5 Keys to a Better Life
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“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” – Jonathan Lockwood Hule
Photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash
A better life. The vision of a better life has inspired people throughout history. It has moved people to migrate, support causes, buy into inventions, even commit crime in an effort to support their family or raise their status.
Part of the human brain is programmed to constantly seek better. This can show up even in small ways, like adding salt or sugar to make something taste better, or changing clothes to feel better in a different outfit. Searching for better is in our DNA.
The truth is, better is just a mental construct. If we perceive something as “better”, we assume it will support our survival better than something else. Understanding this can help us differentiate between what can TRULY make our lives better, and what our brain may be mistaking as something that will keep us safe, and sound, and well… make things better.
I’ve identified 5 keys that I think can truly make a person’s life “better.”
1. Awareness through meditation
If you want to train your brain to work cohesively, reduce your reactionary behavior, and reduce the amount of stress, anxiety, and fear in your life, a daily meditation practice is one of the best ways you can do this. You might not see instant results, but if you give it a little bit of time, you will see change.
Meditation challenges you to stay up in your conscious mind, rather than letting the storyteller of your unconscious mind take over. Unless you have stories in their that are creating the life you want (there are likely some that are, and some that are not), it’s important to use your intellect to change the stories. Meditation builds this skill.
Your ego is the skin of your thoughts. Just like your body has skin to create a protective barrier from the outside world, and help give you shape, your ego does the same thing for your thinking mind. It creates your personality, the thinking you.
But one of the key tools the ego uses is judgment, against others and against self. And negative judgments are a favorite tool of the ego to try and protect itself. The problem is these judgments are like declaring an attack on someone or something else, or yourself. They create an internal war, that your ego is projecting out into the world.
War is no fun. People get hurt. It’s exhausting. It has effects that are felt for years. Your personal wars on others and yourself prop up your ego, but create a lot of destruction over time.
But the thing about mental wars is they can be ended in an instant, because all it takes is the choice to forgive, and that is simply based on a thought. You can do this in the privacy of your own mind. You can do it for your own sake, and no one else’s (although someone else is likely to benefit).
3. Food that supports you
You are made of a lot of energy and a little bit of matter. So is everything else. And in order for you to remain in the form you are for as long as possible, you have to replenish the energy and matter you lose with energy and matter from the outside, otherwise known as food.
You are made of molecules that we identify as micro and macro nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, etc.). These molecules have a balance and work together to create what we know as a healthy human.
If we put molecules into the system that don’t serve the system well, dysfunction starts to happen. Just because something is edible doesn’t mean it should be eaten, even though there is a part of our primitive brain that wants to drive us to eat the thing, since starvation is one of the great enemies of life.
How do you know if a food supports you? Pay attention to what your diet is creating. Do you feel energized and have a happy gut most of the time, or do you feel tired and like your body is having a hard go of things? If the later is true, you may be putting molecules into your body that don’t support your unique system.
I define supportive food as anything that is a) nutrient rich and b) digests well in your body. Just because kale is a super food doesn’t mean you should eat it if your gut feels miserable trying to process it.
WARNING: processed foods are designed to make you feel mentally good for a moment. Don’t confuse that quick hit of feeling good for long term support of your body.
I know this is cliche, but your body was made to move. And I’m not talking about running miles or hiking mountains or doing Zumba for an hour. Not to knock those things, they’re all good. But the machine you live evolved to be on the move more often than not.
This includes low level movement, like walking around, making things (standing in your kitchen and making dinner rather than ordering in), and poking and prodding and exploring your environment.
Going back to energy and matter, you are living because energy is flowing through organized matter in a rhythmic way. That is what life is. If you don’t move, that process slows down. The molecules of your body are no longer challenged to keep up the pace. This leads to lessening function and less pliability.
Energy needs to move through your body, and it needs your help to do it. Even if there’s fatigue. Even if there’s pain. Because it’s a slippery slope towards decline once you stop moving.
In order for anything to function through movement, it must be organized. I’m not talking about Type A personality calendaring and complete rigidity with your schedule.
Nature has proven that in order for something to be successful, it has to be organized. When things are no longer organized in a functional way in our body, we die. When things are malformed in nature, not organized in the best way to support function, dysfunction occurs.
The more you can organize something, the more of a chance it has to survive and function. This is why your brain depends on habits. Habits are just organized thought patterns fired off again and again. They are so organized in fact that you can perform habitual tasks without even being consciously aware (like driving somewhere and not remembering the drive).
If you want to create something new in your life, organization is essential for long term success. And don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that success should happen right now, it’s called “long term” for a reason.
Organization doesn’t happen all at once. The reason most people don’t pursue their dreams is that they get scared by the big picture. They can’t see how to organize things in order to get to the end result. But all you have to do is start working your way backwards, and implement small organizational steps at a time. And we humans have been at this thing called life for a very long time. Look to others to provide guidance on how to organize in order to achieve what you want. Then take those organizational steps over and over, so it becomes habit in your brain.
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