The great British summer eh? One week it’s freezing cold and raining, the next week glorious sun and it’s boiling hot.
One week we feel down and grumpy because it’s grey and damp, the next week we feel elated and full of life as we bask in the warm glow of the sun.
But why is this so? Why do we let external factors over which we have no control affect our mood and sense of wellbeing?
Cloud-watching is a habit
We’re so used to looking for external messages to confirm what we should think, who we are, whether we’re good enough, that it becomes a habit. We’re constantly affected by clouds – in the sky and in our lives.
Our moods get pulled this way and that by a spell of bad weather, the traffic jam on the way to work, an uncooperative colleague, a loved one saying something hurtful in the heat of the moment, or our child won’t stop crying, a friend may be suffering from ill health, or we’re angered by something we see on the news, or we’re made afraid by these uncertain economic times.
We think we need to buy the latest gadget or this week’s fashion or get a promotion or buy a better car to prove who we are and that we’re happy and successful. The list goes on, and on, and on…
We look outside ourselves for validation of our lives and whether we’re good enough. And in turn we may forget who we are and what is truly important to us.
It’s little wonder that stress and anxiety levels are so high in Western society!
So what can we do about it?
Break the habit
Well, I’d say that stopping and noticing if, how, and to what extent you are affected by outside factors is the first step. Bringing a mindful awareness to any aspect of ourselves and our lives is a wonderful way to break the cycle of stimulus > reaction.
Reacting becomes a habit. Take steps to break the habit.
One way of doing this is connecting to our breath. Stop and take some slower breaths with awareness of how you are breathing.
Remembering to do this regularly, or setting aside 10 or 15 minutes each day simply to sit and breathe deeply, slowly and regularly can make a difference to you and your life. It allows your body to relax and bring in oxygen and eliminate waste gases more efficiently. It slows your mind and gives you some space just to be.
Giving yourself a little bit of space each day to connect with yourself and disconnect from outside pressures is a wonderfully nurturing thing you can do for yourself.
Spend time watching the breath and focusing on nothing else. Notice where you feel it in your body. Notice how your body feels as you sit and simply breathe. Notice how your emotions and mind feel. And let any thoughts which arise fade away.
Connect to your light
The deeper issue here is that if we’re reliant on external factors for our sense of happiness and wellbeing we’re not connected with our self – the inner self which is content and full of acceptance.
There is a light within each of us: a light of beauty, love and compassion which cannot be extinguished. It’s always there, but sometimes we neglect it, or even forget it’s there altogether, and it dims.
We need to nurture that light, that feeling of connection to our true self and to others. We need to nurture and accept ourselves.
We can do this through yoga and meditation, by being kind and gentle with ourselves, but above all by listening to that voice or instinct within each of us which connects to the present moment, which knows what is good for us, which understands that outside factors cannot extinguish our inner light, which feels and tells us that compassion and connection is our true nature and our gift to ourselves and the world.
Everything changes but you
So, next time a cloud appears – whether in the sky or a metaphorical cloud in your life – take a deep breath and know that it will pass.
That’s the thing about the weather, as with life: it’s always changing. The only constant in your life is you.
The only element you have a control over is how you choose to live your life.
Do you choose to live it struggling against outside factors and events, or do you choose to live it with compassion and self-acceptance?