No one goes through life without experiencing adversity and tragedy. Resilience is one of the keys to surviving, but just surviving isn’t enough – it’s far more enjoyable to also thrive in life.
I’ve survived many adversities and have been described as ‘strong’, but I certainly don’t feel that way as I struggle with my challenges. There are moments when I start to feel sorry for myself, but I hate feeling like a victim and usually give myself a mental slap to get back on track.
I have found the following steps helpful in difficult times:
1. You need to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The right people (whether friends or professionals) can help you see that – and if you take steps in the right direction, the results will show in time.
2. Don’t fight the emotional roller coaster; allow it to flow, as suppressing your emotions can be detrimental. At the same time, try not to let your emotions completely overwhelm you.
3. Think about what sensible actions you can take to survive and thrive. In dark times, medication can be helpful in the short-term but it’s not a long-term solution.
I’m a pragmatic optimist but that doesn’t mean I don’t face mental challenges – we all do, and I practise a lot of self-talk to move away from negative thoughts.
Here are some principles that I try to follow for a happy life:
Contentment is a state of mind, one where you’re at peace with yourself. It’s different to happiness, which is a fleeting emotional ‘high’. While happiness is not sustainable, contentment can be long lasting and on a deeper level of satisfaction and gratitude.
It is best summed up by the Dalai Lama: “When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, 'Oh yes - I already have everything that I really need.’”
Harmony in life and relationships is something I work on continuously. I far prefer a life without confrontation, and I’ve made a conscious effort to find a way to resolve problems without letting anger dictate my actions. The quicker I’m able to move away from a problem, the more peaceful my life becomes.
Harmony can be destroyed by yourself or by other people, and it’s critical to ensure that you’re not the one creating the problem. While I’m pretty sure that I rarely cause conflicts, my dark sense of humour does get me into trouble sometimes.
I’ve also become very fussy about who I engage with. While there are many people I enjoy spending time with, there are others I simply choose to avoid.
Wisdom underpins the above principles, particularly when it comes to the choices we make. Wisdom is similar to common sense and unfortunately, like common sense, it’s not very common!
Too many people react to situations instead of making wise decisions based on a balance of emotions, logic and experiences. When you find yourself in a situation that makes you feel angry, it’s best not to react to it if possible. Instead, try to respond with a clear mind that’s not clouded by rage. Reacting badly is likely to escalate the situation.
That said, anger can be a useful emotion and is occasionally needed to resolve a situation – but it’s important to respond with wisdom, at the right time, and with a calm mind.
Enjoying life with harmony is a priority for me, and this directs my thoughts and actions. Remember that everyone’s final destination is the same – the difference is what you make of your life journey.