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drlauriesantos1765 karma

That’s a hard one, as I incorporate a lot of the tips I share with my students— from meditation to exercise to trying to protect my time affluence.

But if I had to pick one, I’d say the most important insight comes from the fact that that we can control our reactions to the bad situations in life. It’s an insight that comes from the ancient stoics but also from the Buddhist parable of the second arrow. Which goes something like this— Buddha asks his followers if it’s bad to get hit with an arrow when you’re walking down the street, which they quicky agree it is. Then he asks if it’s worse to get hit with a second arrow. All the followers agree that yup, getting hit with two arrows would suck more. Buddha goes on to explain that the first arrow is our of our control— that’s all the bad stuff that happens to us in life. But the second arrow is our reaction to those bad events— whether we get angry or upset and make things worse. That second arrow is always up to us.

And so I’d say the biggest insight that’s had a positive effect on my own life is NOT to hit myself with that second arrow. I even have my friends remind me when I’m not following this advice by texting me a pair of arrow emojis. It works wonders, so it’s a practice I’d have you have your own friends help with.

So yeah, that insight has been huge!

drlauriesantos511 karma

Good question. There's lots of work showing the unfortunate power of what's called "hedonic adaptation"— we just get used to all the good things in our life. And that includes people too! One way to fight that is to use a technique called negative visualization, which comes from the ancient stoics. The idea is to briefly reflect on what your life would be like if some person you cared about didn't exist. Like if they died, or you never met them. That simple ten-second strategy can break up hedonic adaptation a bit and let you realize just how grateful you are to have people in your life. I try to use it to savor the relationships I have on an almost daily basis (especially for family members, my husband, etc). It's can be a huge appreciation booster!

drlauriesantos352 karma

There are lot of misconceptions! But I think the biggest misconception is that happiness comes from our circumstances. Unless you’re currently in a really traumatic situation, happiness tends to come from other things. And even the act of going through trauma can lead to a happier, more meaningful life on the other side. There’s lots of evidence for what’s called post-traumatic growth (see https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327965pli1501_01/) We forget how resilient we can really be (at least with a little bit of time).

drlauriesantos299 karma

Well, I think you're not the only grumpy mush out there. And that's worth validating— this is an unprecedentedly crappy, scary time that's messing with all of our routines and emotions. So my first piece of advice would be to work on not beating yourself up. Easier said than done, I know. But there is one technique with great results for boosting self-compassion: a form a meditation called metta or "loving-kindness." It's a practice where you offer compassion to the people you know, but one of those people is yourself! I've used the practice myself, and it definitely helps me not beat myself up.

The other piece of advice (once you're giving yourself the benefit of the doubt) is to allow yourself to take baby steps. Can you work for ten minutes before hitting the TV again, or can you do some thing that helps your well-being even if it's small. These baby steps all move us closer to the behaviors we want, and I'm often surprised by how one good behavior can turn into a routine!

drlauriesantos278 karma

Yeah, that's another strategy— variety! Just mix things up in how you interact with a person. Play a new game, try a new meal, etc. Sounds silly but it's a strategy that works well from a scientific perspective for breaking up hedonic adaptation.