One of the most prevalent criticisms of mindfulness and self-reflection is that they are inward, self-gratifying egotistic acts which put the needs of the individual above all else. Well, I’ll ask you this, would you dare to get on a plane piloted by someone without a licence? Would you accept travel recommendations from a travel writer that had never left their hometown? Would you take mortgage advice at face value which you receive from a vet?
These people have become professionals in their field by working on their own project first and thus are better situated to help others. If you want to be someone that makes an impact in the lives of others, you’ve got to put your own oxygen mask on first. You are of no good to your best friend, your mother, your partner, your boss or your community when you are riddled with anxiety, self-doubt and loathing. There is nothing wrong with taking stock of who you are and where you are in life and most importantly- accepting your situation. You don’t have to accomplish everything now. You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to anything. You are who you are, and you’re trying your best. Show yourself the same kindness you hope to be able to show others. Here are a few steps to get you in that direction:
1. Give your dreams and ideas a chance
Believe that you can, and you’re halfway there. You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way. Revel and take pleasure in your skills. There are lots of things you’re great at and you know it.
2. Surround yourself with people that bring out the best in you, not the stress in you
Good people bring out the good in people. Mingle with the people you care about. Talking, smiling and hugging are essentially free-flowing drugs– without all the cumbersome legalities and health drawbacks, that is. Social interaction reduces stress levels and who doesn’t want that?
3. Be grateful
Appreciate what you do have and pay less attention to the things you don’t have. The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, but they make the most of everything. If we already don’t feel grateful for the things that we have, what makes us think we’ll be happier if we get more?
4. Live in the present
Dwelling on the past is as likely to improve your future as I am to morph into Beyonce the next time I awake from slumber. Thinking about yesterday will not improve tomorrow. Live your life and actually live it. Savour the mini moments. Think about some of the happiest moments in your life. What made them so great? You got lost in where, what and who you were with. Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time, stop to smell the roses, notice the extraordinary in the ordinary, and appreciate life’s little details. Do what you love, and do it often. Engage in activities that help you connect with yourself: watch the sun set, watch the sun rise or just sit alone quietly.
5. Be open
To new experiences, people, places. Our hearts and minds are like parachutes, they only function when open.
6. Never stop exploring
Take vacations, go as many places as you can. You can always make money. You can’t always make memories. All the things you’ve wanted to do, do them. Go places that you never thought possible.
7. Be your own friend
Choose to love yourself you the way you are. Don’t change yourself to make someone happy, unless that someone is you. Speak to yourself politely, courteously and with care, much as you would to a little child. Don’t judge yourself by other people’s standards. We are all gifted in a unique and important way and it is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.
8. Help people around you
When someone is down, visit them with your comfort and kindness. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself. Fulfilment comes less from material wealth and more from relationships; less from focussing on ourselves and more from helping others. Share what makes you special. If you’re funny, tell jokes. Use your naturally bestowed gifts and you’ll feel better for it.
9. Be optimistic
Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called ‘all the things that could go wrong’. Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadow will always fall behind you.
Give everyday the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life. To have something really special, you only need to believe that it is.