While doing that recently I came across a lecture by Dr Margaret Chesney of the UCSF Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine. It’s a long (nearly 90 minutes long) lecture ,but the contents are great if you’re trying to find tools for coping and dealing the crud life throws at you. So I’ve put together a summary in this piece.
(If you want the subtlties you’ll just have to listen through for yourself.)
There’s a lot in common with the work of people like Professor Martin Seligman’s work on confidence and happiness (and so on), but there’s a new twist to it too — which is covered a lot more in the video than in this summary.
In short…it’s based on the acronym BREATHE.
Be in the moment. Simple. Make a point of noticing what’s going on around you, right here, right now. Try some conscious breathing exercises to help increase your awareness. (You can have a look at almost any writing about ‘mindfulness‘ to help you here, too.) The important thing is to become aware of the here-and-now.
Realistic goals – set ‘em. Don’t set yourself targets that you can’t possibly achieve. That way you’re making things worse for yourself because you’re setting yourself up for a continuous stream of failure. By all means stretch yourself but don’t over-stretch yourself. Stretch shouldn’t become ‘strain’.
Everyday events – notice them. Dr Chesney has a lovely moment of pointing out to people that they really hate not being able to breathe easily when they’ve got a cold… and they hate it… and they notice it… but how many people notice it when they’ve not got a cold and can breathe easily? Things like ‘gratitude logs’ help here.
Or just stop, right now, and do nothing for a few minutes except jot down the good things around you that you should be grateful for.. and that you are grateful for, now you’ve taken the time to think of them! Let’s start with the fact that you’ve got eyes that work enough to read this (or something to read it for you!) and electricity to work your computer to display it…. you get the idea!
Acts of kindness – do ‘em! Creating positive moments for other people makes you feel better and makes you feel better about yourself. Quite apart from that, it makes their day better too! Making the world a better place one act of kindness at a time? Cool!
Turn around the negatives. This one’s a challenge. It’s about reframing stuff and finding the ‘silver lining’ to your cloud. Sure it’s not easy and some things just don’t have a silver lining that you can find at the time but a lot of stuff does. Most things in fact. Almost everything.
No one is saying it’s easy or that bad stuff isn’t bad stuff – just that trying to use the bad stuff and mitigate it with a sliver of good is better than just being a victim.
Honour your strengths – be true to yourself. Be true to your values. Be true to what you’re good at – and admit that you’re good at things. Make a point of listing them. Don’t pretend you don’t have any – false modesty isn’t anything to be proud of… and people see through it easily enough anyway recognising it as a form of arrogance. So what’s wrong with just accepting to yourself that you’re good at something – and then acting on it!!?
End each day with gratitude – check what has happened that day. Go over it and find the good in it. For those things that weren’t so good, decide what you can do about them. What can you learn; what can you do differently? If there’s nothing (really?!!?) let go. Sleep well, knowing that you’ve got a plan and you’re not wallowing in the bad…. :)
I hope I’ve done Dr Chesney justice. If you want the full thing, here you go!
(Photo credit: Breathe via Shutterstock)