Clinicians help their clients make meaningful changes on a regular basis. They help them figure out what a fulfilling life looks like for them. So they’re a great resource when it comes to contemplating our own lives.
Here’s a roundup of therapists’ insights on living a beautiful life from our monthly interview series. Some of their advice overlaps. Other advice doesn’t. But that simply speaks to both the universal and diverse ways we can carve out meaning.
1. Focus on emotional connection.
“Don’t look for money or possessions to make you feel fulfilled. I think that emotional connection is the biggest source of meaning and purpose in life, and that is backed up by research. A big part of my professional and writing efforts go toward helping people pay more attention to what they are feeling and why because our emotions are what connect us to ourselves, other people, and the world. It’s all about emotional connection. We all need it, and those who have it are more fulfilled and overall happier.” ~ Jonice Webb, Ph.D.
2. Get out of your comfort zone.
“Don’t be afraid to let your feelings known. Express your problems and be true to yourself. It is important to validate and acknowledge your feelings. You are important and should follow your dreams. You need to take risks, and it is OK to fail. Besides, if you do not know failure, you cannot appreciate success.” ~ Helen Nieves, LMHC.
“I tell my clients to follow their inner voice. I encourage them to try to do the things they’ve always loved, or always wanted to try — even if it means taking big risks and moving out of their comfort zone. For everyone, life is about risk, and especially for creative people. You have to be willing to cross new territory, to try new things in order to create something original. It’s OK to fail, even necessary.” ~ David Silverman, MA, LMFT.
3. Look within to create your own meaning.
“There is no definition for what it means to live a meaningful life, despite societal ideals. It is up to each of us to make our own meaning of our experiences. Look within to find who you are and what makes you feel good about your life and your impact on the world. Live consistently with this internal self.” ~ Marla W. Deibler, PsyD.
4. Focus on the details. That’s where life lives.
“Take the lessons learned from your past, set up some personal goals for your future and then live each day you are given. In the course of that day, find a small way to include some generosity, some gratitude, some connection and some laughter. A meaningful life is in the details of how we live each day.” ~ Suzanne Phillips, PsyD.
5. Be compassionate.
“The best advice I can offer readers on leading a meaningful life is to give, give, give. For me, there is no greater personal satisfaction than giving and helping another person in need. I know this may sound syrupy and sappy, but I am sincere. There must be truth in karma because every time I give of myself it comes back to me tenfold. But, the giving must be without expectation. I don’t mean just giving to patients. I mean helping relatives in my immediate family or close friends who need my attention, time, guidance, or financial assistance. Reciprocating kindnesses to those who have been good to me is high on my priority list.” ~ Fran Walfish, PsyD.
6. Identify what really matters.
“Make ‘space’ to check in with yourself each day. Even 5-10 minutes to be still, meditate, ponder, or pray will make a huge difference in creating a meaningful life, for it will allow you to ‘unplug’ and instead ‘tune in’ to what really matters. Ask yourself, ‘What matters most to me?’ Then listen, and write it down. Compare everything you do each day to your list of ‘what matters most.’ Pay attention to the things that do matter, and get rid of all that doesn’t. Repeat this process often, and your life will be full of love, joy, and meaning.” ~ Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD.
7. Get to know yourself.
“A journal is the cheapest therapy. Get a notebook and start writing down what you feel, see, and think. And find someone with whom you can speak frankly and without fear of judgment.” ~ Elizabeth Sullivan, MFT.
8. Trust yourself and your body.
“Everyone finds meaning in different things and in different ways. To find what has heart and meaning for you, I’d offer this: You can trust yourself, and you can trust your body. Having an allegiance to yourself and a loving partnership with your body can help guide you towards what’s true for you. The power is in the present moment. So much of the time we’re trying to get ‘there’ and forget to be where we are. Life is wonderfully complex, and the complexity of being human is worth making room for.” ~ Carmen Cool, MA, LPC.