We all naturally want to feel happy and satisfied. We want every day to be fulfilling and be meaningful. To many, it is a pursuit that sounds dreamy but impossible. But we can actually make our lives more fulfilling. Here's a few approaches to consider:
1. Pay attention to routines
Routines are powerful things. When we do a thing over and over, we are training our brains on certain responses so that they happen faster and more accurately next time. From an evolutionary perspective, this is a good thing because it allows us to operate more efficiently.
But as we develop routines, we stop paying attention to all the details of the environment around us. Daily habits like getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, and eating breakfast are routines we perform with very little awareness. Maybe these are not times where you can find much improvement or appreciation, but you wouldn't know if you don't pay attention.
And the same phenomenon is present in much of our daily experience. If we don't pay attention, we will miss out on much. The feeling of gratitude and making of small improvements can be surprisingly fulfilling. This is what it means to live a mindful lifestyle.
2. Choose activities or people that serve you
Similar to the first point, pay attention to the activities and people around you. What or who creates most joy of your life? What does not? Increase more of joy in your life and reduce those don't serve you well. Mindful living is made up of the daily choices you make to create your own path. It is to pay attention to yourself and your environment and make the decisions that lead to happiness and fulfillment.
3. Slow down
The reality is that modern life operates at break-neck speed. We are surrounded in cities and work with busy people. This naturally makes us anxious and stressed even once we have arrived home. An important countermeasure is the capacity and habit to deliberately slow down. We need to learn to take a break mentally and physically from the busy world around us.
There are many ways once can do this. It can be an hourly practice of closing one's eyes and counting our breaths for 1 minute. It can be a daily routine of drinking tea or taking bath. Or it can be a weekly yoga practice to refresh your body & mind. Preventive wellness habits are far less costly than a recovery from burnout and cumulated stresses.
4. Caring about more than yourself
Even taking care of yourself can be difficult sometimes. But when you feel like you are in a good place, why not look around and pay attention to people around you?
Caring about other people doesn't require much effort. We just need to pay attention! When we are aware of the people around us, and make an effort to be nice and helpful, we are our best selves. Small gestures can bring real happiness to others. Remember: you are part of their environment. When you are your best self, you help them to be in a better place, and inspire them to be a good person. And this gives us the same effect in return. Win-Win.
5. Be nice
We tend to be our own worst critic. Moderate constructive criticism can help us to improve ourselves. But too much can send us in the opposite direction. Many times, any criticism is unnecessary.
Practice self-reflection in a calm and safe space. Coach yourself to build yourself up, not tear yourself down. Remember: you are better than you think. Like Brene Brown said, "you are enough." So be kind to yourself.