As we go forth with our lives, there are lists and lists of “Things we must do”. Most of the time, the things we must do, are the things that honestly pay the bills. We all are very aware of that. But what if the things that don’t seem to make any difference at all, are really the things that make the most difference to our lives after all?
Just bear with me a minute. This weekend I attended the service of a friend who quite simply, is gone too soon. To say that it came as a shock to everyone who loves him, is an understatement. Note I did not use past tense on the word love. As we shared stories about our friend, I thought of all the wonderful things people were saying and I thought this. This is how you want to be remembered.
The practices that you enact in your life daily, that might just seem to be part of your nature, are really what is shaping the whole of your life. As I pondered the life of my friend, I thought back over his modesty, his great big bear hugs, and the genuine warmth I felt from not only him, but his whole family. What did he do differently that seemed to make us all so connected? How can I honor him?
I can enact these 6 core principles in my life and repeat these acts daily.
6 Practices to Start:
1. Smile to release endorphins…the biochemist, Sondra Barrett, says that when you let go of tension, an outcome that can be achieved through smiling, your cells let go of their rigidness. I have a ginormous smile, but I also can go from happy to sad in a matter of seconds. I prefer happy as sad takes me a very long time to shake off, but it is important not to block your feelings…or feel bad about being able to smile through sadness.
2. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones…using a journal, list the negative thoughts that immediately come to mind. Notice when you begin having them and begin to replace them with positive thoughts. Find the connection to the root cause through this helpful article. Finding the positive through pain has been my life’s work, so feel free to use the search button on the blog for “positive thoughts”.
3. Practice gratitude…as we celebrated the life of my friend, he gave the pastor who came to visit him a word of thanks and a thumbs up. I am going to use that mental thumbs up to practice gratitude as much as I can even in the most difficult of situations as this one surely is. I asked my private gratitude group to share with me some thoughts about finding ways to be grateful even through loss, and they showed me there truly is a way. As they mentioned grandmothers, sisters, husbands, and children they have lost, they are still able to work through their collective pain, and for that, there is a quiet sense of hope as we know our loved ones are here with us through this process. Gratitude is truly a healing practice.
4. Laugh with friends. As we shared stories and laughter, for a minute I thought my heart was going to burst. How can we share laughter through pain? I can tell you this my friends, it is quite simply the only thing that kept me sane through the years of invisible diseases and pain I experienced myself. Why do we need to laugh? More than just brightening up your day, sharing a good laugh can actually improve your health. The sound of laughter draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, strengthen your immune system, and diminish pain. As children, we used to laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults life tends to be more serious and laughter more infrequent. By seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, though, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life. Read more on this at Laughter is The Best Medicine.
5. Express your love. So it’s no secret that brain research always makes me happy…as if I needed to know the reasons behind everything. So when you bond with someone, oxytocin plays a big part in that. The brain signals can actually be helped by a hug or a touch…so my friend was always connecting to others with his big hugs. Continue on with the expression of love and connection to others…try not to hermit. << this is coming from someone who hermits, but knows that it is important not to shut down during loss.
6. Don’t stop dreaming about the future. So I can tell you from experience that loss makes the time stand still. It is almost like a scene from the Matrix. But knowing my friends and family, we have to keep moving. That thing you wanted to do? Go do it. Time waits for no one. My girlfriend who is battling cancer for the second time, her hashtag is #wedontwait and it has shown me so much the past few years. We can stay in this spot for but a moment, and then we have to move forward. I love and appreciate all the gifts that pain has taught me, but I think these 6 gifts are the hardest of all to remember through pain. I hope this has helped you in some small way today.