Appreciating Life, No Matter What

As published in The New York Times

Life coach Sayeda Habib provides insights on how anyone can make the best of their stage of life.

Asalaamu ‘alaikum sister! I hope that you are well and feeling alert as you are reading this. On a scale of one to ten, how good is your concentration? Do you find that you are usually alert and present, or do you find yourself drifting off when you could be focusing on something in front of you? Many of us spend a great deal of time in our heads, instead of our lives. Our attention may be on past memories, recent events or even planning for the future. Looking backwards or forwards is a natural human habit, and we do this for a variety of reasons. However, I’ve discovered that by doing this, we avoid living and appreciating the present moment and the stage of life that we are in right now. This isn’t about it being right or wrong; it is just about making the best of what we have, which is this very moment. So let’s explore a few ways in which we can begin to appreciate where life has brought us right now. Insha Allah, we will be able to cultivate greater fulfilment in this way.

Notice the gift of the present

If you spend a lot of time reflecting or planning, then know that is has become an unconscious habit. Our habits, though useful, may also present some limitations and hold us back without us realising. So, if you would like to experience more joy in your life, then the first step is to reconnect with what the present moment feels like. Let’s remind ourselves of two very important things. The first is that the past is gone, and we can’t bring those moments back even if we would like to. The second is that the future hasn’t arrived yet, so in one way or another it is still uncertain. What we do have is the very moment that we are living, and once this moment passes, it will be in the past. We will not be able to appreciate it fully if our minds are engaged elsewhere. We need to train ourselves to live in and experience the present moment. I invite you to do the following exercise at the beginning of the day:

Close your eyes and being to breathe deeply. Start to focus on your body. Notice how the tips of your toes feel, your feet, your ankles, your legs, and keep moving upwards to the top of your head. Notice how your clothes feel against your skin. Notice your heart beating; notice any internal sensations that are emerging, reminding yourself that you are living in this very moment that is now. Notice how it feels to be alive right now. When you are ready, open your eyes, and remind yourself to make the most of this very moment.

If you find yourself being easily distracted, then practise this quiet exercise a few times a day. Soon you will find yourself being more aware and alive in the moment.

Avoid comparing

Another behaviour that stops us from appreciating our current phase of life is the behaviour of comparison. We naturally compare, given the societies that we live in. It’s either what we have or don’t have in relation to others. What we may not realise is that comparison takes our focus away from appreciating our life and our accomplishments, because we put our whole life up against something else. Even if that something isn’t as good in our opinion, the comparison is unfair. Remember, you are unique. There is only one of you that looks, thinks, feels and acts exactly like you – yes, that’s you! You share similarities with others, but you are unique.

Life coach Sayeda Habib provides insights on how anyone can make the best of their stage of life.