- Embracing your life isn't only about accepting its challenges and difficulties and its goodness and good times.
- Tips for embracing life include being mindful, accepting and affirming that you are worthy of good things, and resisting catastrophizing.
When I made “embrace your life” my slogan for 2022, I wasn’t only talking about accepting the challenges and difficulties that come your way and helping to make you resilient. I also meant to embrace the good things in your life—the moments, days, weeks, months, even years when things go smoothly and well.
This has been a challenge for me, and maybe it is for you too.
Here are nine tips I have taken from my own experience that I believe can be helpful for everyone who has had more than their share of hard times but finds themselves facing good times that may actually worry them by seeming “too good to be true.”
My nine tips for embracing the good things in your life:
- Accept and affirm that you are worthy of good things: This may seem like a small thing, but too many of us who have experienced difficult, especially traumatic, events too often feel we somehow “deserve” them or “brought them on ourselves.” The fact is that things happen. Life happens. Whatever happens, it’s important to understand that you—simply by virtue of being a human being of infinite worth—are worthy of, and deserve, all the goodness life has in store for you. So get out of your own way and accept it!
- Remember the price(s) you have paid to get here: Embracing the good things in your life doesn’t mean for a minute you will, or should, forget the challenges you have faced along the way. In fact, without re-traumatizing yourself by dwelling on the pain of your painful memories, it’s useful to remind yourself that you deserve your life’s blessings far more than you ever “deserved” its difficulties. You didn’t deserve those difficulties; they simply happened because sometimes difficult things happen in our lives. They are part of being human and living in a world that constantly changes around us.
- Resist catastrophizing: If you have faced challenges (and who hasn’t?), and it sometimes feels like a cosmic pig pile on top of you of difficulties and even traumas, it can be hard not to believe “the whole world” is against you, that you’re “born to lose” as Ray Charles’ song puts it. But the fact is that everyone has hard times sometimes. We all lose at some point, whether it’s a missed opportunity, a loved one taken away by illness or accident, a broken relationship or something else that means a lot to us. It never feels “fair.”
Facing challenges means, well, facing them—not running from them, not denying the pain they cause you, even accepting that being human means you will inevitably face experiences that challenge your sense of who you are, what you value, how you want to live your life. Just because you have faced these difficult times in the past doesn’t mean that your “whole life” is a never-ending disaster—unless you choose to make it one. This is why it’s important, when you find yourself in a place in your life when you have successfully weathered the storms you have encountered and now see blue skies smiling on you, not to catastrophize. Don’t miss the sunshine in your life by living as though you are just waiting for rain.
- Stay mindful: You will enjoy your life’s sunny weather by paying attention to the good things happening to and for you. Think about them. Take pleasure and delight in them. Be enthusiastic about them. Do you have a new job you love? Why do you love it? How is it different from past jobs you have hated? Does it give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment? Be present to your feelings of satisfaction and feel good about achieving this positive change in your life.
- Let yourself enjoy the good things: Just as it’s important to “feel your feelings” when those feelings are hard ones, such as grief and sorrow, it’s equally important to let yourself experience joy and happiness when those are the natural feelings to come from your life’s good times. This contributes toward cultivating an optimistic outlook and helping us not to live in constant dread that bad things are "right around the corner."
- Practice gratitude: In my experience, and from what I have observed, nothing lifts your mood or clears your mind faster and more effectively than focusing on all you are grateful for. I am not talking about some kind of ethereal, highly evolved spirituality that transcends the worries and care of life in the here-and-now. I mean calling to mind—even writing on a list if it helps—specific people, things or situations for which you are thankful. It can be a loved one, or your good health, or a respite in dealing with a loved one’s ill health, or your sense of personal freedom—really anything that contributes to a sense of goodness in your life.
- Cultivate contentedness: I have a bad habit of getting preoccupied with “what’s next,” too often at the price of missing the present goodness in my life. A huge lesson I learned from serving as my late mom's primary caregiver is that at the end of our lives, it doesn’t matter whether we possess this or that because ultimately, all that matters is that we love and are loved in return and that we can end our lives knowing we lived and loved the best we possibly could. Living with that knowledge, long before we get to our life's end, can free of us of the discontent and envy that prevent us from being fully present in our own life and appreciating all we already possess.
- Rest assured that you will have the inner resources you need “next time” life challenges you: We don’t stop being resilient just because we’re not facing imminent danger or disaster. We don’t need to “work out” our resilience muscles by stirring up drama or disaster simply to exercise them. Rephrasing the second tip, you can remind yourself of the prices you have paid to become resilient. Recalling how you handled past challenges, what you did, what you told yourself, the songs you listened to for inspiration and motivation—you can be confident that you still possess those inner resources, and can draw on them again the next time something challenging arises.
- Believe that “all shall be well”: For years, I have drawn upon the simple, beautiful words of Lady Julian of Norwich (England) to keep myself going even during extremely trying times. At the time I write this, I am experiencing smooth sailing when it seems I’ve made a series of smart, forward-moving choices that have set me up for a period of contentment and fulfillment. Because I’m prone to doubt the goodness I am experiencing—waiting for “the other shoe to drop”—it’s challenging for me to stay calm and accept calmness. That’s why I continue to remind myself to calm down when, say, one detail of a logistical plan seems as though it “may” prove difficult. “All shall be well,” I tell myself to calm myself down—often out loud. And it works.
I hope you will enjoy endless blue skies in your life. We all know that isn’t likely. But during the times when your skies really are blue, when nothing difficult is demanding your attention and stirring your emotions in a painful way, consider applying these tips to prolong and fully enjoy every one of your blue-sky days. Sure as sunshine, they will help to ensure you enjoy good weather more often than not.