Don’t let negative thoughts cramp your style, take wisdom from Zen Master Julian Daizan Skinner and practise these simple Zen techniques towards a happier, healthier you!
- Practice acceptance
It often helps to remember that a cloud of thoughts is just a bunch of electrical sparks running though the brain. You don’t have to take them all that seriously. Just let them come and go without resistance and they tend to dissolve.
- Cultivate gratitude
I like to turn my attention to 10 things I’m grateful for as soon as I wake up. Typically, the simplest things go on the list: the room temperature, the quiet in the room, the morning light and so on. As gratitude becomes a habit, we’re much less likely to get stuck in the negative stuff.
If you’re feeling negative, just take a moment to stand up and mirror that feeling in your posture. Hunch your shoulders, bow your head, and frown. Then do the opposite. Take on the physical posture of a positive, confident person. Hold it for two minutes and your mood will change – guaranteed!
- Help someone
Chances are you’re not the worst-off person in the world, even though it may feel like it sometimes. Look around and find someone who needs help. Weed the old lady next door’s garden; give some clothes to Oxfam, or smile at that stressed-out mum. If you build these little habits into your day, you won’t feel down for long.
Let your breath be your anchor. Simply move your attention from the thoughts to the sensations generated by the rising and sinking of your breath. You’ll start to feel differently and breathing consciously tends to be good for your health too.
- Challenge negative thoughts
When you feel negativity bubbling up inside you, don’t react immediately. Just sit quietly with your emotions for a minute or so and process them. Then actively think of five positive thoughts for every negative one that arises. You’ll find the momentum shifts in a beneficial direction.
- Cleanse the hara
In Zen, it’s believed that when the hara (the belly area) is strong and energised, you are powerful, positive and grounded. When it’s weak, we can feel overly emotional and susceptible to stress.
There’s a powerful breathing exercise you can do to cleanse the hara and immediately release negative emotions (which are often stored in our gut area).
Simply inhale deeply and, as you exhale, make a ‘ha’ sound, gradually opening your mouth as wide as it comfortably goes. Repeat this 10 times.
Julian Daizan Skinner is a meditation and wellness author. His book Rough Waking, which was co-written by Laszlo Mihaly, is currently available to buy – with all the proceeds helping to support the Rough Waking Project, which distributes the book into prisons, libraries and various other venues and offers Zen yoga and meditation to people who are confined, imprisoned, or homeless.