By Jude Bijou, who will be presenting Attitude Reconstruction: Build Joy, Love, and Peace in Vancouver on Oct 22-23, 2016.
While you can hear many old wise beings telling you the secret of their longevity, they run the gamut from a couple of stiff drinks every evening to playing bingo, I thought you might enjoy my list of a baker’s dozen suggestions that will help keep young and increase the amount of happiness you feel. They are in random order.
1. Live by the 3 Ultimate Attitudes in your thoughts, words, and deeds.
1) Honor and love yourself.
2) Accept other people and situations.
3) Stay present and specific.
These concepts seem simple but aren’t easy to live by. Each time you align with one or more of these Ultimate Attitudes the result will be a shot of joy, love, or peace. I believe if you embody all three, you win the grand prize.
- Handle emotions physically and constructively.
Emotions are natural to all humans. They are pure physical sensations in the body. EMOTION = E+MOTION. They just need to be expressed in a constructive and physical manner.
When you feel sadness, just allow yourself to cry big ole tears, you’ll feel better and have more room to experience joy.
When you feel angry move out the emotional energy by hitting, stomping, pushing, yelling, or flailing. Express your anger physically and in a safe place. Do it hard, fast, and with abandon and the anger will lose its grip.
When you feel fear in your body (anxiety, overwhelm, worry, insomnia, or panic). Shiver, quiver, tremble, and shudder. It seems silly but it really works.
- Cancel your negative thinking.
Giving appreciations, praise, and gratitudes feels good and puts good vibes in the environment. Stop yourself when you’re thinking or saying something negative and look for what you do like and focus on that. Studies give credence to the fact that giving gratitudes isn’t just an airy-fairy exercise but actually increases psychological and physical well-being.
- Instead of being frustrated, critical, resigned, or bitter, work to accept that “People and situations are the way they are, not the way I want them to be.” Do this by repeating the above phrase over and over, until it sinks in. After accepting what is, we can look within for direction about what’s true for us about the specific situation. Then we’re able to speak up and take action with confidence.
- Have good communication, without a lot of arguing.
So stop arguing. Research has shown that couples that argue frequently die prematurely! I recommend adhering to Attitude Reconstruction’s Four Rules of Good Communication: 1)Speak in “I’s” — that is talk about yourself, not others; 2) Speak in specifics, not over-generalities(always, never, etc); 3) Focus on kindness, not negativity; 4) Truly listen 50% of the time. With a bit of practice you will reap undeniable benefits.
When differences arise, use the talk-and listen strategy. One person talks for a pre-agreed upon amount of time while the other ONLY listens. Then switch. Keep going back and forth until both feel understood. Then TOGETHER find the best win-win solution that honors everyone. There has got to be a good alternative.
6. Move your body.
Walking is good. Exercise is good. Team sports are good. Research is showing that too much sitting or sleeping is not kind for our bodies — our muscles, organs, bones, and our minds. Moving the body on a regular basis is what we humans were built to do. That means not just moving from the bed to the kitchen table to the computer, to the couch and television. Here’s an article about how walking increases creativity, and one that proposes that too much sitting causes us to lose years off of our lives.
- Eat well and in moderation.
You know the drill. Stay away from junk food and fast food. Eat your veggies. Eat fruit. Go back to basics that don’t have a list of ingredients that you can’t pronounce. And go for moderation, in foods, drinks, (and life).
- Hang out with others.
There are a ton of studies that conclude that enjoyable social interactions help keep the mind and heart flexible and running smoothly. Isolation allows for us to get stuck in negative mental loops and destructive habits, whereas social activities keep bringing new information and experiences. So join that bridge club, gym, or book club, take a class, pick up a musical instrument, or find a new social hobby. Prying our eyes from electronic devices opens up a whole new world.
As this article suggests, laughing releases stress, lifts our spirits, and connects us with other people. We have a choice. We can either laugh, cry, be pissed, be anxious, or be blah about what life presents.
- Make a bucket list and start doing some of those things now.
We never know what tomorrow will bring so it makes sense to treat ourselves well now because when we die, our bucket list also expires. Of course that means being financially responsible in the process.
Helping others or some cause outside ourselves is good for your heart and connects us to our world. Contributing to a group who holds similar values is an excellent way to step outside of our own lives, issues, and preoccupations. Selfless giving is a guaranteed way to increase feelings of love.
- Give it a break.
Shutting the noggin down and doing nothing gives us a pause from all the activity and distractions, and lets our bodies and minds integrate our experiences. Maybe that means a solo hike or walk on the beach, maybe meditation, maybe nothing but veg out and take a nap. Here’s an article that lends credence the idea that taking time off is good for you.
- Let go.
Life’s too short to live in the past. If you want to enjoy the present and future and live a nice long life, let go of all your crappy history — the injustices, violations, and hurts. As Ram Dass famously said and wrote, “Be here now.”
Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and consultant in Santa Barbara, CA. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients and students and is the subject of her multi award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. attitudereconstruction.com