Our thoughts condition the quality of our emotions.
Taking care of our emotional health will make us feel better about ourselves and about life. It will improve our ability to connect with others and to build meaningful relations.
The stoic philosopher Epictetus taught us that our own freedom depends on the ability to let go of the things we cannot control:
Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.
Ergo, the philosopher admonished us, we need to concentrate on the things that are under our control, such as the thoughts that dwell in our mind.
It is when we are unaware of this ability that our mind becomes hostage to negative thoughts. We lose our freedom, our inner peace, and our lucidity.
The quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our emotions. In turn, emotions shape the quality of our life; they govern our actions (or lack of actions) which in turn determine the results we produce in life. In other words, the life we get mirrors the thoughts we entertain in life.
For example, self-doubt (a negative thought about ourselves) produces fear and anxiety in our lives (negative emotions) and might prevent us from taking advantage of an opportunity or to accomplish a task (inaction). As a result, we don’t get the desired result (and we experience failure). In reality, failure is feedback on the thoughts that occupied our mind.
The good news is that we can do a lot to feel better about ourselves and about life by taking care of our mind and the quality of its thoughts.
As a conflict resolution specialist I often find myself working in hostile environments and taking care of my emotional health has been important for self-mastery, rapport building, and problem-solving.
Here are some easy practices you can adopt to feel better about yourself and about your life (these are practices that I have tested) :
It might be a landscape your recall from your childhood, or from a recent trip you took. Connect with the memory of that passage and with the positive feelings you experienced at the time. In addition to connecting with the image, connect with the experience as well. Visualize the experience, re-create the feelings. Contemplate that scenery.
Stop what you are doing, get up, and walk very slowly, feeling every movement of your foot and of your leg as they move forward. To focus on your walk is also a great way to clear your mind of thoughts that might bring you anxiety or discomfort. Practicing mindful walking will enhance your capacity to concentrate when you get back to work. Do this for 3-5 minutes.
Love and friendship need to be expressed. Take the time to connect with someone you love and whose friendship you appreciate. Make the commitment to write an email or to call someone you love every day. It can be a family member or a friend. Share something about your life and express appreciation for the presence of the other in your life. If someone did something nice for you, express heartfelt gratitude. On your way home, stop and buy some flowers for your significant other, even though it’s not an anniversary. Find ways to express your love and appreciation.
Find a comfortable corner in your office or your home. Sit down and put your headphones on. Listen to music that relaxes you. Focus on the music and lose yourself in the experience. Deeply enjoy the melody caressing your mind.
Take a few moments every day to annotate in your journal the gratitude you feel for the people who are in your life and the opportunities you are given.
I generally do this practice early in the morning. I express gratitude for being alive, for the opportunity I have to serve others through my work. Gratitude also for what I have accomplished in my life. I also express gratitude for the challenges I have, because they are an opportunity for personal growth.
Acknowledge that your voice is unique and that the world needs the contribution of your unique voice. Focus on the specific contribution you are called to give to the human family. Consider what you can do during the day to live your mission. Every day is unique and unrepeatable. You are unique and unrepeatable. You have only today (that is the present moment) to love.
Keep your eyes open and observe what is happening around you in your community. Think of what you could do for your community. Maybe there is a neighbor who is sick and needs some help. Or someone who is alone and needs some company. Maybe someone just needs your smile. Or maybe you can find an organization where you would like to volunteer.
Every day you encounter people you know and even individuals you meet for the first time. Every encounter is the opportunity to connect and to love; with a smile, lending your ear, offering advice. Just connect and love. As a result, you will feel better about yourself and your life. Transformation is the result of small and mindful acts.
Aldo Civico is an author and mediator, who has been working for 25 years in conflict resolution around the world. You can connect with his work by joining his facebook page here.