A Better You for Dummies

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A Better You

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chapters from:

Mindfulness For Dummies

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

For Dummies

Relaxation For Dummies

Creative Visualization

For Dummies

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive


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Chapter 1

Discovering Mindfulness

In This Chapter

▶ Defining mindfulness

▶ Discovering the benefits of mindfulness

▶ Exploring the journey of mindfulness


indfulness means paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with qualities like compassion, curiosity and acceptance. Through being mindful, you discover how to live in the present moment in an enjoyable way rather than worrying about the past or being concerned about the future. The past has already gone and can’t be changed. The future is yet to arrive and is completely unknown. The present moment, this very moment now, is ultimately the only moment you have. Mindfulness shows you how to live in this moment in a harmonious way. You find out how to make the present moment a more wonderful moment to be in – the only place you can create, decide, listen, think, smile, act or live.

You can develop and deepen mindfulness through doing mindfulness medita-tion on a daily basis, from a few minutes to as long as you want. This chapter introduces you to mindfulness and mindfulness meditation and welcomes you aboard a fascinating journey.

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Part I: Introducing Mindfulness

Understanding the Meaning

of Mindfulness

Mindfulness was originally developed in ancient times, and can be found in Eastern and Western cultures. Mindfulness is a translation of the ancient Indian word Sati that means awareness, attention and remembering:

Awareness. This is an aspect of being human that makes you conscious of your experiences. Without awareness, nothing would exist for you. ✓ Attention. Attention is a focused awareness; mindfulness training

devel-ops your ability to move and sustain your attention wherever and how-ever you choose.

Remembering. This aspect of mindfulness is about remembering to pay attention to your experience from moment to moment. Being mindful is easy to forget. The word remember originally comes from the Latin re ‘again’ and memorari ‘be mindful of’.

Say that you want to practise mindfulness to help you cope with stress. At work, you think about your forthcoming presentation and begin to feel stressed and nervous. By becoming aware of this, you remember to focus your mindful attention to your own breathing rather than constantly worry-ing. Feeling your breath with a sense of warmth and gentleness helps slowly to calm you down. See Chapter 6 for more about mindful breathing.

Awareness from the heart

The Japanese character for mindfulness is this: This Japanese character combines the words for ‘mind’ and ‘heart’ and beautifully captures the essence of mindfulness as not just aware-ness, but awareness from the heart.

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Chapter 1: Discovering Mindfulness

Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, who first developed mindfulness in a therapeutic setting, says: ‘Mindfulness can be cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, non-judgementally and openheartedly as possible’.

You can break down the meaning even further:

Paying attention. To be mindful, you need to pay attention, whatever you choose to attend to.

Present moment. The reality of being in the here and now means you just need to be aware of the way things are, as they are now. Your experi-ence is valid and correct just as it is.

Non-reactively. Normally, when you experience something, you auto-matically react to that experience according to your past conditioning. For example, if you think, ‘I still haven’t finished my work’, you react with thoughts, words and actions in some shape or form. Mindfulness encourages you to respond to your experience rather than react to thoughts. A reaction is automatic and gives you no choice; a response is deliberate and considered action. (Chapter 12 delves deeper into mind-ful responses.)

Non-judgementally. The temptation is to judge experience as good or bad, something you like or dislike. I want to feel bliss; I don’t like feel-ing afraid. Lettfeel-ing go of judgements helps you to see thfeel-ings as they are rather than through the filter of your personal judgements based on past conditioning.

Openheartedly. Mindfulness isn’t just an aspect of mind. Mindfulness is of the heart as well. To be open-hearted is to bring a quality of kindness, compassion, warmth and friendliness to your experience. For example, if you notice yourself thinking ‘I’m useless at meditation’, you discover how to let go of this critical thought and gently turn your attention back to the focus of your meditation, whatever that may be. For more on atti-tudes to cultivate for mindfulness, see Chapter 4.

Looking at Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a particular type of meditation that’s been well-researched and tested in clinical settings.

Meditation isn’t thinking about nothing. Meditation is paying attention in a systematic way to whatever you decide to focus on, which can include awareness of your thoughts. By listening to your thoughts, you discover their

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Part I: Introducing Mindfulness

habitual patterns. Your thoughts have a massive impact on your emotions and the decisions you make, so being more aware of them is helpful. In mindfulness meditation, you typically focus on one, or a combination, of the following:

✓ The feeling of your own breathing ✓ Any one of your senses

✓ Your body

✓ Your thoughts or emotions

✓ Whatever is most predominant in your awareness This book and CD include guided meditations.

Mindfulness meditation comes in two distinct types:

Formal meditation. This is a meditation where you intentionally take time out in your day to embark on a meditative practice. Time out gives you an opportunity to deepen your mindfulness practice, and under-stand more about your mind, its habitual tendencies and how to be mindful for a sustained period of time, with a sense of kindness and curi-osity towards yourself and your experience. Formal meditation is mind training. Chapter 6 contains more about formal meditation.

Informal meditation. This is where you go into a focused and medita-tive state of mind as you go about your daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, walking to work, talking to a friend, driving – anything at all. In this way, you continue to deepen your ability to be mindful, and train your mind to stay in the present moment rather than habitually straying into the past or future. Informal mindfulness meditation means you can rest in a mindful awareness at any time of day, whatever you’re doing. See Chapter 8 for more ways to be mindful informally.

When I say ‘practise’ with regard to meditation, I don’t mean a rehearsal. To practise meditation means to engage in the meditation exercise – not practis-ing in the sense of aimpractis-ing one day to get the meditation perfect. You don’t need to judge your meditation or perfect it in any way. Your experience is your experience.

Using Mindfulness to Help You

You know how you get lost in thoughts? Most of the day, as you go about your daily activities, your mind is left to think whatever it wants. You’re operating on ‘automatic pilot mode’ (explained more fully in Chapter 5). But some of your automatic thoughts may be unhelpful to you, or perhaps you’re

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Chapter 1: Discovering Mindfulness

so stuck in those thoughts, you don’t actually experience the world around you. For example, you go for a walk in the park to relax, but your mind is lost in thoughts about your next project. First, you’re not really living in the pres-ent mompres-ent, and second, you’re making yourself more stressed, anxious, or depressed if your thoughts are unhelpful. (Chapters 12 and 13 explore over-coming unhelpful thoughts.)

Mindfulness isn’t focused on fixing problems. Mindfulness emphasises accep-tance first, and change may or may not come later. So, if you suffer from anxi-ety, mindfulness shows you how to accept the feeling of anxiety rather than denying or fighting the feeling, and through this approach, change naturally comes about. As an old saying goes, ‘What we resist, persists’. Mindfulness says, ‘What you accept, transforms’.

This section explores the many ways in which mindfulness can help you. In mindfulness, acceptance means to acknowledge your present moment expe-rience. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation, or giving up.

Allowing space to heal

Physical illness can be a distressing time. Your condition may be painful, or even life-threatening. Perhaps your illness means you’re no longer able to do the simple things in life you took for granted before, like run up the stairs or look after yourself in an independent way. Illness can shake you to your very core. How can you cope with this? How can you build your inner strength to manage the changes that take place, without being overwhelmed and losing all hope?

High levels of stress, particularly over a long period of time, have been clearly shown to reduce the strength of your immune system. Perhaps you went down with flu after a period of high stress. Research on care-givers who experience high levels of stress for long periods of time shows that they have a weaker immune system in responses to diseases like flu.

Mindfulness reduces stress and for this reason is one way of managing ill-ness. By reducing your stress you improve the effectiveness of your immune system, and this may help increase the rate of healing from the illness you suffer, especially if the illness is stress-related.

Mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety, pain and depression, and boost energy, creativity, the quality of relationships and your overall sense of well-being. The more you do mindfulness, the better – monks who’ve practised mindfulness all their lives have levels of wellbeing measured in their brains way above anything scientists thought was possible.

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Part I: Introducing Mindfulness

Chapter 14 is all about how mindfulness can help to heal the body.

Enjoying greater relaxation

Mindfulness can lead to relaxation but remember that the aim of mindfulness

is not relaxation.

Mindfulness is the development of awareness of your inner and outer experi-ences, whatever they are, with a sense of kindness, curiosity and acceptance. However, relaxation is a possible by-product of mindfulness. You may experi-ence very deep states of relaxation when practising mindfulness, or you may not. If you don’t, this doesn’t mean you’re practising mindfulness incorrectly. Why is relaxation not the aim? Try being totally relaxed for the next few minutes. Can you ‘do’ relaxation? If you aim for relaxation, you’re going to succeed, or fail. If you feel you’re failing, you’re just going to become more tense and stressed, which is exactly what you don’t want. In mindfulness, you can’t fail because you don’t have some experience you have to achieve. You simply practise paying attention to whatever your experience is, as best you can, and whatever happens, happens. You gain an understanding from your experience.

Table 1-1 shows the difference between relaxation and mindfulness exercises.

Table 1-1

Relaxation versus Mindfulness

Exercise Aim Method

Mindfulness To pay attention to your experience from moment to moment, as best you can, with kindness, curios-ity and acknowledgment

To observe your experience and shift your attention back to its focus if you drift into thought, without self-criticism if you can

Relaxation To become more relaxed Various, such as tightening and letting go of muscles

Improving productivity

To be mindful, you usually need to do one thing at a time. When walking, you just walk. When listening, you just listen. When writing, you just write. By practising formal and informal mindfulness meditation, you’re training your brain. You’re training it to pay attention with mindful attitudes like kindness, curiosity and acknowledgement.

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Chapter 1: Discovering Mindfulness

So, if you’re writing a report, you focus on that activity as much as you can, without overly straining. Each time your mind wanders off to another thought, you notice what you were thinking about (curiosity), and then without criticising (remember you’re being kind to yourself), you guide your attention back to the writing. So, you finish your report sooner (less time spent thinking about other stuff), and the work is probably of better quality (because you gave the report your full attention). The more you can focus on what you’re doing, the more you can get done. Wow – with mindfulness you can improve your productivity!

You can’t suddenly decide to focus on your work and then become focused. The power of attention isn’t just a snap decision you make. You can train attention, just as you can train your biceps in a gym. Meditation is gym for the mind. However, you don’t need to make a huge effort as you do when working out. When training the mind to be attentive, you need to be gentle, or the mind becomes less attentive. This is why mindfulness requires a kindness about it. If you’re too harsh, your mind rebels.

Awareness also means that you notice where energy is being wasted. If you have a habit of worrying or thinking negatively, you can become aware of such thoughts and try to stop them.

Stress is the biggest cause of absenteeism (not turning up to work). Mindfulness is one way of managing your stress levels and therefore increasing produc-tivity, as you’re more likely to stay healthy and be able to work in the first place. (Perhaps that’s not a benefit after all!)

Your work also becomes more enjoyable if you’re mindful, and when you’re enjoying something you’re more creative and productive. If you’re training your mind to be curious about experience rather than bored, you can be curi-ous about whatever you engage in.

Eventually, through experience, you begin to notice that work flows through you, rather than you doing the work. You find yourself feeding the children or making that presentation. You lose the sense of ‘me’ doing this and become more relaxed and at ease. When this happens, the work is totally effortless, often of very high quality and thoroughly enjoyable – sounds like a nice kind of productivity, doesn’t it?

Exploring for personal discovery

Many people begin coming to mindfulness meditation to reduce their levels of stress but as their stress levels reduce they continue to practise in order to help regulate their other emotions, and discover a greater emotional balance. Eventually, meditation becomes a quest for personal discovery.

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Part I: Introducing Mindfulness

The word person comes from the Latin word persona, originally meaning character in a drama, or mask. The word discovery means to dis-cover or to uncover. So in this sense, personal discovery is about uncovering your mask. You probably wear all sorts of different masks for different roles that you play. You may be a parent, daughter or son, partner, employee. Each of these roles asks you to fulfil certain obligations. But who are you behind all these masks?

Mindfulness is an opportunity to discover your true self. In meditation you sometimes have clear experiences of being who you are. You may feel a deep, undivided sense of peace, of stillness and calm. Your physical body, that feels so solid and real, sometimes fades into the background of your awareness, and you have a sense of being more than yourself.

Some people become very attached to these experiences and try hard to repeat them, as if they’re ‘getting closer’ to something. However, over time you come to realise that even these seemingly blissful experiences also come and go. Your true nature, who you truly are, isn’t just a feeling. You are that witness, that observer, that which is aware of all that arises and passes away in your mind. This isn’t so much an experience to be gained, but something very simple that everyone can observe. In fact, being naturally yourself is so simple, you easily overlook it.

According to Eastern philosophy, as a witness you are perfect, whole and complete just as you are. You don’t feel as if you are because you identify with your thoughts and emotions, which are always changing. Ultimately you don’t need to do anything to attain this natural state, because you are this natural state all the time – right here and right now.

As Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’. In this way, you begin to see your roles, your persona or mask(s), as part of the game of life. You still do everything you did before; you can keep helping people or making money or whatever you like doing, but know that this is only one way of seeing things, one dimension of your true nature.

Self-knowledge leads to a freedom from suffering as pointed at by an Indian sage, Ramana Maharshi:

‘Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.’

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Chapter 1: Discovering Mindfulness

Once you see that you’re the witness of all experience, you’re no longer dis-turbed by the ups and downs of life. This understanding offers you the free-dom from suffering. You go with the flow and enjoy the play of creation.

Starting the Mindfulness Adventure

Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix but the adventure of a lifetime. Imagine mindful-ness as being like a journey on a boat. You’re an explorer looking for new and undiscovered land. Along the way I’ll explain how mindfulness mirrors such a journey.

Beginning the voyage

The journey begins and you set sail. You’re not sure what you’re going to find, and you may not be too sure why you’re going in the first place, but that’s part of the excitement and adventure. You may think that you’re finally doing something you really enjoy and can gain from. This is what you wanted to do and you’re on the boat now. At the same time, you’re a bit anxious about what may happen – what if things don’t work out?

The beginning of the mindfulness journey may feel like this for you. You may be thinking, ‘Finally, I’ve found what I need to do’, and you’re keen to find out how to do it, being curious and in anticipation. At the same time, you may feel unsure that you can ‘do’ mindfulness – you suspect you don’t have the patience/focus/discipline/inner strength. You have ideas about the journey of mindfulness. At the moment you may suffer from x and y, and after read-ing this book, you want to have reduced those painful feelread-ings. You may have clear goals you want to achieve and hope mindfulness is going to help you to achieve those goals.

Having a long-term vision as to what you hope to achieve from mindfulness is helpful, but concentrating too much on goals is unhelpful. Mindfulness is ultimately a less activity. Mindfulness is process-oriented rather than goal-oriented. You’re not actually going anywhere. This is the paradox of meditation. If you get overly obsessed with the goals, you focus on the goal rather than the process. However, meditation is the journey itself. You aren’t going to reach the present moment sometime in the future – you can only be in the present moment now. More important than anything else is how you meet this moment. If you can train yourself to be open, curious, accepting, kind and aware of this moment, the future takes care of itself. So, as you steer your boat, keep aware and awake. See Chapter 3 for more about vision in mindfulness.

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Part I: Introducing Mindfulness

Overcoming challenges

As you continue your mindfulness journey, before long the initial excitement begins to wear off. You experience rough seas and pirates! Some days, you wish you weren’t on this journey in the first place. Perhaps you should have just stayed at home.

Regularly practising mindfulness can be challenging. What was new and exciting to begin with no longer feels fresh. You may sense a resistance to sit down and meditate, even for a short period, but without knowing why. Don’t worry – this is very common. When you overcome the initial resistance, you may discover the practice isn’t as bad as you imagined meditating to be. As soon as you start, you feel okay and even enjoy it. You also feel great after-wards, because you managed to overcome the initial resistance of your mind to do something for your own health and wellbeing.

Each time you struggle with the thoughts and feelings in your meditation, you’re generally not accepting or acknowledging them as the natural state of your mind. Lack of acknowledgement usually means criticism of yourself or of the whole process of meditation. If you persevere, you discover slowly and surely the importance of accepting your thoughts and emotions and the situ-ation you’re in and not blaming anyone for that situsitu-ation, including yourself. In mindfulness, acceptance always comes first, change comes after.

Another common challenge is understanding the right attitude to bring to your meditation. Unhelpful but common attitudes include:

✓ I’m going do this and must get it right. ✓ I should focus 100 per cent.

✓ I’m going to try extremely hard.

Having done a bit of meditation, you get thoughts like ‘I can’t focus at all’ or ‘My mind was all over the place. I can’t do it’ or ‘That was a bad meditation’. However, as you continue your journey of mindfulness, your attitudes begin to shift towards thoughts such as:

✓ I’m going to bring an attitude of kindness and curiosity and acknowledge whatever my experience is, as best I can.

✓ I won’t try too hard, nor will I give up. I’ll stay somewhere in the middle. ✓ My mind is bound to wander off. That’s okay and part of meditation.

As your attitudes change, meditation becomes easier as you’re bombarded by fewer judgemental thoughts during and after the meditation. And even if you are, you treat them like all the other thoughts you experience, and let them go as best you can.

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Chapter 1: Discovering Mindfulness

Exploring the journey of a lifetime

After sailing for a long time, you finally see some land in the distance that’s more beautiful than anything you’ve seen in your exploration. You decide to stop when you get there. The land looks so new and fresh, but at the same time, very familiar and cosy. As you draw closer, you discover that you’re approaching your own house. Of all the places you’ve been and all the adven-tures you’ve had, you feel most at home here, where you left! However, the journey hasn’t been fruitless. You’ve discovered much along the way, and had to travel that journey to discover what you most treasure.

Ultimately in meditation, you realise that you don’t need to search for any-thing at all. Everyany-thing is okay just the way any-things are. You’re already home. Each moment is magical, new and fresh. Each moment is a treasure never to be repeated again, ever. Your awareness is always shining, lighting up the world around you and inside you effortlessly. Awareness has no off or on switch – awareness is always effortlessly on. Although you experience ups and downs, pleasures and pain, you no longer hang on to things so much, and you therefore suffer less. This isn’t so much a final goal as an ongoing journey of a lifetime. Life continues to unfold in its own way and you begin to grasp how to flow with life.

Buddha is quoted as saying:

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

The journey of mindfulness is to discover how to live this way.

Reaching the other side

One day, a young man was going for a walk when he reached a wide river. He spent a long time wondering how he would cross such a gushing current. Just when he was about to give up his journey, he saw his teacher on the other side. The young man shouted from the bank, ‘Can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?’

The teacher smiled and replied, ‘My friend, you are on the other side.’

You may feel that you have to change, when actually you just have to realise that perhaps you’re fine just the way you are. You’re running to achieve goals so that you can be peaceful and happy, but actually you’re running away from the peace and happiness. Mindfulness is an invitation to stop running and rest. You’re already on the other side.

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Sample chapter from



Part V: The Part of Tens

Even if you’re not personally responsible for a negative event, you can still take responsibility for your emotional and behavioural responses to the event. People who deny their part in creating their own emotional problems in the face of negative events don’t recognise how their thoughts and actions can make a bad situation worse. They hand over their personal power to make things better by waiting passively for someone or something to step into the breach.

When you hold an attitude of personal responsibility for your feelings and actions, you’re more able to find creative solutions, and your belief in your ability to cope with adversity is heightened. You empower yourself by focusing on your ability to influence the way you feel even if you can’t control events. On a cheerier note, when good things happen, you can also assess the extent to which they’re a result of your own efforts – and then give yourself credit where due. You can appreciate good fortune without sabotaging your posi-tive feelings with worries that your luck may run out.

Thinking Flexibly

Making demands and commands – thinking in terms of ‘must’, ‘should’ and ‘have to’ – about yourself, other people and the world around you has a fun-damental problem: such thinking limits your flexibility to adapt to reality. The human capacity to adapt creatively to what’s going on is one of the hall-marks of the species’ success. However, humans are fallible, and the world continues to be an imperfect place. Insisting ‘It shouldn’t be this way!’ can leave you irate, depressed or anxious and much less able to focus on how to cope with and adapt to reality.

Although circumstances may well be desirable, preferable and even better if the situation were different, they don’t have to be a particular way. Accepting real-ity and striving to improve it where wise and achievable can help you save your energy for creative thought and action. See Chapter 2 for more on demands, and Chapter 14 for more on developing realistic attitudes towards yourself.

Valuing Your Individuality

You can express your individuality in many ways, such as in your dress sense, musical tastes, political opinions or choice of career. Yet perhaps you’re hesitant to express your individuality openly because you fear the reaction of others. People who develop the ability to value their idiosyncra-sies and to express them respectfully tend to be well-adjusted and content. Accepting that you’re an individual and have the right to live your life, just as other people have the right to live theirs, is a pretty good recipe for happiness.

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Chapter 22: Ten Healthy Attitudes for Living

As social animals, humans like to feel part of a group or social structure, and tend to be happier when interacting meaningfully with other humans. However, the ability to go against group mentality when it’s at odds with your own personal views or values is a tremendous skill. You can be both socially integrated and true to your values by accepting yourself as an indi-vidual and by being a selective non-conformist. Check out Chapter 14 for more on accepting yourself.

Accepting That Life Can Be Unfair

Sometimes, life’s just plain unfair. Sometimes, people treat you unjustly and nothing gets done to put the balance right. Bad things happen to the nicest of people, and people who don’t seem to have done a deserving thing in their lives get a winning ticket. On top of being unfair, life’s unpredictable and uncertain a great deal of the time. And really, that’s just the way life is. What can you do? You can whine and moan and make yourself thoroughly miserable about the lamentable state of the world. Or you can accept things and get on with the business of living. No matter how much you insist that the world should be fair and you should be given certainty about how things are going to pan out, you ain’t going to get it.

Life’s unfair to pretty much everyone from time to time – in which case, per-haps things aren’t as desperately unfair as you thought. If you can accept the cold, hard reality of injustice and uncertainty, you’re far more likely to be able to bounce back when life slaps you in the face with a wet fish. You’re also likely to be less anxious about making decisions and taking risks. You can still strive to play fair yourself, but if you accept that unfairness exists you may be less outraged and less horrified if and when justice simply doesn’t prevail.

Understanding That Approval from

Others Isn’t Necessary

Receiving approval from someone important to you is nice. Getting a bit of praise from a boss or a friend can feel good. But if you believe that you need the approval of significant others or, indeed, everyone you meet, then you probably spend a lot of time feeling unhappy and unsure of yourself. Many people get depressed because they believe they’re only as good as the opin-ions others hold of them. These people can’t feel good about themselves unless they get positive feedback or reassurance from others.

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Part V: The Part of Tens

Accept yourself, independent of overt approval from other people in your life. Having a preference for being liked, appreciated and approved of by others – but not believing that you need approval – means that your self-opinion can be stable and you can weather disapproval. You may still behave in ways that are more likely to generate approval than disapproval, but you can also assert yourself without fear. You can consider praise and compliments a bonus rather than something you must cling to and work over-hard to maintain. If you hold the belief that you need rather than desire approval, you may pay emotionally for it somewhere along the line. You’re likely to feel anxious about whether approval’s forthcoming – and when you get approval you may worry about losing it. If you fail to get obvious approval or – horror of all hor-rors – someone criticises you, you’re likely to put yourself down and make yourself depressed. Refer to Chapter 9 for more on combating anxiety, and Chapter 12 for tackling depression.

You cannot please all the people all the time – and if that’s what you try to do, you’re almost certainly going to be overly passive. If you can take the view that disapproval isn’t the end of the world, intolerable and an indication that you’re less than worthy, you can enjoy approval when you get it and still accept yourself when you don’t.

Realising Love’s Desirable, Not Essential

Some people would rather be in any relationship – even an unsatisfying or abusive one – than in no relationship at all. This need may stem from a belief that they can’t cope with feelings of loneliness or get through life in general if they’re alone. Other people consider themselves worthy or lovable only when they’re reassured by being in a relationship.

Romantic relationships can enhance your enjoyment of life, but they’re not essential for you to enjoy life. Holding this attitude can help you to feel good about yourself when you’re not part of a couple and may lead you to make more discerning partner choices in future since you will choose, rather than be compelled, to be with someone. Believing that your basic lovability is rela-tively constant, regardless of whether a significant other acrela-tively loves you, can help you to feel secure within a relationship and secure within yourself

outside of a relationship.

People who strongly prefer having a partner and yet believe that they can survive a break up tend to experience little romantic jealousy. Jealousy can be a big obsta-cle to relationship satisfaction – jealous people tend to believe that they must keep their partner and end up focusing on signs (real or imagined) of infidelity or waning interest rather than on the pleasure of the relationship. Jealousy’s turned many a relationship sour. A jealous partner can end up alienating the other person through constant reassurance-seeking or monitoring, leaving both mem-bers of the couple feeling that mutual trust doesn’t exist between them.

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Chapter 22: Ten Healthy Attitudes for Living

Preferring instead of demanding to have a relationship helps you to retain

your independence and individuality. Then when you are in a relationship, you’re less likely to fall into the trap of trying to be the perfect partner – which means you can continue to attend to your own interests while being able to negotiate compromises when appropriate. You’ll also be able to call a halt to destructive relationships when evidence suggests that there’s no way forward.

Tolerating Short-Term Discomfort

Healthy, robust and successful people are often able to tolerate temporary discomfort in the pursuit of longer-term goals. They practise self-denial and delay gratification when doing so is in their long-term interests. These people are the ones who are able to eat healthily, exercise regularly, save money, be romantically faithful, study effectively, and so on.

You can experience intense pleasure in the present and the future, but often

some degree of pain and effort today are necessary to win you greater plea-sure tomorrow. This will be true for many of the achievements you’ve already made in life. Putting up with temporary discomfort is also going to be crucial in reducing painful feelings of anxiety and depression. See Chapters 9, 12 and 13 for more on overcoming these problems.

Enacting Enlightened Self-Interest

Enlightened self-interest is about putting yourself first most of the time

and one, two or a small handful of selected others a very close second. Enlightened self-interest is about looking after your own needs and interests while also being mindful of the needs of your loved ones and other people living on the planet.

So why put yourself first? When you reach a certain age, you need to look after yourself because nobody else is going to do so for you. If you can keep yourself healthy and content, you’re better able to turn your attention to caring for the people in your life that you love.

Many people make the mistake of always suppressing their own needs and end up tired, unhappy or ill. People may think they’re doing the right thing by putting others first all the time, but in fact they’re left with very little to give. Of course you will experience times when putting someone else’s needs before your own and making personal sacrifices is a good choice. For exam-ple, parents frequently put the welfare of their children before their own. But you must still make space for your own pursuits too.

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If you’re starting to get concerned that ‘self-interest’ translates to ‘selfish beast’, stop! To clarify: self-interest involves taking responsibility for looking after yourself because you understand that you’re worth taking care of. Self-interest means being able to care for others very deeply. When you’re self-interested, you’re able to meet your own needs and take a keen interest in the welfare of other people in the world around you. You can also determine when you’re going to put yourself second for a period of time because some-one else’s need is greater than your own – which is where the ‘enlightened’ part comes into play.

Selfishness is not – we stress, not! – the same animal as self-interest.

Ultimately, selfish people put their own wants and needs first, to the exclusion

and detriment of other people. Selfishness is much less about taking

respon-sibility for looking after yourself and much more about demanding that you get what you want, when you want and to hell with everybody else. The two concepts are very different – so don’t be scared. Head to Chapter 18 for more on building a lifestyle that promotes taking care of yourself.

Pursuing Interests and Acting

Consistently with Your Values

Loads of evidence indicates that people are happier and healthier if they pursue interests and hobbies. Have you let your life become dominated by work or chores at home, and do you spend your evenings sitting in front of the television as a means of recharging? If your answer to this question is ‘Yes!’, then you’re in extremely good, but not optimally healthy, company. One of the arts of maximising your happiness is to pursue personally mean-ingful goals, such as furthering your education, participating in sport and exercise, developing skills, improving relationships, or acting in ways that contribute to the sort of world you’d like to live in, for example by doing some voluntary work. Try to structure your life to ensure that you have some time for personally meaningful pursuits. Check that the things you do in life reflect what you believe is important.

As far as we can tell, life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Will you really look back and regret missing a bit of TV because you dragged yourself out to spend time on a hobby, to exercise, to enjoy a night out with your friends or to participate in some charity work?

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Chapter 22: Ten Healthy Attitudes for Living

Tolerating Uncertainty

Healthy and productive people tend to be prepared to tolerate a degree of risk and uncertainty. Demanding certainty and guarantees in an uncertain world is a sure-fire recipe for worry and inactivity. Safety (or more accu-rately, the illusion of complete safety) comes at a cost – fewer rewards, less excitement, fewer new experiences.

The fact that you don’t know what the future holds is grounds for calculated

risks and experiments, not avoidance, reassurance-seeking or safety

precau-tions. You can make educated decisions and take calculated risks, but if you accept that 100 per cent certainty is exceptionally rare (and, in fact, unneces-sary), you can reduce undue anxiety and worry. Risk is inherent to existence. You know that you’re mortal and therefore destined to die one day but, in order to remain sane, you keep that knowledge on the outer track of your daily consciousness. You live in an uncertain world every single day of your life. Embrace it, enjoy it and relegate it to your peripheral vision.

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Part VI: The Part of Tens

and creating more room for oxygen to enter your body. In comparison, shal-low breathing uses just the chest area to breathe, with the rib cage moving and not your belly. I describe deep breathing in detail, and show the process with a diagram, in Chapter 5.

Stress causes you to breathe shallowly and rapidly. This type of breathing reduces the amount of oxygen in your body. By breathing deeply when you feel stressed, your body assumes that you’re in a safe place and starts to relax automatically.

1. Sit, lie or stand in a comfortable posture.

Loosen any tight clothing if you can. Choose to have your eyes open or closed.

2. Place one hand gently on your chest and one hand on your belly. If you’re in a public place and don’t want to do this, just be aware of the

sensations in your belly.

3. Breathe in slowly through your nose.

As you breathe in, let your belly expand. You may be able to feel this with your hand.

4. Breathe out slowly through your nose or pursed lips.

Let your belly naturally contract as you breathe out. Try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in.

You can do this exercise from anything between just one breath to a few min-utes, depending on how much time you have.

To enhance the relaxation effect of this exercise, try some or all of the following:

✓ In this technique your most important breath is your exhalation. When you’re stressed, you tend to inhale and exhale rapidly. By breathing out slowly your brain increases the sense of relaxation within your system. ✓ As you breathe in and out during the exercise, connect your attention

with the physical sensation of breathing. This is called mindful breathing and helps you shift your attention away from your worries and concerns for a while, offering a different perspective.

✓ Repeat a relaxing word or phrase to yourself as you breathe out. Try the phrases ‘relax’, ‘this too will pass’, or ‘calm’. You can even choose a neutral word like ‘one’, or a spiritually meaningful phrase for you. Experiment!

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Chapter 21: Ten Quick Ways to Relax

✓ Count how long you breathe in and out. For example, try breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for two seconds and breathing out for six seconds. As you breathe in, count 1. . .2 . .3. . .4 and hold 1. . .2. . .and breathe out 1. . .2. . .3. . .4. . .5. . .6. Use the second hand of a clock or watch to start with if you can’t count seconds.

Building Your Optimism Muscle

Picture this: you’re having a tough day at home. The baby just won’t stop crying and the phone won’t stop ringing. You feel anxious, annoyed and tense. All you can think about is all the things you’ve got to get done and how bad a parent you are.

As soon as you notice this pattern occurring, stop for a moment and follow the STOP exercise for positive thinking:

S – Stop! Say the word ‘stop’ to yourself, and stop what you’re doing for a few moments.

T – Take three deep, mindful breaths. This means feel each breath in and out.

O – Observe your thoughts, especially any negative, unhelpful

thoughts. Become aware of the thoughts popping into your head. Notice your feelings and bodily sensations. Do you feel anxious? Is your heart racing? Noticing and observing what’s happening helps you to decide how to best look after yourself.

P – think Positive but believable thoughts. This is about thinking in a more optimistic light, but not so much that you don’t believe it to be true. Thinking in this way is a powerful antidote to your negative self-talk. For example, imagine you feel stressed and think, ‘I can’t control the kids at all. I’m a terrible parent. I’m useless. I’m having such a bad day.’ Then you remember the STOP exercise. You stop what you’re doing, take the phone off the hook for a few minutes and sit down. You take three deep, mindful breaths and begin to feel a tiny bit more relaxed. You listen to your own thoughts and notice that you’re criticising yourself with sentences like ‘I’m useless at coping.’ You begin to replace the unhelpful sentences with more positive but believable thoughts such as ‘I’m having a difficult day today but I’m not useless. I’ve worked so hard for my children. I’m not perfect, but I’m doing my best in the circumstances. Things will settle down in a couple of hours and I’ll feel better.’

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Part VI: The Part of Tens

As with all the other exercises in this chapter, try this STOP exercise with low-level predictable stress to start with, such as after checking your e-mails or when you’re cooking dinner.

Coming to Your Senses

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

Buddha One of the quickest ways to relieve stress is to connect with your senses. This brings you into the present moment. In the world of the senses you briefly let go of the huge traffic jam or demanding boss. Your body and mind then begin to relax.

To achieve relaxation in this way, you need to know which particular senses and stimuli are most effective for your brain and body. For you, it may be hear-ing the music of Bach, squeezhear-ing a soft ball or inhalhear-ing the scent of lavender. Explore all your senses and find out which sense, or combination of senses, is most relaxing for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:


• Look at a photo of a loved one. • Gaze at the view out of your window. • Place some flowers or a plant on your desk.


• Listen to a relaxing piece of music or nature sounds. • Pop outside and listen to the sounds around you. • Sing a song or whistle a tune.


• Carry a small bottle of your favourite scented oil. • Smell some of the flowers in your room.

• Light an incense stick or scented candle.

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Chapter 21: Ten Quick Ways to Relax


• Chew some gum.

• Eat some dark chocolate. • Enjoy a piece of fruit.


• Gently rub your thumb and fingers together and notice the subtle sensations.

• Stroke your cat or dog.

• Notice the sense of touch between your feet and the floor as you walk.


• Squeeze something squashy, such as a rubber ball. • Stand up and stretch, or do a couple of yoga postures.

• Dance or jump around – maybe not in front of your moody boss though.

Begin by using this technique when you’re under low-level stress. For exam-ple, try one of these stimuli every day for a week during your commute to work. Note what effect it has. Then try a different stimulus the next week. With experience, try this technique for a different stressor, like after the morning school run or before public speaking. And remember to have some fun with experimenting!

Your imagination is as powerful as using your senses. If, for example, you feel stressed at work, but you don’t have your cat with you to stroke, imagine pet-ting her. You may feel better.

Doing Something Pleasurable

If you think you don’t have time for any fun, you probably really need a bit of pleasure time. Pleasure and fun are, of course, subjective. What is plea-surable for one person may be unpleasant for another person. So although I suggest a few things in this section, make sure you choose something plea-surable for you.

If you repeat the same pleasure too often, it stops being so pleasurable. This is called habituation. A piece of chocolate once a week tastes better than a piece of chocolate every hour or day.

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Here are a few quick and simple pleasures you may like to try: ✓ Colour a picture in a colouring book using some crayons. ✓ Do some knitting.

✓ Drink a cup of your favourite tea.

✓ Eat some chocolate slowly and mindfully. ✓ Light a candle.

✓ Listen to some of your favourite music. ✓ Play a computer game.

✓ Practise a short piece of music on a musical instrument. ✓ Try a sudoku or crossword puzzle.

✓ Watch a short, funny video online.

Thinking what to do in the heat of the moment is hard. Try making a list of things you like doing. Then next time you feel stressed, pull out your list and do one of the things on it.

Getting Physical

Exercising when you feel stressed is an efficient way to relieve anxiety and relax. The stress response is designed to get your body moving, so moving your body fast helps to relieve the stress. Physical activity boosts your body with feel-good endorphins and distracts you from your worries. After a brisk walk, you may find a solution to your problem, or see the situation in a more balanced way. In this section I suggest a range of different exercises you can do. Have fun trying them out. You can even rate how relaxed you feel before and after the activity. See Chapter 6 for more suggestions on integrating physical activities into your day.

Clean the house. Try focusing on your senses so that you’re more mind-ful and attentive to what you’re doing.

Go for a brisk walk. Listen to some of your favourite music at the same time if you feel like it.

Do a few push-ups, sit-ups or star jumps. These will get your heart pumping.

Go running for ten minutes around the block. Doing this two or three times a day is enough exercise to keep your heart healthy too.

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Chapter 21: Ten Quick Ways to Relax

Work through a series of stretches. Be sensitive to your body and see what sort of stretches you would enjoy, without overly pushing yourself. I give lots of stretching ideas in Chapter 7.

Aim to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week.

Practising Peaceful Place Imagery

Peaceful place imagery is a form of guided imagery and a popular way to relax. The idea is to use your imagination to take you to wherever you find relaxing. Amazingly, your body will respond as if it really is at that calming place. Doing this sort of exercise makes you feel more in control of your thoughts and emotions, improving your sense of wellbeing.

Many of my clients enjoy this exercise and find the process relaxing. 1. Find a place you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes.

Close your eyes if you can.

2. Become aware of the feeling of your own breathing. Take a few deep, slow, smooth breaths.

3. Think of a place you find relaxing or peaceful.

Choose a place where you feel secure and at ease. It can be a familiar place or something you’ve invented.

4. Create as vivid a picture as you can.

Don’t worry if the image is not clear. Just doing your best is absolutely fine. Consider what the sounds, smells, tastes and feelings are like too. 5. Imagine yourself in this peaceful place.

Imagine how calm, relaxed and at ease you are. Notice how relaxed your muscles are, and how safe and happy you feel. Enjoy this peaceful place for as long as you have time for.

6. When you’re ready, imagine stepping slowly back out of the peace-ful place into the present moment, knowing that the peacepeace-ful place is always there when you want it.

You need to practise this guided imagery a few times and then you’ll be able to use it in the heat of a stressful moment.

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Part VI: The Part of Tens

If you find your mind wandering around too much, try using a guided audio recording to help you focus. Use the CD accompanying this book or see Chapter 3 if you want to make your own audio.

Smiling or Laughing

When you feel stressed, you probably feel like doing exactly the kind of things that sustain or deepen the stress, such as avoiding talking to other people, not going out, stopping exercising, eating unhealthily, drinking lots of caffeine, overdoing the alcohol or using drugs. You probably don’t feel like smiling or laughing.

Smiling and laughing are highly effective ways to cut the tension and release your stress. Smiling reduces stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine, and increases mood-lifting hormones such as endorphins. Smiling even reduces your blood pressure. Even forcing a smile on your face has been shown to promote greater levels of positivity.

Laughter, including fake laughter, releases healthy hormones into your bloodstream. And fake laughter often turns into real laugher anyway. Try it and see.

See Chapter 13 for some tips on finding a smile or laugh. These tips may seem like common sense, but when you’re stressed your brain doesn’t always think straight and you need all the help you can get.

Trying the RELAX Technique

The RELAX technique offers quick stress relief by combining several popular relaxation exercises. I recommend you write down this technique or down-load it from www.relaxationfordummies.com/relax-card and put the paper somewhere easy to access, such as in your wallet or on your computer.

R – Remove yourself from the situation. Just pop to the bathroom or get a glass of water if you need a reason to go somewhere. Changing your environment even for only a few minutes can make a huge difference. E – Exhale and inhale slowly and deeply. Let your exhalations be slightly longer than your inhalations. A few slow, deep breaths can change your body’s physiology within seconds.

Also do a little Exercise. Go for a walk, jump up and down or do ten star jumps. Exercising uses up your stress hormones rather than letting them swim around your body.

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Chapter 21: Ten Quick Ways to Relax

L – Lightly massage yourself. You can use your fingertips to massage around your eyebrows and temples. You can also rub your shoulders or any other part that needs some loving. Try smiling at the same time and allow your posture to be upright and open rather than closing down. A – Accept what you can’t change. If you haven’t done as much work as you’d have liked, accept the fact now. You don’t have to accept injustice, just accept what is unchangeable at the moment. Let go of controlling the uncontrollable. If your boss will not reduce your workload, you can’t keep fighting the fact. You’re going to have to find a new way of managing the work, perhaps through delegation.

X – eXpect things to turn out well. Notice any harsh, critical, negative thoughts and turn them to more positive, yet still believable thoughts. You may not pass this interview, but it will improve your interview skills.

Using a Three-Stage Mini-Meditation

This meditation is sometimes called a ‘breathing space meditation’ or a ‘mindful check-in’. The aim of meditation is not to blank your mind. The idea of meditation is simply to focus your mind on something and to bring your attention back to your chosen object, without self-criticism, each time you notice your mind has drifted off.

1. Sit, stand or lie down in a comfortable posture.

Assuming an upright, dignified physical posture enhances the effect of this meditation.

2. Stage 1: Become aware of your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensa-tions for about a minute.

Ask yourself, ‘What thoughts are arising? What feelings can I notice? What bodily sensations can I notice?’

3. Stage 2: Feel the physical sensation of your breathing for about a minute, around your belly.

Feel each in breath and each out breath. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back.

4. Stage 3: Open your attention to your body as a whole, including your breathing.

See if you can get a sense of your whole body expanding and contracting as you breathe in and out.

This meditation takes about three minutes. You can shorten or extend it for any length of time you choose.

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Part VI: The Part of Tens

Visualising a Successful Outcome

Imagine you have a presentation coming up and you’re stressed up to the max. If you do nothing, you get more nervous and anxious, and you turn up sweating and shaky. Fortunately you have an alternative – visualisation. This exercise can take just one minute, but ideally give it a few minutes if you have time. Visualisation is powerful stuff. When you go to your local coffee shop and the waiter says, ‘Would you like a cup of hot coffee with steamed milk and topped with a touch of whipped cream and a sprinkling of chocolate?’ you form an image in your mind, as if the coffee is already there. It’s more effective than saying ‘Want a coffee?’ The vivid image creates an emotional reaction.

You can create a similar feeling of relaxation by using the power of images in your mind too.

Many people think they’re not good at visualising, but you probably visualise all the time already, without knowing. Most people think in a combination of thoughts and images. Your anxious feelings before something like a presen-tation are probably due to an image of yourself making a fool of yourself, or losing your job, together with some scary thoughts. Give visualisation a few tries to see if it works for you.

The same neural pathways are stimulated in your brain when you imagine a situation as when you’re actually there. So you can trick your brain into think-ing you’re on a million-pound holiday when you’re sittthink-ing at home – nice! Here’s how to visualise success to relax:

1. If you can, close your eyes and get into a comfortable posture.

2. Take a few deep, smooth, slow breaths to help you towards relaxation. Let go of any tension in your muscles as far as possible.

3. Imagine a successful outcome to your situation, project or goal that is currently causing stress.

Visualise what it would look like for you to succeed. Where are you? What are people saying? What is it like to feel the success? What are you wearing? What can you smell, taste or touch. Go through all the senses and be as vivid as you can. Do this for as long as you have time. It could be just for a few minutes.

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Chapter 21: Ten Quick Ways to Relax

4. Give yourself a few moments to open your eyes and tune back into the present moment.

Visualising a successful outcome also helps you to reflect on exactly what you want to achieve and makes you more likely to take active steps to move towards that positive outcome. So not only do you feel a bit more confident, but you also achieve greater success.

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Part V: The Part of Tens

Increasing Your Love of Life

Imagine that you love everything around you (even if you don’t feel that way in reality). Feel good about being alive. Smell the air and love the fact that you can breathe. Listen to the sounds coming in your ears and love the fact that you can hear them. Look at everything around you and the wonderful colours you can see.

Now take a look at the people around you, whether they’re friends or family, colleagues or strangers. Then wish them well, each and every one, as if they’re brothers and sisters; see them all as fellow inhabitants of the same universe. This visualization takes only a moment, but each time you prac-tise it you increase your enjoyment of life and your empathy towards other people.

Dismissing Your Negative Thoughts

If bad thoughts are bothering you – for example, someone was rude to you this morning, or you’re angry about a difficult situation – remind yourself that you don’t have to feel bad all day long. You have a life to lead and things to get on with and you don’t need these negative distractions.

Choose to take time out from the stressful thoughts and decide that you’re going to deal with them at a later date; no point letting them bog you down. Whenever a negative thought arises in your mind, visualize blowing it out of your mouth into an invisible balloon, and follow it with a puff of air to send it on its way floating away from you.

Encouraging Positive Thoughts

Hold on to all the positive thoughts that occur to you. In your imagination hug these thoughts because they make you feel good and you want more of them. Cherish the fact that you have such positivity within you.

To nurture your positive thoughts, and to encourage more of them, visualize watering a positive thought and putting it in a plant pot near the window of your mind, where the sun can gently warm and grow it.

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Chapter 18: Ten Instant Visualizations to Promote Your Wellbeing

Being Thankful

Get into the habit of expressing gratitude whenever something good happens to you. You can simply be thankful to the universe at large, or if you’re reli-gious, thank God. You may be surprised how good simply saying ‘thank you’ feels.

Expressing your gratefulness for being alive also allows your positive emo-tions to grow, such as love, happiness, compassion, and generosity. In your mind’s eye visualize yourself simply saying ‘thank you’ to who or whatever has pleased you, and feel yourself sincerely meaning it.

Having Purpose in Your Life

In times of difficulty or doubt, think to yourself that your life does have a purpose, even though you may not know what it is. To help instil this feeling, visualize a galaxy. Picture the hundreds of billions of stars in it, and the hun-dred billion other galaxies that lie outside it.

Allow your mind to boggle over the fact that among all this incredible amount of matter, you are present and have been given the chance of being a part of this universe. Perhaps your purpose is as simple as living, sharing, laughing, loving, and learning with others. Whatever you think your purpose may be, remind yourself of it often to increase your level of fulfilment with life.

Feeling Needed

At times, you may feel unneeded, particularly when someone you love hurts or ignores you. But the fact is that the world would be a vastly different place without you in it. The following mental flash card focuses on all the good things you bring to the world so that you can call upon feelings of self-worth whenever you need to.

Consider the impact that you’ve had on the world: your relationships with other people; things you’ve made; people you’ve helped; children you’ve raised; ideas you’ve shared; and so on. Understand that you’re an important person and are absolutely needed, even if others sometimes don’t show it. Imagine all the people you’ve interacted with, and particularly those you’ve helped in even the smallest of ways, such as holding a door open for them. Then focus on those closer to you, such as acquaintances, colleagues and friends, and then think about your relatives, and then your close family. Even the little things you’ve done for these people amount and add up to your making a big difference in the world.

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Part V: The Part of Tens

Being at One with the Universe

Sometimes you may feel a little uncertain of your place in the world, and where it is that you fit in. Physicists and mystics agree that everything in the universe is interconnected at some level, and you’re definitely a part of it. To help you feel more grounded, visualize that the universe is your home and you’re an essential part of it.

To envisage yourself as being at one with the universe, imagine holding your hand underwater with your fingers pointing upwards. Slowly raise your hand and visualize your four fingers and thumb appearing above the water. See how they look as if they’re separate objects even though you know that they’re connected under the water.

In the same way, think about yourself and everyone and everything else, and consider how you, they, and everything in existence are one, and feel at peace with the universe, because it’s not you against the world – it’s you with the world.

Striving to Improve Yourself

Resting on your laurels is never a good idea. As they say in Hollywood: ‘You’re only as good as your last movie’. In life, you achieve the most when you strive continuously to improve yourself and become a better person, which can be anything you want it to be according to what you perceive as being better. You may desire to become more moral, more skilled, more sociable, or any of a large number of other quality attributes – you pick the one(s) you wish to concentrate on.

Spend some time considering that, although you’ve achieved many things, you can still do so much more. Know in your heart of hearts that you’re going to continue to improve, and that day by day you’ll become a better person and achieve more things than the day before. Really feel this by visualizing yourself doing something you enjoy and getting better at it. For example see yourself playing a guitar and with every note or chord you play you get better and better.

Saying ‘Yes, I Can’

When visualizing, you need to be positive. Psychologists who study creative visualization report that it works best when the person visualizing holds a positive expectation of success.

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Chapter 18: Ten Instant Visualizations to Promote Your Wellbeing

Therefore, treat the word ‘no’ as being outside your vocabulary and get used (even if only in your mind) to saying ‘yes’ to everything. Think of yourself as a can-do person, and you become a did-do person. Simply visualize yourself in a variety of situations in which you may say ‘no’, perhaps out of fear. For example, imagine saying ‘yes’ when invited to participate in a parachute jump, or when asked to speak at a conference, or anything else you normally would decline. Get used to the feeling of being a ‘Yes, I can’ person.

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