I’m not talking about a lust for life. And by lust I mean getting caught up in short bursts of excitement and adrenaline. I’m not talking about the feeling of love that ebbs and flows (although, the feeling of love for your life will come as a result of what I’m about to say). I’m talking about the act of love (no, not lovemaking either, that would be a little odd). By the act of love I mean practical love. Practical love is the best way to approach your life. When you love your life, by love I mean demonstrate the behaviors of acting in love, your life will reward you. I promise.
You might ask, ‘well, what do you mean by practical love, how do I practically love my life?’ Simple. There are two parts, the first is the most important:
You take care of the source of your life. You. You love yourself.
First things first, you need to figure out what motivates, inspires, drives and is healthy for you.
I’ll use personal examples:
I am inspired and challenged by the profound and intellectual considerations of others.
I am driven by an internal restlessness to leave a positive mark on the world.
I am motivated by a creative mind and a strong desire to be a better self than I was yesterday. This is healthy, but I also make sure I let my brain rest or I overdo things.
As for being healthy, over the years I’ve listened to my body. It doesn’t like simple carb diets, too much cheese and salty processed food. So I try to eat fish, vegetables, wholefoods. I love thai takout and don’t deny myself treats. I drink alcohol, but usually only the weekends and within the recommended daily amount. I exercise as often as I can. I practice compassion and put myself in situations to understand others suffering and develop a real empathy for them. I do this through selectively listening to buddhist talks — here’s a large database of free podcasts and to be clear, I don’t identify as buddhist.
I take these motivations, inspirations and drives and I act on them. I engage in open-minded conversation. I help clients achieve their personal goals and resolve inner and external conflicts. I exercise and eat healthy. I engage in creative pursuits that are internally fulfilling.
This is how I love my life. How do you want to live yours? My life is far from perfect… nor would I want it to be. If I set my sights on a perfect life that means there are many ways for it to not ‘measure up’. I don’t want to measure my life by how I feel, I want to measure it by how I act.
Second way to love your life: Live it!
I don’t mean be alive. I mean really live it. I think the best way to do this is experience. Experiencing our world through the senses is a way of developing positive perceptions of the world. Go into your backyard, take a leaf from a tree, break it open and smell it. Why? Because it’s new. What does it smell like? Have you smelled it before? But this is a simply experience. What about flying to, say, Vietnam and helping impoverished people? What could you experience from that? What would you learn?
But it’s not just experience that teaches you to love life. It’s what you take from those experiences.
1. You experience. –> 2. You process that experience. –> 3. You derive meaning from experience.
Let’s talk about meaning. Because meaning is everything. We give everything in our world meaning by perceiving it. Without getting into too much philosophy I’ll simply say that meaning is where we derive the feeling of love.
Through practical love, trying new things, new foods, meeting new people, exploring new places, looking after ourselves and understanding ourselves and our world, we feel love for our life. Why? Because when we have positive meaning interpretations from our experiences, we feel a belonging and fulfillment. And love is a type of belonging, a type of fulfillment.
Before I summarise, I want to address those specifically who say they don’t have much time.
1. You have to make time.
Yes, you need to cut back on something. If you keep taking from yourself without giving back to yourself. You are not doing the first of the practical loving life activities… you are not loving yourself. It’s also quality over quantity. Going for a walk in a nearby park with your family is much better than watching four hours of television. This isn’t a judgement on values, this is about using time efficiently. Walking with your family means you get exercise (which is fantastic for your brain and body), you increase your sense of belonging by being with your family, you have experiences by interacting and seeing your family interacting with the world.
2. You have to Carpe Diem: Seize the day! No, not seize the carp fish.
This means that while you might not have the time to take that two hour yoga session, there are experiences everywhere around you. Be spontaneous. Act out of character in healthy ways. Look at the world through new eyes.
How to experience when you work a typical job 6 days a week?
Mix it up. Be spontaneous. Take the train/bus to work. Have a conversation with someone new. Walk home in the rain (providing it’s not too far). Instead of going home and relaxing on the couch. Relax somewhere else. Make plans for your weekends, follow those plans that challenge you and get you out of your comfort zone. It’s okay to have a comfort zone but make sure you leave it now and again. And make sure once a year you get very far away from it. Take a trip. Explore, live, love yourself and slowly that feeling of love for your life. That feeling that others seem to have, will come to you.
I hope this has given you a new perspective on looking at yourself and your life. If it’s just reiterating things you already knew, then please take your knowledge and show others how to better love their lives.