It didn’t happen overnight. Or in the span of a week, month or even year. Nothing worthwhile ever does. No, it’s still happening and taking on new forms every day. And my happiness has increased with each and every step toward better health and peace of mind.
But first, let’s backtrack to my unhealthy days – days of fried food at 2 a.m., several drinks a night, a few cigarettes and little exercise. I used the excuse of being a journalist to justify my unhealthy habits. It’s a stressful job, and back then, the only way I knew to relieve that tension was to party with my reporter friends.
After a grueling day hearing about some accused pedophile’s actions in court, or covering another fatality, or attending memorial services for a kid whose life was taken far too soon, it seemed like the only way to cope. I numbed my way through much of my 20s, thinking I wasn’t strong enough to handle life’s extremes. I convinced myself that feeling it all wasn’t an option.
But I knew something was missing. There was a yearning for something else, for something bigger than myself. It would occasionally pop its head up and tell me, "Try out yoga," or "You should really quit smoking," or, "When did you start drinking so much?"
I was aware of my choices, but did nothing to change them. I continued to fall back into the same patterns when life seemed unbearable, until even that became unbearable.
It’s said that change occurs when the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. And I was suffering, searching for a cure to what ailed me. I was unsure how to go about making lifestyle changes, but sure that if I didn’t do as much I’d continue down a path that led nowhere positive.
So when a friend invited me to try out a yoga studio, I was open to the idea, and dove right in. That was over two years ago, and I still haven’t come up for air.
In that time, I’ve become more aware of how my choices affect my body and mind. I’ve dropped excess fat and old ways of thinking. Instead of "I can’t do that," my mind is more apt to figure out, "How can I do this?" And my bouts of depression are fewer and shorter. Finding something greater than myself, through a physical practice, saved my life.
Today I no longer smoke tobacco; drink only occasionally and in small amounts; drink fresh juice every day; practice vinyasa yoga as often as I can fit into my schedule; and teach the same practice to high-school kids, roller-derby girls and men going through rehab. I can honestly say this is the happiest I’ve ever been.
All it took was continual self-reflection, a routine, a supportive community, determination and a desire to feel as good about myself as possible. I’m not saying it’s easy by any means, quite the opposite in fact. As one of my gurus says, "The only way out is through."
It’s through these changes in diet, exercise, lifestyle and even friends that I’ve peeled back the layers to reveal my true self. And my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.
In these biweekly columns, I’ll explore healthy habits, diet, lifestyle changes and whatever else seems worthy of sharing. I welcome questions and ideas, and look forward to helping inspire and create dialogue. At the risk of sounding like a yoga hippie freak, happiness isn’t real unless it is shared. (Christopher McCandless wrote this before dying in the Alaskan wilderness in 1992. See or read "Into the Wild" for more inspiration.)
I’m honored and humbled to share my light. Here’s to much brightness and wellness in your life.