We all go through smooth sailing days when we feel good about ourselves. But we also experience challenging stressful days when it isn’t easy to be gentle and forgiving of ourselves.
In spite of all we do and have accomplished in our lives, we struggle to remain connected to a sense of our basic goodness that remains untouched by the cruel or shameful things we occasionally say, do, and think. Our human brain, according to Psychologist Rick Hanson defaults to calm caring contentment when it is undisturbed by fear, pain, or loss.
To keep our brains in this state of serenity, and to practice feeling good about ourselves, follow these guidelines.
1. Actively notice and savor (let the experience fill your mind and body) the moments when you are appreciated, thought of, valued, honored, and loved.
2. Trust in your intelligence and inner coping abilities to deal with the challenges life throws at you.
3. Rely on your strength and adopt the attitude that everything – good or bad -- that happens to you is something you’ll not only survive, but actively learn from to benefit yourself and others.
4. Monitor your thoughts. Recognize and let go of negative thoughts and instead shift your focus to new ideas that will lead you to peace.
5. Focus on being patient, persevering and expanding your perspective; use difficulties to grow your self-knowledge and esteem.
6. Check your expectations about yourself and others. Remember that life is filled with disappointments, deal with your feelings, and then use the situation to empower yourself.
7. Pay attention to your good intentions, actions, thoughts, and speech which arise from your basic goodness. These can be moments when your heart is touched, you bite your tongue, and you are generous, helpful, loving, and patient. When people aren’t “being cooperative”, rather than thinking they are out to get you, choose not to be insulted, to not get angry and lash out or react. Instead ask yourself what your good-natured self would want to do in that situation.
8. Acknowledge your fears, and remind yourself that by facing and overcoming fear we become stronger.
9. Recognizing other people’s goodness reminds us of our own good nature. It can be as simple as this story I recently heard. A woman was driving a teacher to a class and they were running late. They came to a STOP sign and as she impatiently waited for their turn to move, she heard the teacher gently remark on the kindness of all the drivers for stopping.
This story illustrates the importance of every small act of kindness adding up to create a world of greater safety, peace and joy for all beings and the planet. It all begins with not harming others or ourselves, and recognizing our basic goodness.
May you become familiar with your true nature.