“If the Earth were your body, you would be able to feel the many areas where it is suffering.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Oh, the world is hurting right now. We’re divided politically, our civil discourse is anything but civil, our environment and rights seem threatened, and we may not have a clear idea of how to channel our anger and our passions.
And this is on top of the more banal, persistent sufferings of anxiety, depression, loss, and trauma. In the words of Bessel van der Kolk, our bodies keep the score, and we feel the pains of the earth.
It’s in trying times that we need compassion and understanding, when we must utilize wise discernment and skillful action so that we may help heal the world.
But it’s hard to care for the world when we ourselves are hurt and scared and angry . . . and just plain exhausted.
We’ve all heard the cliches about putting our own oxygen masks on first. . . and how we can’t pour from an empty cup . . . and the reason we hear them all the time is because they are true. You need to care for yourself before you can care for the world.
We make the world better through every kind, caring, and thoughtful act. But first we must be kind to ourselves.
10 Mindful Ways to Take Care of Yourself — So You Can Care for the World
2. Find a mantra to help you through difficult moments
So often we react without thinking — and mantras can help us cultivate the calm we need to respond effectively and compassionately. You can find a list of my favorite mantras here.
3. Take a break from the news
Violence and terror and evil make the news because they are rare occurrences — which then makes these acts seem more common than they really are. It’s important to be informed about the world, but it’s also okay to say, “Not now.” It doesn’t do anyone any good if your anger at the state of the world turns into hatred and rage. Take a deep breath. Nurture your soul. Resource yourself. The world will still be there when you’re ready, and it will need your wise discernment.
4. Find your go-to self-care practices
Self-care is much more than bubble baths and massages; ideally, it is something that we can weave into our daily routines. Check out this list of 30 simple self-care practices.
5. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is hardest when it is most needed. But it is one of the simplest practices there is to support your mental well-being. And right now it is really needed. Yes, there is evil in the world, but there is also SO. MUCH. GOOD.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
6. Go outside
Research shows that when we are in nature, we are more likely to experience awe, which is a feeling of being in the presence of something larger than ourselves, or of something we don’t entirely understand.
Most importantly, awe makes us feel good. And it makes us feel connected to others. Which we also really need right now.
7. Feel the feels
If you’re angry about the world, feel your anger. If you’re sad, sit with the sadness. Don’t deny your suffering. Carl Jung said, “What you resist, persists.” When we resist the anger, it transforms into rage; when we ignore the pain it becomes hurt, inflicted on ourselves or others. When we hold space for our anger, or become curious about our pain, we can learn what they are trying to tell us.
8. Feel your feels
Sometimes, when everything in the world seems broken, we feel guilty for our supposedly “insignificant” problems. But pain is pain, and everyone’s hard is hard. There’s no need for a calculus of suffering — feel your feels, because if you resist them… (see #7).
9. Don’t ration compassion
Your compassion for one person doesn’t limit the amount of love you can offer another. As Brene Brown says, “The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbor who’s going through a divorce.” Compassion and kindness are infinitely renewable resources.
10. Practice lovingkindness
When the world breaks our heart, sometimes we just want to break the world right back. We want to blame and judge and hate. We want revenge.
And yet, isn’t that how we got here in the first place? If you don’t already practice lovingkindness meditation, I encourage you to try it. You can learn how to do it here, but the essence of the practice is sending loving wishes for ALL beings, including yourself, to be happy, healthy, safe, and loved.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, we can’t change the entire world by ourselves.
But I firmly believe that when we practice mindfulness, we change ourselves. And when we change ourselves, we change the world.
So please, take care of yourself. And then share your loving gifts with the world.
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