1. Love is joyful awareness. Love life--people, animals, nature, gardening, art and music, sports and exercise, literature, God--anything and anyone that brings you a joyful awareness of the wonder of being a living creature.
2. Gratitude satisfies the spirit. Be grateful for all that you love and if you cannot think of anyone or anything that love, then be grateful you still have a chance to love. Be especially grateful for the opportunity help and to serve other people and good causes.
3. Gratitude is the antidote to self-pity. Feeling sorry for oneself is ruinous. Especially don't fall into believing that we live in the worst of times. It takes little imagination to know how much worse it has been for other people in previous ages and in other places. Be grateful for this life.
4. Ethics guide the good life. Put ethics and principles above pleasure, convenience, safety, income, career, your presumed place in the world, and the way others view you. Living a principled life is the key to a satisfying life.
5. Everything good requires courage. Find the courage to love, to be grateful, and to live by sound ethics. Especially be brave enough to speak when you are afraid.
6. Dare to seek romantic love. Abiding love for a partner in life is the nearest we get to heaven this time around.
7. Make a living by doing something that you love. Many people find a way to do it. Your occupation should feel like a privilege, a pleasure, and an opportunity to serve.
8. Approach every single challenge in life with determination to master it. Otherwise you won't handle it. Feeling helpless in the face of adversity is a prescription for failure. Deciding to take on the challenges is a prescription for self-satisfaction and makes success more likely.
9. Don't hide from or stifle your painful emotions. Feeling pain signals that there is something wrong in your life that needs immediate attention. Invite your painful emotions to tell you everything they can about what you really want out of life. All psychoactive substances, from illegal drugs to psychiatric medications, suppress our real emotions and should be avoided, especially in time of suffering and fear when we especially need to know what we are feeling.
10. Reject being labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis like depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety. There are no "psychiatric disorders;" only life disorders. All of us have to struggle, to go through hard times, and to find a way of becoming more in control of our emotions and more successful in our actions.
11. Don't think of yourself as a survivor. Intending to survive guarantees little more than getting by. Think of yourself as some who intends to triumph.
12. Forgiving other people liberates us from hate. You won't get even by hating, you'll get miserable, bitter and spiritless. Take care of yourself by forgiving, and if necessary by avoiding hurtful people, but don't waste a minute hating.
13. Seek a worthwhile life rather than happiness. The search for happiness will distract you from what matters and even make you crazy. Happiness is often a matter of luck--the way we are shaped by childhood, where we happen to be born, health, and circumstance.
14. No one knows the meaning of life but it's certain that life is best lived with love, gratitude, ethics, courage, and a determination to give it your best effort. A sense of worth is guaranteed and happiness will often tag along as well.
15. Let your spirit be touched, and touch the spirit of others, with love.
Copyright by Peter R. Breggin, M.D., Thanksgiving Day 2006.
Please copy and send these intact guidelines along with the copyright notice to anyone you wish.
Dr. Breggin's latest book is Medication Madness: A Psychiatrist Exposes the Dangers of Mood-Altering Medications (2008) and his revised and updated website is Breggin.com.
Follow Dr. Peter Breggin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GingerBreggin