Here are 5 lessons that have exponentially improved my quality of life.
1. See the light
Focus on what is going right. I learned to be more positive, and not to default to focusing on all the things that aren't going right. This one was easier said than done. One of the strategies that have been effective and easy to maintain is for every negative thought, I find 2-3 things that are going well.
My room is a mess --> I made a friend laugh, I organized my daughter's room, and I washed my face today.
I haven't input the data from work and now it's 10pm --> I motivated a truant kid to come to school 2 weeks in a row. I also can see a noticeable difference in the self-esteem of one of my 4th grade students. Even though my data is late, my students are becoming more independent.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the ones that stick.
2.Look beside you, not behind you
I set and more importantly reinforced major boundaries in 2021. It resulted in some serious growing pains, and some relationships flourished while others perished. By focusing on the ones that lifted me up, rather than the absence of others I was able to fully practice gratitude. I had to make the conscious decision to break the comparison cycle. The comparison cycle consists of comparing the action or inaction of a close friend or family member to how you would respond to a similar situation.
For years I would get stuck in the comparison cycle and it stole so much of my joy. I met a major milestone in debuting a solo art exhibit. I could feel my mind start to draw attention to the people that were no-shows, both physically and emotionally. For a moment I was almost seduced back into the harmful cycle of listing 101 things I've done for them, or the ways in which I would celebrate a similar achievement. It reminded me of binge-eating a chocolate bar in the middle of the night. It seems like it'll make me feel better, but afterwards i just feel worse and wish my willpower was a bit stronger.
I rerouted my attention to the dozens of messages, emails, texts, family, friends, and absolute strangers that showed up instead. I made my peace with the fact that even though an act may not be reciprocated I'm not letting that change how I choose to show up for those that matter to me.
3.You will not cry forever.
Those of us that have dealt with loss, trauma, and hardship are familiar with the feeling that if we cry we fear we will cry forever. It's not true. Your mind is playing tricks on you. One of the challenges I faced was engaging and not resisting the anxious stomach pains that would often signal me to an emotional event. Engaging with that sensation and understanding what my body was trying to tell me often led to tears, but then I felt 100x better than when I would distract myself with an impossible to-do list.
4.Talk back to the voice in your head
Literally, talk back to the voice in your head that insists you ignore that call, stay in bed, or worse that you're all alone. Our minds play tricks on us all the time. One of the most powerful things I've learned is to say to myself "Why?" or "What would happen if...".
In the morning if I'm feeling especially heavy and getting out of bed feels impossible, I ask myself something like, "What would happen if you opened the blinds." Immediately I can feel a shift and I'm able to stand up and continue that line of questioning until I'm in a comfortable mindset.
5.Moments beat materials
I always disliked the saying, "Money can't buy happiness." I disagree. Money can buy you happiness...and comfort...and peace. To make the most significant impact go for moments over materials every time.