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Two Steps to Simply Living a Better Life

More often than not when I come in contact with people and ask, “How are you?” the answer comes out, “Things are good, just really busy.” The first part of that answer is often just a reflex most of the time or a socially acceptable response which may or may not be true, but the second part is true.

The question isn’t so much, how busy are you, it’s more; what are you busy with?

In other words, what and who are we spending our invaluable resources of attention on?

Here are steps to take stock of your life right now and shift to living a better life:

  1. People – We all have a variety of people in our lives, some of them nourishing, some of them depleting. Let’s take a moment to take stock of who we are busy with and if we need to rearrange this at all.
    • Make a list of the top 10 people you spend most of your time, list them in order.
    • Next to that person’s name, rank them on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being nourishing ad 1 being depleting.
  2. Activities – Every day we engage in a multitude of activities, some nourishing, some depleting.
    • Make a list of all the activities you go through during the day. Be specific: waking up, eating breakfast, getting dressed, taking a shower, walking to the car, driving, walking into work, sitting at my computer, etc.
    • Next to each activity, put an “N” for nourishing or a “P” for depleting next to it.

Now, look at these lists and see if there are any ways to spend more of your attention on the “N’s” than the “P’s.” If your mind pops up and says, “Nope, this is just the way my life is,” allow that thought to come and go and really look at this again.

Sometimes, we have no choice but to engage with people or activities that are depleting. The question then becomes, what are ways we might relate to these people or activities differently to make them less depleting?

For example, when dealing with a difficult person, rather than spending your mental energy hating this person, could it be possible to engage in a lovingkindness practice?  In other words, wishing them well. Why would you ever do that? Good question. This practice is not only for them, but also for you, to see how it transforms the difficulty you are experiencing. Plus, if they were feeling well or at ease, odds are they would not be so difficult.

With a difficult activity, is there a way to turn it into a mindfulness practice? For example, when waiting on the phone, which might normally be a source of frustration, can you use it as an opportunity to practice STOP or perhaps just mindfully check-in with how you’re doing? Can red lights be a reminder to breathe, rather than a source of irritation?

These are all ideas that have helped many people. If any judgments arise such as, “I’ve tried everything, this will never work for me,” as best as you can, see that as just another thought, a mental event asserting itself in the moment that will eventually pass. That was then.  Try this with fresh eyes, a beginner’s mind, as if this was the first time engaging in this practice before.

As always, please share your experiences and questions below, your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Two Steps to Simply Living a Better Life

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2010). Two Steps to Simply Living a Better Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 May 2010
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