I don’t always follow these rules, but I always feel better when I do.
1) Exercise Daily – This does not mean load up the expensive equipment and have a sweat fest. This does mean do something to get your heart rate elevated at least a little bit. Walk briskly for 10 minutes, do 5 crunches, take the stairs two at a time, have fun sex. Of course, sweat fests can also be good; so feel free to run 3 miles in the heat, do a hot yoga class or boot camp, or have really fun sex. Open your body to work. I am continually amazed at how much better I feel after exercising. I’m able to think clearer, have more energy for menial tasks, and feel more resilient in the face of emotional issues.
2) Switch the Situation – I ask myself “How would I feel if I was in the other person’s position?” There are so many uses for this. Feeling hesitant or embarrassed to ask for help, being frustrated during an argument, talking with someone who’s going through tough times, planning parties – there are endless iterations where this is helpful. Developing empathy is a hallmark of adulthood, and truly helps to foster strong and mindful relationships. This doesn’t mean thinking “Well if I was them I would want this/think this” That is not switching the situation. That is still imposing your own wishes and thoughts. The best results occur when I put myself in their position. “How are they viewing this based on their situation?” If you’re not sure, just ask them. Open your heart to those around you.
3) Compliment Daily – Say something nice to someone, out loud, at least once a day. Open your kind thoughts to them. It makes the other person smile and feel positive, raises the vibe of the day, and provides an opening for a conversation. These conversations help to deepen your daily relationships: you move from passerbys to acquaintances, from silent coworkers to friendly comrades, and from friends to better friends. Deeper relationships lead to a kinder and more genuine you.
4) Nourish Stories – Read ’em, tell ’em, write ’em, listen to ’em. Books, blog posts, phone calls, tarot readings, radio podcasts, one on one conversations, participate in them all. Really listen to them, and do not spend the time thinking about what you’re going to say next/who you’re going to share the story with. That is not taking in the story. You need to listen fully with an open mind. You then need to think about what it means to you. Why is this story compelling to me? Why isn’t it? What is going on in my life right now that’s keeping me tied to this story? What can I bring from this story to my life? If you pay true attention to the stories outside of you, you’ll start exploring the stories inside of you.
5) Unclench – Let go of tension both physically and figuratively. Stand up every so often, roll your shoulders, make funny faces, and flex your hands and feet. Imagine your muscles going slack one by one: my toes are loose, my heel is relaxed, my ankles are free, my calves are easy etc. That’s the easy part. You also need to let go in other ways. Don’t hold people too tightly, unwind the strings of the past, and pry your fingers off of your worries for the future – I always grip those too tightly. I’m not saying to let go of your attachments, I’m not a very good Buddhist after all. It’s alright to hold these things in my heart and mind, just not to clench them. Let your past, and your present attachments, and your future goals and concerns rest as if on your open palm. They’ll be there for as long as they need to be, and you won’t hurt yourself on the sharp edges.