By Dr. Perry, PhD
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” ~Marcus Aurelius
I am at a place in my life where I am able to slow down and momentarily pause. After a year and a half, I have completed my dissertation and am less than a month away from officially becoming a doctor of clinical psychology. Every now and then it is important to stop to appreciate and reflect on our life’s journey. We must make a conscious decision to be fully present when facing life-defining moments. Learn to be happy and content now. Don’t rush to set another future goal that will only reward you with future happiness. It is a cycle that is difficult to break, but we should try to live life in short spurts followed by reflective pauses instead of never-ending loops with no respite. By always looking ahead, we forget there is life to be lived right now. Pause for a moment in the present and savor what life has to offer. Like I always say, why stop and smell the roses when you can live in the rose patch.
As I ponder the life I am living, I reflect on whether I am truly living my life or am I rushing through it mindlessly jumping over rote hurdles. How do we measure whether we are truly living? Is it by the length of days or the quality of our lives? Some days may be long, but feel stale and unrewarding. Other days will pass in a blur of activity and feel full of endless possibilities. It does not matter what stage we are in life. I prefer to use the quality of my life as the unit of measure to define my life. Whether we have more time behind us than ahead of us, we can take an accounting of our lives and determine the areas we can improve in order to enrich our existence.
Here are some ways to assess the quality of your life:
1. How many times a day do you express joy?
Strive for a day full of laughter and happiness. Imagine that we start our day with a large empty container. It is our duty to try and fill it each day with as many positive emotions as it can hold. Life is special and we should treat it as such. Rejoice at being alive and don’t take any day for granted.
2. Measure your physical health
Physical health plays a big role in our mental health. Make sure you are living a healthy lifestyle by eating right, exercising when possible and sleeping regularly.
3. Emotional footprint
Upon your death how would you like to be remembered? How many people have you had a positive impact on? It is important that your interactions with others leave a positive emotional imprint on them. Imagine each interaction you have throughout the day as a chain of positivity. What you give out will have a ripple effect on those around you and the world. Don’t break the chain of positivity.
4. Measure your growth
Decide on a time frame and reflect on where you were a year ago. No two people are the same so the amount of growth will depend on the person. Instead of using others to compare against, use yourself as a benchmark. Don’t just measure material gains. Look at your personal and emotional growth. Are you happier now than you were a year ago?
5. Have you loved?
One of the most important ways to gauge the quality of your life is to ask yourself if you have you loved in your lifetime? It does not have to be romantic love. It can be the love of family, friends and even love of your pets. The important thing is that you have felt the bond of love.
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