I remember being fascinated by Buddhism in college. Reading about the belief that life is suffering began to change my perspective and approach to my own hurdles.
However, back then, the underlying wisdom from that Buddhist saying wasn’t quite there for me yet. It would take a few years and crippling lessons to realize that my suffering didn’t happen for no reason at all.
There are reasons why the Buddhist notion is true. With investigation and practice, we can find patterns and change struggles into strength as well as acquire true appreciation for the process.
Recently I became the greatest detective of my own life; having explored the reasons for some of my greatest falls I found that it was all only ever meant to teach me, and as a result relieved me from much of the existential pain I experienced.
Below are a list of my own conscious practices, which I’ve learned through introspective navigating: to ease struggles, to help me let go, continue to grow, and to find my own internal strength.
1. Get in the habit of questioning everything you do.
Why are you friends with this person? How do you feel when you…? What do you like about…?
People, places, activities, and things all influence us, consciously and unconsciously. Ask yourself questions and pay attention to your answers. You’ll start learning a lot more about yourself and notice what you didn’t always see.
2. Become aware of what you consume.
Whether it’s social media, TV, books, magazines… Why are you listening? What are you paying attention to?
All of these choices influence who we are, how we feel, and what we do. Pay close attention and never stop asking why.
3. Get in the habit of learning to change your perspective at the drop of a hat.
Our sight isn’t always 20/20 when it comes to how we want our experiences to be and what we make them mean. Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask how you might be able to see things differently.
The first time I asked myself that… To my own surprise, I actually got the change in perspective I was searching for. As a result I can now approach people and things with an open mind, a more compassionate heart, and a greater capacity to listen without an automatic reaction.
4. Have a belief in something greater than yourself.
This could be anything, from religion to a philosophy you have about life. The point is to abstract a meaning that shows you your life is more than just about you. It helps us adhere to the idea that by bettering ourselves we can make a difference, even if it’s small.
When we feel we are of use to something greater than ourselves we can access a deeper understanding of happiness. Not only will it help to motivate you to continue on your path, but it will set up the foundation to believe your purpose has meaning for something greater than just you.
5. Find something to ground yourself in.
Meditation, yoga, gym habits, long walks, observing the sunset… When we can find ways to disconnect from devices and dive into the present, we can appreciate more by noticing what’s around us.
Connecting with our own true self/soul/energy not only enables us to connect with ourselves, but also enables us to deepen the connection with those around us too.
6. Stop keeping tabs on others.
The worst way of robbing ourselves of happiness is by comparing. Even if it’s a crush… going to his/her Instagram page everyday will make you crazy. There’s no point.
Let life unfold how it’s meant to, and take yourself out of the suffering game by not competing in it. Don’t compare, don’t compete, don’t focus on any of that if you want to feel relief.
7. Take another look at your personal narrative.
How do you view that past relationship? Have you really let go of those beliefs you once held?
More often than not, the same stories we’ve written before continue to show up so we can change them. Most of it starts with our belief in ourselves. What do you think you’re worthy of?
8. Change your beliefs by replacing them with new ones.
I once thought I wasn’t deserving of living my best life and as a result I had immense pain in my life: the Universe was only responding to my belief, causing it to show up so I could see it.
I learned the hard way to let that belief go. Sometimes I’ll witness a thought show up and as the observer of that thought I’ll think, “Mmm that’s a scary belief to have. Replace it.” So without beating myself up for the original belief, I just change it to something better and move on.
9. Learn to let it go. But really, let it go.
Get good at noticing your thoughts by having the intention each day to stay present. When we are present with ourselves we are more likely to pay attention to what we think, believe, and do automatically.
It takes practice to become the observer, to believe that you have the will and determination to follow through. Taking yourself and reactions off autopilot takes time, practice, a whole lot of patience and constant self-forgiveness. Only when we engage in being mindful are we really our most true, authentic, and connected selves.
10. Always try your best.
You can’t suffer when you know you’re trying your best with what you have and the cards at play.
I stopped beating myself up when I started talking to myself like I am my best friend. “Hey, you’re just doing your best here. It’s okay, life doesn’t require you to be perfect.”
The trick to keeping that mindset is noticing where your focus is. Focus on what you’re doing right, be kind to yourself, and notice when you give it your all — you deserve a pat on the back (even and especially when no one’s around).