07/02/2014 02:56 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2014

What Is Sustainable Self-Soothing?


Sustainability is a word that I hear a lot. People often use the word when discussing matters to do with the environment or business but I would like to discuss self sustainability. I am a strong believer that what we practice within creates the environment which surrounds us. But we live in a world where our attention is constantly being pulled away from the moment to moment quality of our own life experience. We are surrounded by computers, phones, televisions, advertisements, people, traffic etc. It can be challenging to find the time and to call forth the attention to practice sustainable self-soothing or self-care. And even if we genuinely have an interest in practicing, where do we start if we are not used to life giving habits?

I hope I am not being presumptuous but many of us did not grow up in households full of peace and well-being. The people I have spent time with who experienced rough upbringings and the ones who have had wonderful upbringings often turn to the exact same methods of self soothing as adults -- watching television, eating junk food, alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, recreational drugs, shopping, caffeine, codependent relationships, serial dating, gambling, watching porn, spending hours on social media sights or surfing the web.

After years of engaging in these types of self-soothing techniques, I felt tired, insecure and out of control. I deeply desired a greater sense of peace and clarity but I was not sure of where to start. Besides brushing my teeth or taking a shower, I had no real understanding of self-care. And in order for me to actually do something differently I had to understand the 'why' behind it. It's like exercising. Most people know that exercising three to four times a week is good for them, but many people still don't do it and I used to be one of these people. When I thoroughly understood the 'why' behind sustainable self-soothing, it helped me care and made it more likely that I would try and continue trying. After researching and practicing sustainable self-soothing for the last few years, I believe there are five factors that make a habit sustainable that grabbed my attention.

1. Boosts energy levels
Having high energy levels is very important. If we are tired throughout the day, our body, mind, relationships, career and lifestyle suffer. It takes energy to be present and engaged, it takes energy to do our best work, it takes energy to attend those classes we have always wanted to try, it takes energy to clean up our homes or to go on an adventure. When we only have enough energy to go to work, eat, watch TV until we fall asleep and then do it again tomorrow, we are not engaging in what makes life fun and pleasurable. Sustainable self-soothing keeps us feeling relaxed, restored and ready to live life to the fullest.

2. Contributes to the quality of moment to moment life experience
We live in a world full of quantity. The more we eat, the more we shop, the more we date, the more we work, the more, the more, the more. We all know the ending of this story. It does not bring us sustainable happiness or a feeling of freedom. If the shirt I bought yesterday truly made me happy, then why do I want another one today? If the doughnut I ate yesterday truly made me happy, then why will I want another one tomorrow? For me, quality is about a moment resonating so deeply with me that I don't crave replicating it. Instead I more appreciate experiencing it. It brings a sense of peace to the present moment.

3. Is in alignment with our dreams and goals
This is an area of life that I feel is most often neglected. We all have dreams and goals, Some of us have more daily type of goals and some of us have lifelong dreams but we often leave them on the sidelines. We say, "It would be nice to open a restaurant but for now I'm gonna watch my favorite show." We need to develop the habit of bringing our dreams into our day with us. How will our dreams come true if we abandon them every chance we get? And it's important to remember why we have goals and dreams. We feel somewhere that if we move toward them or attain them we will feel better. So why not do things that actually make us feel better now? Sustainable self-soothing helps us ease into this moment and feel our own inspiration.

4. Makes time in the long run
I've often noticed that if I shop or watch TV for hours, it doesn't leave me feeling completely relaxed. It doesn't matter how pleasurable these activities may be on some level, they zap my energy, they are pointless and eat up my time. We turn to our non-sustainable habits because they are comforting in some way but then it doesn't leave us with the time or energy to do the things we really want to do -- like go on a hot air balloon ride . Sustainable methods often take up less time than we spend on non-sustainable methods and make us feel more enthusiastic about the rest of our day.

5. Contributes to feelings of clarity and security
I think one of the greatest problems in perspective is seeing things as disconnected. If we don't see how everything is connected in our day-to-day experience, we feel like we have no control over our own lives. If nothing is connected and we feel tired or anxious then how can we possibly change it. We don't think about how much we had to drink over the weekend as being a factor in the way we feel currently. When we start practicing sustainable self soothing, we see the effects bleed into every area of our lives and then by reverse logic we can then see clearly that our non-sustainable habits are directly related to our less enjoyable feelings. When everything is connected there is a direct path from A to B and we will rarely feel stuck in our experience. We will always be aware that each experience is connected on a chain to something else.

It would be beneficial just to notice throughout the day which habits leave you feeling tired, anxious, unfocused, disconnected, and out of time. And then notice which habits leave you feeling like you have an abundance of energy, time, security, clarity, joy and ease. Those are the habits we want to focus on, practice often and then add more momentum to.

It is my intention to share the joy and peace I feel at this point in time. I believe that sharing the steps I have learned to sustainable self soothing will be an uplifting experience. I have received much love and support on my journey and wish to pass it on.

-A Little Love From Mala-

In my next post I will go deeper into what some sustainable self soothing methods are. I will start general and become more and more specific with time.