How well do you know your ABC‘s of mental health and happiness? Let’s start at the very beginning–although you will see that the alphabet of skills below is really a circle that starts and ends wherever you are…
Awareness…because the first step in happiness is to become aware of what you are thinking, feeling, doing and projecting in the world. Awareness leads to authenticity–striving to be yourself, unique and precious, unlike anyone else on the planet.
Believe…not only in yourself and your capacity to grow but believe in something greater than yourself–whether that is God, ultimate enlightenment, the unity of nature, the laws of science, or the power of Love to transform people.
Communicate…with courage and compassion. Humans were given the gift of language and the capacity to invent alphabets in order to communicate our thoughts, feelings and desires.
Exercise and Eat well…since our bodies and minds are not separate from one another.
Family and Friendships... provide the social support that we need to combat despair and loneliness. Take time to develop and nurture relationships that bring you comfort and joy.
Gratitude…helps us change our attitude. Instead of feeling victimized by others and focusing on pain and suffering, when we remember to notice small things each day that to be grateful for, it gives our lives new perspective.
Intention...sets the stage for our actions. Envision the kind of person you want to be, and make it your clear and firm intention to practice whatever skills and attitudes will help get you there.
Joy...helps every journey, however long and perilous. Like gratitude, it can be found in the smile of a stranger, the smell of fresh coffee, the color of the sunrise.
Kindness...to others can heal broken hearts and will come back to you sometimes when you least expect it. Give to others what you would like to receive.
Learning…lifelong learning…is what it takes to become a kinder, happier, more loving person. Life gives each of us many lessons along the way. Cultivate the mindset of a child with the openness to learn something new each and every day.
Mindfulness and Meditation…help teach us how to quiet our monkey minds (the incessant chatter in our heads–often negative), how to remember to breathe through pain, and how to stop ourselves before saying something cruel or unnecessary.
Nature…is Herself a great Teacher and healer for children and adults alike, teaching us to be observant, to play, to be alone, to be more imaginative, and to be in our bodies.
Optimism…is an outlook on life that fosters hope. It helps us to live longer, get along better with others, and persevere in spite of suffering. Is the glass half full or half empty?
Practice and Persistence…are crucial to the success of any venture–including happiness. As Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1 % inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
Question…yourself and your current state of mind with curiosity and the willingness to change. Don’t get stuck in believing that you are right when it brings you little joy or connection. Don’t take things that others do so personally. Instead, cultivate curiosity and remember that everyone else is trying to learn things too.
Rituals and Routines…are the best ways to ensure that new skills and attitudes get incorporated into daily life. Just as we learn to brush our teeth at night before bed, if we practice gratitude or meditation or any life-enhancing skill at the same time each day, it will become second nature.
Sleep..and enough of it, is necessary for not only our physical health but our emotional stability as well. Without it, it is easy to fall prey to pessimism, irritability, and depression.
Talk…to others about your troubles. Therapy is not for the weak or the sick but for those with the courage and determination to make their lives–and that of their children and loved ones–better. Talking to others (anyone!) also builds trust, opens us to new ways of thinking and allows us to test new behaviors.
Understanding…how our body, mind and spirit are connected helps motivate a healthier lifestyle. There are many curricula available through books, lectures, and classes about cultivating mental health and well-being. Increasing your knowledge will increase your motivation and persistence.
Volunteering…helps build more positive relationships. As we see the suffering of others, we realize we are not alone, building greater empathy and compassion. We also feel better about ourselves which in turn promotes more self-care and self-compassion.
Work…is an important way to put all of the above into practice. It is relatively easy to be happy when you are doing things that are fun. Some people are blessed to do work that fulfills them, but many spend countless hours doing things that are tedious or boring. Learning to see one’s work in a positive light–it puts food on the table, it builds discipline–is truly walking the walk.
Xpression of feelings…in a balanced way–not too much and not too little–helps us stay attuned to ourselves and others. Crying can help us heal from the pain of loss or betrayal. Learning to express our anger in non-violent ways helps us move to compassion.
Yoga…is a physical, mental and spiritual practice from ancient India that was designed to bring peace of mind to the practitioner. Think of the difficult moments of life–whether in your job, your relationships, or your physical health–as your yoga. Many of the most important lessons learned in life come from transforming our mistakes into opportunities for growth and learning.
Zeal and Zest…are the end product of putting the ABC’s into practice. They also make the journey more enjoyable along the way. Laughter is one of the best medicines–and certainly cheap enough for everyone with no known side effects other than increased optimism and well-being.
Which brings us back to the beginning. They all go together. Start anywhere you like. Or just start with A….one ACTION towards health and happiness.