We all know that life can be difficult, but the recipe for peace and tranquillity is really at our fingertips.
1. Don’t worry about your self-image. We all have an image of ourselves, how we think we appear to others. It’s usually wrong because we just don’t know what other people think about us, and so it’s not worth worrying about. You are you, and others have to like you or not. If you have a fault, try to improve it, but don’t worry about your image.
2. Give up trying to find yourself. A lot of people say, ‘I need time to find myself, to work out who I am.’ This is one way to give yourself a neurosis because there’s nothing to find. You have your capabilities; you may be a cook or a chemist or a charity worker and nothing can take that away. Rest on that.
3. Celebrate your uniqueness. Every human being is different, unique. Nobody has quite the same take on things as you do. This is a marvellous feeling to enjoy. At the same time we have to understand that others have a different take too. It means we’re not necessarily right, and it makes us more tolerant.
4. Create an environment of peace in your life. People can be happy even though their life is hard and uncomfortable, but most of us need an environment of peace and calm. One of the important building blocks is treating others with kindness and generosity. People will generally reciprocate kindness and you have created a space of warmth and calm. There’s a big happiness dividend here for everyone.
5. Stay aware of what generosity really is. If your heart isn’t in what you give away, it isn’t actually giving. Sending old clothes to the charity shop is a good thing to do, but it’s really only getting rid of junk. Give away something useful to you.
6. Live now! Don’t put it off until tomorrow. We don’t know what tomorrow will be like. The past is a memory – so there’s no point in living there. The future is a hope and a dream which is pleasant to contemplate, but don’t count on it. Now is all we have.
7. Be aware of this moment in your life. What’s happening? What are you doing? Are you enjoying? It doesn’t have to be a big moment like a graduation ceremony or winning a lottery prize. Life is mostly small moments like washing the dishes or riding the subway, or having coffee with a friend. Be there and feel alive! Life is too precious to be wasted drifting along half-awake.
8. Go slowly. Sure, life can be fast and furious, but not all the time. Put the brakes on. Slow down. Think and feel what you’re doing. Actually live now instead of having your mind on the rush for the next thing.
9. Be sociable. You can’t attain real peace and calm by shutting yourself away. All you get is quietness. Mix with others and appreciate their uniqueness. Accept them for what they are, and use kindness as a tool to achieve a peace and calm that is rich with the lives of others.
10. Be ready to cope with change and unpredictability. Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. Life is a very uncertain business. That’s the way it is. Reality. We have to build this into our thinking, whether it’s missing the train, being let down by a friend or loss of a loved one. It’s not personal, you haven’t been singled out. It’s just bad luck. You can have good luck too!
11. Remember that anger doesn’t work as a solution to your problems.Anger related feelings are our default setting as soon as we are crossed. That’s natural. But anger is a virus that poisons us. It makes us feel bad. It’s a burden we don’t need to accept. And when did shouting get you anywhere?
12. Loosen some of your attachments. We’re attached to all sorts of things, our family, our friends, our property, our job, our investments. The pain comes when the kids don’t want to go on vacation with us any more, when our friends aren’t as helpful as they could be, when we lose our property or our job. This hurts. Nothing is absolutely guaranteed. If we can detach ourselves a little from events around us, if we don’t hold so tight, we can be happier.
13. Face life with a spirit of acceptance. It doesn’t mean you don’t struggle to change things you can change. But some things can’t be changed like the loss of a friend or your employer going broke. We need to accept and tolerate happenings that can’t be changed, like death of a friend. If we can cultivate an attitude of acceptance and detachment, we can move on.
14. Get engaged in life in a meaningful way. So what’s meaningful? I can’t tell you that. You have to decide what is meaningful to you. But it doesn’t have to be something epoch-making or important in the community. Growing flowers or climbing mountains or doing the housework are all meaningful. But an activity isn’t meaningful if you’re doing it half-heartedly. If you believe what you’re doing is meaningful, you’re going to enjoy it.
Gil Hogg is the author of The Happy Humanist and Teaching Yourself Tranquillity. He is also a novelist. Check out his website www.gilhogg.co.uk