Simple rules to live by. I’ve featured Jon Kabat-Zinn on this site before. There is a great google video with him giving a brilliant lecture here. The video is at the bottom of the post and well worth watching.
1. Consider what’s right with you. “Until you stop breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you,” says Kabat-Zinn. Every day, take a moment to thank your eyes for seeing, your liver for functioning, your feet for carrying you from place to place. Heck, thank those mitochondria within your cells for pumping out the energy you need to get you out of bed in the morning.
2. Love yourself unconditionally. Hate yourself for being 40 pounds overweight? Those berating thoughts you have about your imperfections can actually derail you instead of motivating you into action. (It’s that old story: Starve yourself as punishment for overeating, until you can’t take it anymore and give in to a binge.) Rather than setting a weight-loss goal and promising to love yourself once you get there, Kabat-Zinn says you need to make an effort to love yourself “all the way,” whether you’re 300 pounds or 150. If you decide to eat smaller portions or give up chips for carrot sticks, simply tell yourself, “This is just the way I’m eating now as a way to live better.”
3. Live in the present moment. Don’t think about what you ate yesterday or make promises to exercise tomorrow. “Every moment gives you the ability to learn, grow, and change,” explains Kabat-Zinn. “If you can take a moment and live as if it really mattered, you can take a step back and see those impulses that may be negative to your health.” What’s more, you’ll truly enjoy those indulgences like the creamy feel of a Godiva truffle or a 10-minute shoulder massage at an airport kiosk when your flight is delayed. You can also take pleasure in those small interactions with others: with the doorman, greeting you in your office lobby; the lady in line ahead of you at the supermarket; the goodnight hug from your child.
4. When life gets tough, don’t take it personally. When faced with job loss, a foreclosure, or an impending divorce, it’s really hard not to place the blame squarely on your own shoulders and get stuck in the “if only” mind-set. If only I had (choose one): taken a different job, bought a cheaper house, not cheated. That sort of rumination sets you up for full-blown depression. While it’s important to accept responsibility for your actions, the best way to do that is by looking to the present rather than the past. What are you going to do that’s different right now, at this moment, to move forward? “When the proverbial stuff hits the proverbial fan, it’s really important to recognize and acknowledge the fear you’re feeling,” says Kabat-Zinn. “But also recognize that it’s in these trying times that you will understand fully what it means to be human, to utilize all the resources you have.” After all, it’s those challenges faced by the World War II generation that earned it the distinction of being called the “greatest.”
5. Put the “being” back in human. If you fill every moment with frenetic activity—work, text messaging, household chores, computer games—you never give yourself a chance to simply be. Too many of us are human stuff, the sum of our actions, instead of human beings, points out Kabat-Zinn. As corny as it sounds, just sitting for a moment to contemplate the clouds, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the pattern of stalled cars winding around the freeway, is what separates us from the nut-gathering squirrels. And science shows it’s a great stress reliever, to boot.