I’m looking into making series out of “Finding Happy”. Since so much of yoga is finding peace, relaxation, and happiness, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about what you can do to feel better. Obviously, I’m not qualified to diagnose or treat depression, anxiety, or any other emotional or mental health concerns, but I can offer help.
It seems only right to start by telling you my experiences with going complaint free and what that even means. I’ve done it twice, actually. The first time was no complaining for 24 hours, and I felt so good that I kept going for 48 hours. The second time, I was complaint and comparison free. The first time I just wanted to try it and see how it made me feel, the second time I was going through serious depression and knew I needed to do something. I encourage you to try it too! In this pose, I’ll explain what it did for me, and why I think everyone should try it and how to go about doing it.
We might as well talk about both of the times I did it, so let’s start with the first. The first time I tried to go complaint free was over a year ago. I was learning to fly helicopters at the time, I had a great boyfriend, and I was taking classes at the local community college. I was pretty happy. I figured, why not try, I wanted to see what it does to me. I was really inspired to try this by Facebook posts I would see. They would be people complaining about silly things that seemed super small.
Here are the rules:
1) If I can fix it, I need to fix it
2) If I can’t fix it, I need to accept it
3) Stating a problem is not the same as complaining
There was a reason for each rule I established. I found it odd that people would decide to complain over fixing the problem, which is why I came up with rule #1. That rule was the easiest to follow.
#2 was a challenge. It is hard to accept that something just must be as it is, especially if it is a BIG something. That didn’t mean ignoring that something happened, but rather acknowledging that it happened and accepting I have no power over it.
Rule #3 was the tricky part. Stating, “I need to do the dishes.” is fine, there is a problem and I already had the solution, but if I sighed and said, “I need to do the dishes.” That’s definitely complaining. Not just a statement. I found it hard to find the fine line dividing the two. It was easy to get lost in justifications too. This rule was also important to me, in that it meant I had to face problems, I had no excuse to ignore them, even if it couldn’t be fixed. Brushing a problem under the rug can be just as bad complaining about it nonstop.
If you’ve never tried doing something like this, there may be a chance that you say, “but I never complain! It can’t be so hard.” I’m sure many of you don’t, but you should try to analyze what you say before thinking that. I believed I complained very little, I thought this should be easy. In reality, the first few hours was insanely hard. (Let me just take a moment to COMPLAIN about those hours…grumble…)
So I quickly learned that, complaining seems to be something that we love to do. I was, in fact, addicted to complaining. There was some weird pleasure I got out of complaining, which seems strange since my nickname was “The Happy Rainbow”. There is a seemingly infinite amount of things to complain about. A stain on the carpet, dishes, being bored. Anything!
I quickly adopted what I like to call the “Oh Well” strategy. The “Oh Well” strategy is exactly what it seems like. The dog threw up on the carpet? Oh well. Your friend isn’t texting you back? Oh well. You really want to complain about not complaining? Oh well!!! I tried to say “oh well” out loud too, I found that saying it out loud made a bigger difference to me than simply thinking it. Now, this wasn’t an excuse to leave it, it was sort of a “shit happens” mantra.
So I had managed to stop saying my complaints, but I was still thinking them, but by telling myself “Oh well” I was telling myself it mattered less. Eventually I could just look at a problem and shrug, I didn’t need to tell myself that it was fine. By the end of the day, I had stopped complaining almost entirely. I was refusing the complaints and replacing them with how to fix it, or accepting that it was okay to have imperfections in the world.
24 hours later, I felt great. I was looking at things that I didn’t want to happen and laughing about it. I would drop something and think, “oops!” smile and pick it up. I realized I felt so fantastic, and I challenged myself to go 24 more hours. Those were the easiest 24 hours of this whole thing. I stopped keeping track and making the extremely active effort after that, and the change carried on into the rest of my life. It even made me more productive.
For a while.
This is when my second attempt came, which was in July. I was married by then. There were a lot of things going wrong at the time. As I sunk deeper and deeper into a depression and felt myself disappearing, I remembered that I don’t suffer from chronic depression or anything like that, so I could do something. I NEEDED to do something.
So I did the one thing I knew, but I made it bigger:
4) Do not compare people to other people, including myself.
I had found myself comparing two famous belly dancers, which I realized is unfair. They know each other, they’re friends, they’re good in their own ways. I had even compared my depression to that of someone who had written an article pretty much saying that I wasn’t depressed because it wasn’t what she was going through. (You can imagine how that made me feel.)
So I did it, and these were the hardest 48 hours. I started with 24 hours again, but I had done so poorly, I decided to go on for another 24 hours. I did better the second day. The “Oh Well” strategy helped, and I had tremendous support from my family and friends. I complained a lot, but I tried to take note of it, tell myself that it was okay, and let it go. Despite it all, it wasn’t enough, so I adopted a new strategy. “Let Go.” “Let Go” was much more active than “Oh Well”. It always involved stopping what I was doing, closing my eyes, taking at least one deep controlled breath, and telling myself to just “Let Go”.
By pushing myself to fix things and allowing myself to accept that feeling bad was okay, I came out feeling a bit better. It helped that I was able to control myself a little bit by just letting the problems go.
So out of all of this what did I learn? Why should you do it?
1) Complaining is addicting
Complaining seems cathartic. You just want to let it all out, but by doing that, you may end up letting it envelope you. You may let those negative thoughts and emotions tell you how you are feeling or thinking, when you can have some influence on that. I immediately knew that from the first time I tried this.
I was also forced to look at things from other perspectives. If I didn’t like how someone said something, I forced myself to think, “what should they have said?” Usually there was not much of a difference, and if there was, I thought about why they didn’t say it that way. This is something I’ve carried over to the rest of my life successfully. Sometimes you will find someone just being rude, but most of the time I was letting myself get hurt over nothing.
2) It is okay to complain sometimes
Sometimes it is okay to complain, though. It isn’t good to just keep it all inside. If there is something bothering you, don’t act like you can just let it go, because maybe you can’t. I learned that the first time around, but it was heavily reinforced the second time. I needed to talk to someone about what was happening, not just say “oh well”. If you need to talk about a problem. Do it. It’s okay to need a friend, family member, or anyone who will listen and help you through a problem.
3) Analyzing what you are about to say
If you think before you speak, it affects how you feel. Is that really worth complaining about it? Is it worth it to stress yourself further by yelling at the TV? Or should you just sigh and shrug it off? Picking what you say makes a difference.
It also makes a difference to the people around you. Teaching yourself to think analytically about everything you say will help you understand and pick the best words to express yourself clearly and reduce the risk of hurting someone else.
4) Think about what you just said
Should you have said that? It’s okay if you shouldn’t have. It’s an easy mistake to let something slip you didn’t mean to. So don’t beat yourself up, but recognize it was a mistake. It may also necessary to tell whoever you’re talking, “That’s not the best way to put it.” or “I’m sorry, that was a rude way to say that.” Many people will let you try to say what you mean again, but try not to rely on this as an excuse to say anything.
5) You believe what you say
If you tell yourself something, you will believe it. Whether it’s about an object, another person, or yourself. There’s a practice some people do where every morning they tell themselves a list of things such as, “You are beautiful, you are kind, you are loved.” or something like that. It can be very effective. Doing this to everything in your life isn’t such a bad idea. The bump in the middle of the carpet isn’t “stupid”, it’s a funny harmless quirk. (If it’s not harmless, it should be called “Something that I need to fix”!)
6) What you say influences what you think and feel
On top of believing what you’re saying, you will also feel that way. If you describe everything in a negative way, it will all look negative, so you’ll feel bad. If something is just silly, there’s no reason to feel bad about it.
7) Take care of yourself
Above all else, if you don’t take the time to find what makes you happier, improves your thoughts, and how you understand how they work, you won’t be able to function. I’ve had friends tell me they just want to help someone else, but in all of that, they forget about themselves, and in turn, they can’t help the others. So whether you only want to help yourself, or are looking at a larger picture, you come first. There is no shame in self-love.
8) Look at yourself critically
By doing this, I was forced to look at myself critically. I was forced to understand everything I thought and felt. I made myself realize what I actually was thinking about people and things when I would complain. It made me realize I was putting myself in a situation where I felt worse than I needed to.
9) When all else fails, “Let Go”
Finally, When it all gets to be too much. Just let it go. Close your eyes, breath, and focus on yourself. Focus on telling yourself to just let it drift away. It isn’t worth it to analyze everything, control everything, and feel bad. This is kind of like counting to ten before reacting, but instead, you don’t have to react at all. You’re “pleading the fifth” to yourself and anyone else. No, it’s not easy, but sometimes it needs to be done. Take your time.
This could also be used for something you simply can’t handle right now. If it involves someone else, tell them you understand their concerns and you will address them, but right now you can’t.
Even if this isn’t for you, it is important to make positive changes in your life if you need to. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, whether that’s simply eating better, or taking 5 minutes to yourself this morning, or larger changes, like removing complaints from your life, or developing new habits. Some feel that indulgences and self-love are selfish, but it’s not. It’s wonderful. And as I always say,
Taking care of yourself is an act of yoga.