I'll share with you here the life habits that I've developed throughout the years that have helped me become a better person and lead a happier life. We'll learn how to cultivate them further in future blog posts, but now onto Life Habits!
These are what I strive for every day:
Practice profound kindness with everyone
I'm still on the fence if I want to apply this to really repulsive looking bugs, but to all people, yes. And yes, I'm talking about applying it when that random person on the street bumps your shoulder while speeding past and causes you to spill your [insert favorite beverage here] all over your white shirt first thing in the morning. Yes, it's even when your least favorite uncle spews narrow-minded insults during Thanksgiving dinner that makes another family member cry and all you feel like doing is reaching down and throwing a wad of mashed potatoes in his face. Yes, even then. There's a reason this is at the top of the list--it's extremely hard to do! But you and the rest of the world would be all the better for it if we did.
Remind yourself over and over and over again to treat yourself the way you would your best friend
You wouldn't tell them that they're stupid, incompetent or butt-ass ugly, would you? (Uh, and if you would then we need to work on you being a better friend. Just sayin'.) You wouldn't take a razor and start cutting into their skin to make them feel pain, would you? You wouldn't force feed them cigarettes and demand that they inhale, would you? But Vivi that's different, cigarettes are a drug! They're addictive, I can't help it! I know, dear reader. You're right. They're very addictive, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell it to you straight: you underestimate the strength inside you. You have unrealized strength within to overcome any addiction and take care of yourself like you would your best friend. You really do. I wholeheartedly believe this.
Develop some space between your thoughts and your emotions
Though Dave Matthews was likely referring to a pretty tumultuous relationship in this song, what I mean here is to create some space between your thoughts and emotions. Essentially, to witness them come and go without a personal attachment to them. How in the world does one go about doing that, Vivi? Who am I then if not my thoughts and emotions that make me ME? All great questions with no straightforward answers. This practice is heavily seeped in Buddhist philosophies and is probably familiar to many in the Western world under the term Mindfulness. I'll admit that this has been the most elusive of life habits I strive to do and I don't claim mastery in it. What I will tell you though is that when I attempt to separate myself from the thoughts and emotions that try to take over in a moment of anxiety or rising anger I feel a sudden sense of calm. I can get through a crunchy situation more easily. Who doesn't want a life with more ease?
Attempt understanding and avoid giving into anger
This ties to #1 as a way to practice profound kindness, but it points to this life truth: there's always a reason behind what people do. I could take this one step further and say that there's a reason for everything, but this life habit has to do with understanding the actions of people. Let's say the person that bumped you on the street from the example above just received a call that her 90 year old father had a stroke and she unconsciously bumped into you in her frantic rush to get to him. Or your uncle grew up in a household where few nice things were said to him and the only way he knows now to communicate is by putting down others. There's a reason behind each and every one of our actions. When we break the habit of pointing blame and giving into anger and attempt understanding in its place we cultivate peace. We all want to live in a more peaceful world. Well, this is how you do your part day by day.
Don't Perform, practice authenticity
Lots of people give the advice, 'Be yourself.' At times I feel as if it's on permanent repeat when I read various self-help books and articles. The advice is trite, sure, but oh so true. It's just not as easy to do in everyday life. Do you recognize the following scenario? You're at work and you're talking to an executive of a department that you're trying to get into. She says something mildly funny, but you don't just laugh. You give it your all. A good ol' guffaw. You might have even sprinkled a, 'You're so funny!' comment. Stop.You're performing to impress an audience and you're not in touch with yourself. This example might seem innocent enough (who hasn't up the ante to impress a bigwig?), but it has dangerous consequences. If you allow this behavior to spread to other areas of your life where you find yourself nodding mindlessly in agreement to things that don't align to your values or what personally speaks to you then you erode who you truly are. You find yourself lost and numb inside. I know because I did this for far too long. Perhaps some people have reason to perceive you as weird. No matter. When you're you in your purest form you're free.
My abuelita or grandma from Puerto Rico used to say, 'you must always give thanks' way before social scientists were proving that it made people happier and gratitude journal apps were being created. Every night when my head rests on the pillow I recite prayers in the form of thank yous for the day. I say thank you for each car ride from which I safely returned. I say thank you for each day that my family and loved ones stayed safe and healthy. At the end of the day when you get home safe and sound that is a miracle in and of itself. There were millions of small actions that took place that day that went well. Think about it, earlier when you were whizzing past twenty trucks and cars on a bridge at 50 miles per hour with just a couple feet between you and them, everything and everyone did what they were supposed to do in that moment to make your safe arrival home a reality.This is a miracle. Your heart performed another round of 100,000 heart beats at the end of the day. This is a miracle. So give thanks and know that most things go well most of the time. And if they don't--and I'm truly sorry that they haven't--there will always be things to be grateful for even in the darkest of moments.