Is there something missing in your life? You keep your body fit, you have an active mind and healthy emotions but, does it sometimes feel as if it’s not enough? What else could you need?
Some people would call it our soul or spirit, maybe our inner light. Our search for fulfilment is such big business now that Australia hosts an annual International Conference on Happiness and its Causes.
When there’s something missing in our life there is a space that needs to be filled. We may try to fill that space with food, drink, drugs, work or numerous other activities. And any of those may work – for a while. The last thing we do is contemplate the space and why we feel empty. And yet it’s the only way to really deal with it.
If there is something missing in your life, try focussing on your soul. If we don’t nurture our soul, our light grows dim but, just like your physical body, you can exercise your soul and your light will burn brightly again. However, unlike physical exercise, you do not need your doctor’s approval or expensive equipment and there are no contra-indications.
The greatest exercise is a genuine smile
Too good to be true? Try these seven steps and see the results for yourself. Practise each step for a week at a time before moving on. This will ensure that each exercise becomes a habit and then part of your lifestyle.
Step 1 – Be kind to others
Do you feel connected to everyone else or do you leave the house each day prepared for battle? When was the last time a complete stranger smiled at you? How did you react?
We nearly always get back what we give out. Confrontation sparks confrontation, rudeness fuels rudeness, kindness attracts kindness. When you offer kindness, the effect isn’t always immediate if people are suspicious, but be prepared for this reaction and you’ll soon work through it.
You are aiming to make some connection with other people, understanding the effect you can have on somebody else and learning that it’s as beneficial to give as it is to receive. There is only one rule – don’t expect anything in return, just give unconditionally.
Here are a few ideas:
- Smile at strangers. An American survey (Logitech 2002) found that 90 per cent of respondents thought smiling made the world a better place, 93 per cent of people usually smile back when someone smiles at them and 87 per cent said smiling made people feel good about themselves. Smiling not only brightens up everybody else’s day, it will make you feel better too.
- Give somebody the rest of the time on your parking ticket rather than shoving it into your car ashtray.
- Make eye contact and say good morning to people.
- Tell someone when they look nice or if they have done something well.
- Acknowledge when somebody is being kind to you. Thank them for their help. After all, they are probably doing their soul workout too – just like you.
Who knows what other opportunities will arise to show kindness. Wake up each day determined to look for them.
Step 2 – Be kind to yourself
Most of us would never dream of abusing another person yet we frequently abuse ourselves. Do you place excessive demands on yourself, trying to do too many things in too short a time? Do you allow yourself time to relax without feeling guilty? When you look in the mirror do you like what you see? Would you treat anybody else the way you treat yourself?
This step is about acknowledging that your soul is as worthy as every other. It’s about the respect you have for you. For some of us this may be difficult so take it slowly over a longer period of time. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Look in the mirror and acknowledge what you like. If you can’t find anything, keep looking until you can.
- Every evening, think about what went well in your day and what you achieved.
- When you make appointments or plan your day leave some gaps. Just 10 minutes means the difference between arriving stressed and arriving calm.
- When you need to make choices or decisions, consider your own opinions as well as those of everybody else. This is not the same as being selfish, eg, disregarding other people’s opinions.
- Do something for you. It’s often easier to put your wants and needs at the bottom of the list but just occasionally non-conform and put them at the top. If you find this hard then start slowly, perhaps doing something once a month and then progress to weekly.
- Break up life’s routine. Is each day regimented? Does your life tick away with the same activities on the same days at the same times? If you get up every day and go onto auto-pilot your life will fly by and you’ll wonder where it went and why you didn’t notice. So break up some of the routine: change your make up, take aanother route to work, read a different newspaper and keep working on your soul exercises because a lively soul will reawaken your interest in life.
Step 3 – Find the beauty in everything
In step 2 I suggested you look in the mirror and notice the good things about you. Use it in this step too and find the beauty in you.
There is beauty everywhere but most of the time we are not in the mood to see or are too stressed to notice. If you have to get up early because you’ve a busy day ahead, then notice the sunrise, or hear the birds singing, or feel the peace before the rush hour starts. In a traffic jam, look up and see some of the lines and decorations of the buildings, or notice people’s gardens.
If you’re with somebody else then share the beautiful things you notice and, if they respond negatively, just keep on sharing.
You need to be vigilant when practising this exercise but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Beautiful things are all around waiting to be found.
Step 4 – De-clutter
Of course, we may miss some of the beauty if it’s hidden behind mess. So, our next step is about making some space, whether that’s in your house, handbag or car. This step is not just about clearing physical space, it’s about letting energy flow smoothly.
Energy, in all its different forms, makes up our world. Certain types of energy are active, wanting to move and flow and nothing stops that energy more than clutter.
Clutter attracts energy and holds it. It makes it thick and sluggish and, if not cleared, this will affect you. Don’t take my word for it. Have a good clear out and see how well you feel.
Step 5 – Dance and Sing
A study in Ohio, USA (Bowling Green State Unversity) showed that 70 per cent of respondents felt music was important to them because it elicited emotions. Further research at Cornell University showed that music can cause changes in our heart rates, our temperature and respiration. The same study showed that happiness was felt when a certain type of music was played.
If you’re not the type to dance and sing then start slowly and just listen to some music (make sure it’s toe tapping stuff). Join in with the chorus, quietly at first and then as loud as you like. Then start moving – that is what your body is designed to do. Let the music fill your soul and your body will respond. Put away anything breakable, the cat may want to go out too, then let rip.
Many cultures use dance and chanting to connect to the spirit world. Once you let your inhibitions go this is an excellent way to connect all aspects of you: switch off your mind, let the music tease out your emotions and express yourself through your body.
Step 6 – Wear bright colours
In summer, when the sun is shining we wear bright colours. On holiday we do the same and our mood is happy and sunny. When the days are short and cold we wear blacks and greys and blend into the day.
Brightly coloured clothes not only affect your mood but also the mood of other people who see you wearing them. Red is the colour of energy, yellow of sunshine, green of nature. There is always a place for black but there is also a place for bold colours, even if it’s just a scarf or a handbag. So be bold and brighten up the world.
Step 7 – Switch off the TV
However, you can only brighten the world if you go out in it. How easy is it to stay in and watch the box? On average we each watch over 4 hours of TV a day. Not only does TV take up an enormous amount of time but studies have shown that we become less happy, less active and more tense after watching it (Rutgers University & University of Chicago, USA).
If there’s a lot of TV in your life then go slowly: be more selective in the programmes you watch and then progress to having one TV-less day a week. Who knows how you’ll spend the time. That’s the exciting bit!
When you have completed this last step, go back to the beginning and start again.
Before you know it you won’t be taking steps at all but living a life that nourishes your soul and may just fill that empty space.
Jackie Notman is a copywriter, feng shui consultant and e-commerce retailer. This article is from her blog ‘Life – and everything else’ where you’ll find an eclectic mix of articles and information.
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