1. Admit when you don’t feel well. Feelings that are ignored are the ones that start to take over your life. Ever hear: “What you resist persists?” That’s because it takes a lot of energy to suppress feelings, and the more you do, the more you give them a life of their own.
2. Treat meditation like you do a physical workout. There’s more to meditation than just sitting and feeling peaceful for a few minutes. It trains your brain to be able to focus on something for extended periods of time. In other words, it helps you develop the ability to consciously silence incessant thoughts and irrational ideas. When you sit down to do it, approach that level of focus the way you would a workout. Keep going even when it’s uncomfortable.
3. When you have an unpleasant feeling, see whether it originated in your head or in your body. Did this feeling come about because you had a weird thought that sent you in a spiral, or did it arise in your chest out of nowhere? The first one is what you need to learn to ignore and shake off. The second is what you need to learn to fully feel and process. Confusing the two is often what messes people up.
4. Compliment someone when you feel jealous of them. You rise by lifting others. The best way to nip some (healthy, normal) envy before it begins to spiral is to kill it with kindness. Override wanting someone to be ‘small’ with supporting them in their growth and success.
5. Make your objective to feel “at peace,” rather than “happy.” We subconsciously confuse happiness for joy, and this is destructive because we’re not meant to feel joyful over things all the time. Pain cannot cure pleasure, they are opposite ends of the same function: to guide you. They’re not intended to be your homeostasis. When you can be at peace with things (in other words, just kind of “being,”) you can be fully present in your life. When you’re not trying to make your life something it isn’t, you can experience it for what it is. (Which, ironically, will bring you the happiness you were seeking all along…)
6. Rather than just promising that you’ll stop doing whatever habits stress you out, create alternatives for when the itch arises. If you’re sick of overspending, create a new savings account and then commit to it being for a purpose: a house, a new car, a trip, a move, a new wardrobe. Whatever! The point is that you’ll never stop unless there’s something you perceive to be more important than the temporary high you’re chasing. Change is not what happens when you dismantle the old, but create the new.
7. Share something radically authentic. At one point in my life, I was so depressed that I could barely walk. I shared that because the second best thing to giving people the highlight reel of your life is the feeling of being honest, which most people confuse for humblebragging. If sharing it doing it doesn’t give you a sense of calm in your chest, it’s not raw enough, or the right thing to share.
8. Assume persistent, irrational thoughts are cues that there’s a feeling that needs to come up. Let those thoughts actually guide you to that feeling. You’ll find that you brain was just coming up with a whacked out way to get your attention, and really, all you need is just to let yourself feel.
9. Do something you loved to do as a kid. Paint, color, watch Pocahontas. (You can do the latter at your desk with headphones and multiple tabs, a hot tip from me to you.) Do not underestimate the power of tapping back into your childhood happy juju.
10. Consciously decide to see people for what they are – not what they aren’t. We look for the worst in others so we can have ammo in case they do something that hurts us or makes us feel lesser-than. When you seek out the worst in people first, you’ll get what you ask for. It’s not your job to change anybody, and it’s not your job to police them either.
11. Go to sleep. Eat something really filling. Hang out and do something you love for the night. Give up on the things that need to be surrendered to. Have sex and make it hella good. Give into your most human desires, you’ll be healthier for it in the end.
12. Recite a mantra. If you have a go-to phrase that calms you down or makes you feel better, write it on your hand, or repeat it to yourself as much as you can. (“This too shall pass” used to be mine, don’t hate on it being basic, it worked!)
13. Practice letting yourself feel physically happy. We have what’s called an “upper limit,” a capacity to which we’ll let ourselves feel good. Getting past that “upper limit” (or, in other words, raising your “baseline” happiness) is not the result of certain life events, it’s a conscious choice to expand ourselves emotionally (see: meditation, #2.)
14. Think of every single moment as an opportunity. To be grateful. To do something different. To make a tiny change that evolves into a life-changing one. For the love of your life to brush by you on the street. The more you’re aware that the portal to the beauty of life is in the little things, the more you can experience it.
15. Plan something to look forward to. Ask a friend to go do something with you this weekend – make it specific and set a time – and then mark it in the calendar. Even if they cancel, commit to going on your own regardless. Even if it’s as simple as farmers market shopping or a free museum you always pass by but never check out, give yourself something to work toward.
16. When something makes you very angry or upset, take a breath and say: “I’m really glad this was brought to my attention.” Things don’t infuriate us randomly. They are reflections, projections, or subconscious associations we don’t realize we have. When they’re ready to be changed, an opportunity for us to consciously recognize them will come up.