I’ve always been interested in the wisdom of our elders and often do a practice with students and clients when they’ve seemed to veer off the path of what truly matters in their lives. I ask them to project themselves forward many years from now looking back onto this very moment right now, what do they wish they would’ve done? Bronnie Ware is an Australian Nurse who spent many years working in palliative care caring for those who were dying. She eventually published a book called the The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Regrets can be seen as something that’s good if they give us insight into what we can change today for the better. Here are the Top 5. Use them as north star to help guide your actions in the days that follow toward an even more fulfilling life. Although we can veer off the path, when we notice the star, we can always come back to it.
Top 5 Regrets of the Dying:
One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic. Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. We all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that lend themselves toward unhappiness, a neutral state, or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.
Here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the 365 Daily Now Moments:
“Knowing the way you think and where you place your energy allows you to step away from the various stories and mind traps that don’t serve you and enter the space of awareness where you can consider alternatives for creating a more flexible, healthier mind.”
~ The Now Effect
Cheerios recently came out with a commercial that has brought to light how our learned mental models about how things in life “should” can create powerful emotional reactions. A recent Cheerios commercial depicts a mixed race American family pouring some cheerios. While there were many positive comments, many of the comments online were so racist and extreme that they had to take off the comments section online.
Here’s the commercial:
When it comes to mindfulness, there are a number of great short practices that help us be more present to our lives. In this post I’m going to reveal three key mindfulness practices that can help us pause, break out of auto-pilot, step into emotional freedom and even open up to a source of connection that is ultimately healing to ourselves and the world. Plus, I’ll reveal a new practice that people are starting to love.
I know it sounds lofty, but give them a shot and let your experience be the teacher.
Unfortunately, our brains don’t seem to be built to pay attention to what’s good in life, but more to what seems urgent or threatening. That makes sense as fundamentally safety and security trump happiness and well-being. However, having our minds roll around in past hurts and regrets of the past or potential catastrophes in the future isn’t really keeping us safe nor is it making us happy. It’s more likely stressing us out. It’s a lose, lose. At times it’s skillful to grab hold of our minds and incline them in ways that create a reinforcing spiral up to feeling good.
One of those ways is to build a wall of gratitude and here’s how.
The new holy bible of psychiatric diagnosis is about to go on sale tomorrow. No matter what our conclusions of it are, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is destined to be a best seller as it is the defacto guide to mental illness that most all institutions, physicians, therapists, healthcare providers and educational systems use. But it’s important for us to take a step back once in a while and ask, is this book helping or hindering the field of mental health and in turn, our individual and cultural stigma of mental health?
When we think of what we’re thankful for we often think of the light in our lives. Who and what represents the light in your life?
The poet Hafiz writes in his poem “It Felt Love”:
How did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
All its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light
Against its being,
We all remain
This is so true. It becomes easier to open up and reveal our own gifts to this world when we feel positive loving encouragement within.
Here is an opportunity to do a practice inspired by this poem that can help us cultivate a sense of gratitude and lovingkindness right now.
Here is short practice to feel that encouragement of light right now (what do you have to lose):
You may have seen the video and maybe it touched you in a way that brought you to tears. A forensic artist sat down and asked the woman sitting on the couch next to him to tell him about her face. He opens with the question, “Tell me about your hair?” and then, “Tell me about your chin. After one woman thinks about it she says, “It protrudes a bit especially when I smile.” He continues, “What about your jaw?” Another woman answers, “My mom always told me I had a big jaw.” He then asks, “What’s your most prominent feature?” Taking a moment, she answers “Kind of a fat rounder face” or “I would say I have a pretty big forehead.” After he got his sketch he said thank you very much and left.
He didn’t see them again. But what happened next reveals a truth we each need to hear.
A research study just came out in the Journal of Neuroscience where scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston used sea snail nerve cells to reverse memory loss. The scientists were able to help the cells compensate for memory loss by retraining them when the nerve cells were primed for optimal learning. Of course they’re hoping this has implications for working with Alzheimer’s, but the implications don’t stop there, it could also support a neuroscience for learning to trust ourselves in times of difficulty.
Here’s another Daily Now Moment that if spread around can have tremendous ripple effects in your relationships, communities and beyond.
The ancient Greek writer Aesop left us with these words:
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Be on the lookout for kindness in others today. You may find more of it in the world than you think is there.
Then, try bringing more intentionality to your own acts of kindness.
We may not always get it back, but in the long run this simple practice primes your mind for good and can be life changing.
Try it out today.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Little brothers embracing photo available from Shutterstock