By Emily Herman, L.Ac.
Many of us have this relationship to life and don’t even realize it. It is ingrained in us to be always striving for improvement; more money, better relationships, better health. I’m not saying to abandon self-improvement, but don’t let the imperfection of this moment ruin the moment. This is life. It will always not be perfect (sorry). Life can be hard, for all of us in different ways. And whether you are in a good place now, or whether you are struggling, you can benefit by learning to appreciate and enjoy your life as it is in this moment.
Here are three practices that you can start today, which will help you to let go of the expectation that life be perfect before you fully embrace it, and enjoy life more in this moment;
- Practice gratitude. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude positively impacts the brain (increasing levels of activity in the hypothalamus, and increasing the neurotransmitter dopamine – the “reward” neurotransmitter). It has been proven to help relieve anxiety and depression. So you may choose to keep a gratitude journal, writing down 5, 10, or even 20 things each day that you are grateful for. Some people like to do this before bed as part of their evening rituals. Or you can simply remember to think of things each day you are grateful for. They can be small things, like being grateful that you enjoyed a cup of tea, or large things like being grateful for a person in your life, or the roof over your head. Even the process of searching for things to be grateful for has shown to be good for you.
- Be in the moment. Yes, yes, you’ve probably heard this one again and again. But the great philosopher Lao Tzu was really on to something when he said; “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” This one can take a lot of practice, but remembering to practice being in the moment, especially during stressful times, is half the battle. Some things you can do include simply noticing your physical surroundings. What does the room you’re in look like? What sounds do you hear? What sensations do you feel? These things can also be done meditating – and that is a wonderful tool for being present, but you don’t have to be meditating to be present. Taking a deep breath wherever you are, whatever you are doing, can also help bring you back to this moment.
- Turn your focus outwards. During stressful times, we can get lost in our own worlds of trouble. But it can be helpful to know that A. You are not alone, everyone struggles with some things and B. You can be there for other people, and that feels really good! Volunteering is a great way to connect with and help others, but you don’t have to volunteer to help others. In your every day interactions, practice good listening. Are you listening to respond, or really hearing what people are saying to you? Practice empathy. Notice, and acknowledge people when they do something well – we are all starved for acknowledgement. Ask yourself at the start of each day – how can I be a gift to someone today, however small? Maybe you acknowledge the cashier’s skillful scanning, or you visit an elderly relative in need of company. At the end of the day, helping others can help you become happier too.
Emily sees patients in our Timonium location on:
Wednesdays… 4pm – 8pm
Saturdays …. 2:30pm – 6pm
Emily is in network with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna and Aetna plans.
Read more about Emily at https://cloud9acuclinic.com/emily-herman-acupuncturist/