Spring is the season for cleaning out your closet, your pantry, and that catch-all drawer in your kitchen – you know, the one that is bursting at the seams with unopened mail. Spring is also about cleaning out the cobwebs of your internal life and rediscovering what is innate, individual, and essential to whom you are. It’s a time to find awareness around the fact that we are all embedded within a culture that values what is measurable and explicit over the more intangible and implicit parts of what makes you unique. This imbalance of values creates the ultimate paradox for us: we pursue happiness harder yet we become increasingly unhappy. We end up prioritizing the virtual over what is real and we lose sight of our authenticity along the way.
The question becomes how do we rediscover and foster the essence of which we are and what is truly important to us? The answer: spending time with your soul. Truly, getting to know your soul with the same curiosity and kindness you would have if you were conversing with The World’s Most Interesting Man for the first time. This is not about religion, it’s about creating space to attune to the deepest parts of yourself and to emerge into the unique person you really are, not who you are taught to be.
With that, here are five #bSustainable habits that lay the foundation for your soul:
1. Slow Is Fast
It’s common and alluring to believe the faster and harder you move through life, the quicker you will get where you want to be. This is a fallacy. In fact, when we rush and/or over-commit ourselves, we lose touch with ourselves and with our needs - which leads us down a longer, more circuitous path.
The wisdom lies in embracing the truth; that slowing down helps us realize our true destination or purpose with efficiency and direction. This implies that we must be intentional about being still, whether it be only five minutes, each and every day.
In fact, thanks to technological advances in neuroscience, we now know that mindfulness, an ancient eastern contemplative practice, actually fosters the growth and integration of the neural pathways in your brain. In other words, being still, focusing your attention on your breathe with a non-judgmental attitude (even for as little as a few minutes per day) can help heal blocked or inhibited regions of your brain and improve your overall well-being. Mindfulness has also been shown to decrease anxiety, reduce depression, and improve self-esteem.
2. Stop the Should
Do you ever catch yourself thinking:
- I should be doing…
- I should be more like…
- I should be earning…
- I should have career advancement by…
- I should weigh…
- I should have eaten…. I shouldn't have eaten…
- I should… I should… I should… I should… I should…
Do you notice as you were reading the word should that your anxiety level raised? Or maybe you felt tightness in your chest or a pit in your gut? Does it feel all too familiar? Okay, now give yourself permission to relax – take a deep breath.
You have the power to change the dialogue and how you interact with yourself. Personally, I believe everyone SHOULD remove should from their vocabulary. Permanently. It’s an emotionally loaded word and it’s toxic.
Try to bring awareness around your thought patterns (especially when you are browsing social media). When you catch that you are being should-y to yourself again, try not to react with harshness or judgment but, instead, rephrase your thoughts with something that works better for you and makes you feel better. For example, “I would like to…”
3. Enough Is Enough
You are enough. You always have been and you always will be. Let this be your mantra each and every day. Nothing you accomplish or don’t accomplish in your life will ever change this fact.
Even if you don’t believe it at first, practice telling yourself this over and over – “I’m enough.” Let it sit and settle in your soul. It is the only truth that matters. You. Are. Enough.
4. Letting Go
“If you let go a little — you will have a little happiness. If you let go a lot — you will have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely — you will be free.” Ajahn Chah
On this topic, listen to Jack Kornfeld, a mindfulness teacher, as he speaks beautifully on the essence of this distinction.
“Letting go is not the same as aversion, struggling to get rid of something. We cannot genuinely let go of what we resist. What we resist and fear secretly follows us even as we push it away. To let go of fear or trauma, we need to acknowledge just how it is. We need to feel it fully and accept that it is so. It is as it is. Letting go begins with letting be.
When we learn to let things be, they gradually lose their power; they cease to disturb us.
As we allow what is true, space comes into the body and mind; we breathe and soften and come to rest. In accepting it, we become free. Then we can ask: ‘Do I have to continue to replay this story? Do I have to hold on to these losses, these feelings? Is it time to let this go?’ The heart will know.”
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things that were not meant for you.”
5. Foster Gratitude
The last, but definitely not least, habit for feeding your soul is creating a gratitude practice. We all know that life can be messy and painful. Instead of living in regret for past mistakes or feeling caught up in how you were wronged, take a few moments every night to think about what these challenges have given you. Perhaps simply writing down five quick things that you are grateful for that day will reset your soul before bedtime.
Or, if you are looking for a little more contemplative healing, try writing a letter of thanks to yourself or to someone else, regardless if you actually deliver the letter or not.
And, yes, writing these things down is important because it allows you to slow down (i.e. Slow is Fast #bSustainable habit #1) and to feel the gratitude in your body as you see the words on paper.
*If you are interested in more resources on any of the above-mentioned topics, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.