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“Knowing that you have the capacity to choose what to accept and what to let go of is the most important factor in determining your level of happiness,” ~Dodinsky

On my way to a friend’s home, I was driving at full speed on a major highway when it suddenly occurred to me.

I was so terrified that I was shaking like a leaf when I got out of the vehicle and stood by the side of the road. I urgently tried to calm myself down by taking in as much fresh air as I could and swallowed it down.

This was the ninth day in a row that I had experienced a wave of terror that was so powerful, I felt like I was on the verge of passing away. It was completely and absolutely intolerable.

I had been berating myself for taking a day off to spend time with friends when I should have been working on my Master’s dissertation. This had caused me to worry about the amount of work that was still outstanding on the project. Suddenly, my throat became constricted, a tightness developed in my chest, and the shaking in my hands became so severe that I was afraid I would lose control of the vehicle.

This was the last straw in the camel’s back.

I’d been looking for a miracle, a fast remedy, or some kind of magical answer that would pull me out of my almost continuous state of anxiety, and I’d been waiting for it. I had been holding out hope that one day, the world will hand me a magic wand and let me live a regular life. It wasn’t going to happen.

I was unwilling to confront the fact that I needed to put in the effort required to put an end to indulging in my pessimistic speculations about what the future may hold for me. And maybe most crucially, I had no idea what the task included in the first place. But on that day, I took the choice to start putting in some real effort in order to uncover the secret to living a happy life, and I got to work.

I just was not able to continue living like way any longer.

That was in the last three years.

What you put the most effort into being proficient at is what you will become.

The issue is that for a very long period, I made the habit of worrying about things. Regarding every aspect.

I was concerned about how other people would see me. I was concerned about the potential consequences for my health. I was concerned about whether or not I would have the opportunity to pursue the job I want.

I also developed the habit of coping with this concern and the plethora of negative feelings that accompanied it by using food, booze, and sex as coping mechanisms. I utilized drugs (as well as the bodies of other people) to give myself a moment of relaxation, to make myself feel wonderful, and to divert my attention to someplace else.

These so-called “solutions” did little more than disguise the underlying anxiety that was still there. Instead of paying attention to what was actually going on in my head and realizing that my thoughts were creating a reality that didn’t actually exist, I practiced covering up my desperation in the hopes that this solution would be the one that worked. I did this because I realized that my thoughts were creating a reality that didn’t actually exist.

I was continuously feeding behaviors that brought me short-term happiness or comfort, but I knew eventually were damaging to me. Despite this knowledge, I continued to feed those habits. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Many of us go through our days mostly behaving on autopilot, whether it is the foods we consume for breakfast, the path we travel to work, or even the thoughts that cross our minds. These eventually turn into the behaviors that we repeat again and over again.

And we improve at the things that we put the most effort into.

What Kind of Training Do You Get?

Consider the following, should you choose to do so: Which of your routines is now in charge of directing your life? What kinds of ideas go through your head on a daily basis? And are you benefiting from them in any way?

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However, despite the fact that we may not consider our habits to be practices, this is precisely what they are. Whether we are aware of it or not, each and every day we engage in activities that help us become more like the kind of people we want to be.

My anxiety was a habit, despite the fact that it was a very genuine experience for me (and one that was often terrible). I gave myself role-playing exercises in which I pretended to be the kind of person who was always anxious and concerned about everything. These days, on the other hand, I make it a point to cultivate the trait of being the kind of person who is aware of these thoughts, who is aware of her boundaries, who takes care of herself, and who chooses something else each time her old friend concern rears its ugly head.

Consider the following:

How many times do we moan that things aren’t the way we want them to be every single day?

How many times do we allow ourselves to get distracted during the day by various forms of technology, therefore breaking our connections with other people?

How many times a day do we let ourselves get worked up about things that haven’t even taken place yet?

The answer is probably going to be “a lot.”

We have a lot of experience in this field. After all, repetition is the key to learning any skill; if we perform a certain activity sufficiently, ultimately we will achieve fluency and proficiency in it.

Because of this, the ultimate key to happiness resides not in the “magic fixes” that we often believe would make us happy, but rather in the routines that we engage in on a regular basis.

Daily Activities That Will Make Your Life Happier

What if, instead, we become aware of the routines that are dictating the course of our lives and turned those routines on their heads?

What if, instead of practicing things we don’t really care about, we began practicing things we do? And what if, rather of making it this enormous, life-altering endeavor, we just established the desire to live this way, and made modest steps toward it wherever we could?

Keep in mind that we become skilled at what we put the most effort into.

Keeping this in mind, the following is a list of ideas for behaviors that we may begin incorporating into our everyday lives in order to lead happier lives:

  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Generosity
  • Acceptance
  • Non-judgment
  • Presence
  • Listening
  • Forgiveness
  • Relaxation

The ways in which they manifest themselves in our lives will be unique to each of us; nonetheless, the goal of bringing awareness to damaging patterns in our lives and making conscious efforts to break them remains the same.

In my experience, there are three very efficient methods to start the process of incorporating new behaviors into our daily life.

1. Notice your autopilot.

Before we can do anything about it, we need to first identify our natural tendency to operate in the autopilot mode.

Being conscious of the decisions we make in our day-to-day lives, the people we choose to be around, and the tales we tell ourselves about who and what we are may assist us in recollecting who we really are and what it is that we truly want. In addition to this, it enables us to make judgments about how we behave that are more aware, which enables us to select our answer rather than reacting automatically out of habit.

The most effective method to do this is to start by compiling a list of all the situations in which you are likely to default to using autopilot.

For instance, you may come to the realization that you often spend your lunch break reading through Facebook, and that this habit inevitably leads to negative feelings about yourself as a result of your comparisons to those of other people. Alternatively, you could become aware that while you are laying in bed at night, you often worry about the worst-case situations.


As soon as you become conscious of what you’re doing, you may resolve to behave differently the next time you find yourself in the same circumstance, breaking a pattern of behavior that isn’t in your best interest.

I have to tell you the truth about this. This takes time.

In the beginning, it was difficult for me to realize when my “worry head” was on since it seemed so normal to me. I had a hard time recognizing when I was in that state. But once I began to pay more attention to the thoughts and actions that I engage in on a regular basis, I discovered that it became much simpler for me to change the script at such times and instead engage in some deep breathing to calm myself.

Take some time now to reflect on the situations in which you are already aware that your habitual autopilot personality has taken control. What are some things you could do at such times to break the pattern, re-engage with the world, and make a different decision than you would have otherwise?

Keep in mind that we become skilled at what we put the most effort into.

2. Bring your attention to the feelings in your body.

Focusing on how new behaviors make us feel in our body is another effective strategy for developing new patterns of behavior. When I think about this topic, I prefer to conceptualize it in terms of openness (expansion) and constriction (contraction). When I practice being nice, for instance, I tend to feel fairly open and soft in the area of my heart, but when I practice being unpleasant, I tend to feel tight and uptight in the space of my belly.

Our ability to feel either expansion or contraction in our bodies may serve as a “mindful shortcut,” providing us with a straightforward method for determining whether or not anything is occurring in our thoughts.

If we pay attention to how we really feel in our bodies and the feelings that are triggered for us as a result of our habits, we can really start to differentiate between the routines that are now beneficial to us and the routines that most certainly are not. Because the sensations we feel in our bodies are often closely related to the emotions we experience, this will not only supply us with a little incentive, but it will also provide us with certain things that will make us feel broadened as we continue to practice them.

The problem that most of us have in this regard is that most of the time, we go about with the sensation that we are utterly out of touch with our body. In point of fact, it wasn’t until I really began to go deep into yoga that I discovered my body was continuously sending me critical signals—and I was completely disregarding them. Yoga helped me recognize that my body was trying to tell me something but I wasn’t listening.

Even if you start off by devoting just a few minutes every day to the practice, sitting motionless and paying attention to your physiological sensations is the most effective approach to start studying your body. The more often you “check in” with your body, the more you will be able to understand what it is attempting to communicate with you.

When I began paying attention to my body, I observed how various thoughts impacted me in very different ways. I attribute this discovery to the fact that I started paying attention to my body. By way of illustration, my anxious thoughts caused my body to feel constricted, rigid, and achy, while my peaceful thoughts caused my body to feel open, soft, and relaxed. This assisted in drawing my attention to my anxious thoughts, which allowed me to make the conscious decision to concentrate on my breathing in the here and now rather than on my “fake” reality.

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The first thing you should do when you wake up is ask yourself one of the following questions:

“How do I want to feel today?”

“What is it that I want to do better at today?”

“What kind of life do I want to lead right now?”

The next step is to do frequent self-checks throughout the day (it may be helpful to set a reminder on your phone), during which you will assess how your body is feeling. Pay special attention to the regions around your heart, solar plexus, and belly button. Is there a sensation that things are becoming bigger or getting smaller? Is this in line with how you’d want to feel in the future? What kind of training are you presently participating in? And does this fit in with the kind of behavior that you wish to cultivate?

Keep in mind that we become skilled at what we put the most effort into.

3. Decide what you want to achieve.

Affirming to ourselves that we intend to engage in the practice of the new habit is another way for us to engage in the practice of the new habit.

Because of their structure, which makes them more of a guide than a target, intentions work wonderfully well. When we set goals for ourselves, it’s much too easy to be hard on ourselves if we don’t attain them, but when we have an intention, we can just start over again.

If we wake up with the purpose of being kind, compassionate, or giving, we are far more likely to seize chances to put this intention into practice as the day progresses. Since our goal will still be fresh in our minds when we make decisions, it enables us to make choices that are more in line with the kinds of people we want to be.

For instance, as of late, I’ve been making it a point to remind myself to engage in the spiritual discipline of practicing forgiveness. I came to the conclusion that, as a result of my worry, I had been harboring a great deal of resentment, hatred, and guilt against myself as well as others. The years I’d spent constantly trying to please other people at the expense of my own needs; the extremely controlling behavior of my first boyfriend, which had left me feeling completely and utterly helpless; and the pressure I’d felt growing up to be “perfect” all contributed to the anger I felt about my past. I felt so much rage about my past.

Therefore, I start my day by listening to a meditation on forgiveness, which contains the phrase “I see and feel the suffering you’ve caused me, and it is my purpose to forgive you.” I repeat this to myself every morning. After that, just as I’m ready to start my day, I take a moment to remind myself that one of my goals for today is to deepen my capacity for forgiveness.

Have I forgiven everyone (or myself) yet? No. However, it is not the idea at all.

The important thing is that I put in practice time each and every day.

Decide on at least one new routine that you would want to begin incorporating into your daily routine. How can you make this goal for each day that you have ahead of you? How are you going to bring this aim back to mind if you find yourself getting off track?

Keep in mind that we become skilled at what we put the most effort into.

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