on the cereal box prize to fighting with his big brother, a trip to the dentist, and having a broken nightlight, Alexander wishes he could forget this mess and simply run off to Australia (me too!)–they don’t have bad days there.
As adults, and as yogis, we hopefully have outgrown some of these limited belief systems–but somehow it seems like this “bad day” allowance issue still comes up. We wake up and know this day is going to be off, so it is written off as such. What does science, and yoga have to say about that? Steve Schwartz of LifeHacker checks it out:
The brain’s facility to simplify, in most contexts, is very useful
and beneficial. Our brains develop symbols, or abstract representations
of complex ideas, that allow us to connect the represented ideas with
other ideas, and to build upon them, without having to keep the full
details of every complex idea at the forefront of our minds.
In other words, simplification clears our minds, freeing our brains
to draw additional connections and conclusions from complex ideas, data,
But what happens when we simplify experiences with the wrong symbolic
conclusion? This is precisely what happens when we conclude that we are
having a bad day. We blame our misfortune on factors outside of our own
control, in order to avoid analyzing the real reasons things happened
as they did (or perhaps even to eschew our own responsibility). Hence,
it is easy for us to believe we’re having a bad day. The obvious
downside is that once you accept the convenient conclusion that the
entire day is for naught, it will actually cause the rest of your day to
go horribly awry.
Experiencing the world with negative expectations is like viewing reality
through a muddy water glass. Your view will be distorted and you won’t
like what you see.
Schwartz offers a four-step program on how to not have a bad day any day, most of which sound pretty much like yoga to us. In summary:
1.Reflect on the negative feeling you have right now. (Presence)
2.Re-evaluate the situation or events that lead to this stress.(Perspective)
3. Remember that the outcome of the previous minute is not indicative of
the outcome of the next minute. (Avoid Samskaras)
4. There is no number four…get on with your life already! (Yoga is now!)
Next time you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, try being present and changing your expectation–just like we do in yoga–and see if you have a wonderful, awesome, not bad, very fantastic day. Because some days are still going to seem like that, even in Australia.
Erin Chalfant is a
writer, yoga teacher and the Web Editor at Yoga Journal.