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The Discipline of Self Care

This month I facilitated two workshops at Temenos entitled “Live a Happier Life.” These workshops give me an opportunity to meet many people who are interested in living a happier life and one with more meaning. We all struggle to live the lives we have, and find ways to prosper even during times of personal difficulties. I love learning about the experiences of the attendees, and sharing with others what I have learned, and am learning every day.

What I came away with after these workshops, is that everyone wants to be happier and less stressed. We read books, go to workshops, and talk to our friends about this topic. The books tell us what to do, workshops may be more experiential and hands on, and our friends are wonderful because they listen. But, what I believe is an important compliment to these activities is discipline.  When I think about the idea of discipline, I am reminded of Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled.  Peck wrote “The feeling of being valuable is the cornerstone of self-discipline because when you consider yourself valuable you will take care of yourself – including things like using your time well. In this way self-discipline is self caring.”

Discipline may have a negative connotation for many, but it really is kind and nurturing when it is a way of facilitating growth and well being. Taking time to meditate, be with nature, eat mindfully, wash your face mindfully, is a kind act to do for your well being and for your mind, your brain and your relationships. Consider, in addition to your reading and research, and attending workshops, taking time to put something into your life that is beneficial for you, and making a commitment to do it every day. Doing something, even if it is for your well being, may at first seem like one more thing to do in your already overstressed life. Practicing mindfulness, doing yoga or practicing gratitude, do require effort. However, by practicing regularly, these disciplines will begin to be a habit, a self-nurturing habit. One that will benefit you on many levels.  Current research on neuroplasticity shows that  when we practice  focusing attention, in the present, without judgment, changes occur in our brain that promote integration, which in turn leads to better mental health overall.

Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” This may seem like a simple phrase, but it appears to be timely today. Begin to do one thing that is for your well being, even if just for five minutes each day. At the end of the year, you may find that you have a practice that doesn’t feel so much like a discipline but much more like a way of shaping the life that you desire.

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