Mindfulness

Live as fully as possible in any given moment. Be aware of your surroundings, appreciate the sounds, colors, sensations. If you are with someone, focus on them, listen, look at them and notice the color of their eyes. If you are with a child, look at his or her features, ask a question to understand them better. Know that each segment of time, each interaction is precious and unique. Notice your emotions, accept them, be curious and endeavor to understand them and deepen them; don’t chase them away, notice how their intensity waxes and wanes. Be accepting of yourself and all that surrounds you.

Read: The Jewish Mindfulness Track

Action

We live in a world where much is demanded of us. We earn a living, raise a family and try to live a meaningful life. Clearly, we are meant to be busy, though many people are so burdened that they barely have time to breathe. But what about our individual goals and dreams, our passions? Only with an action plan will these materialize. “The Ethics of Our Fathers” teaches, “Studying is not the goal, but the implementation is.”1 Think about where you need to be more proactive. Is it in building your career; what steps could you take to make this happen? Should you be taking a course to enhance your skills or enrich your knowledge? Do you want to pursue a creative interest? Certainly, we get bogged down by all the things that have to get done, but in our age of technology there is also so much time that is wasted. Taking action means doing the difficult—overcoming fear, passivity, negativity or whatever our personal blocks may be.

Related: What if I’m not in the mood?

Kindness

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in our own lives with all the daily demands and responsibilities. We can forget about the people around us. Expanding our vision, resources and hearts to what others are going through will stretch and enrich us. Does someone need a call, a smile, a meal, a Shabbat invitation, or a listening ear? Be conscious of where we can give to others and share their burden. This can be our neighbor, or someone we’ve never met who needs our prayers and care.

Watch: The Man Who Wanted to Meet Elijah

Emunah (“Faith”)

Belief in G‑d is so fundamental to our existence. Yet the application of faith to our day-to-day life is a complex process. Seeing G‑d as the orchestrator of whatever we face and learning to rely on Him is calming. It’s good for us, and yet feeling this and integrating this isn’t easy. We live in a time where there is real suffering and pain around us on many levels. We have questions and hardship, and G‑d’s face is often hidden; our faith is tested. Emunah is a work in progress, which requires consistent focus, will and deepened understanding.

Read More: What is Emunah?

Self-Care

We have a mitzvah to guard our souls.2 How wonderful that G‑d wants us to care for ourselves, on all levels, physically and emotionally. This should be the easiest obligation to fulfill. Exercise, nutrition, rest, emotional nurturing, relaxation, time out—even permission for a daily or perhaps weekly vacation is all beneficial. So why is this hard to do? Self-care for many people feels like being selfish or wasting time. There are so many more important things to do and so many other obligations that this can easily fall to the bottom of the list. But really, the happier and healthier we are, the more we will be able to give to others and also model to those dear to us how to lead a balanced lifestyle. Spend time and energy to exercise, prepare healthy meals, address emotional issues and create a healthy, loving relationship with oneself.

Gratitude

To be a Jew, “Yehudi,” means to give thanks; this is embedded in our being, integral to who we are. It’s the first thing we say as we open our eyes in the morning. In order to develop our sense of gratitude, we need to have a good eye, to see and acknowledge all the good G‑d gives us. This doesn’t mean we have to pretend that all is good. But even when going through a challenge or the ordinary tedium of life’s chores, we can become aware of G‑d’s kindness and mercy. This is a daily training that can be practiced any time—when we’re stuck in traffic, while we are doing seemingly rote tasks like folding laundry or even when biting into an apple. This essential habit can be practiced endlessly and can transform one’s life into positive, enriched experiences.

See: The Modeh Ani Prayer—Gratitude in the Morning

Relationships

Meaningful connections with significant people, family and friends are fundamentally important. If we have a partner and are part of a family (despite the inevitable imperfections), we are blessed. To have a sense of belonging, people who care about us and loved ones to whom we can give, creates purpose and value to our life. Friendships are also a treasured part of our experience, adding their unique pleasure and depth. Saying hello or good morning to a stranger offers a boost to all. Let’s look at our relationships and ask where our input is needed. Am I loving and caring enough, and is there room for growth?

See: Love: An Anthology

Spiritual Connection

At the root of all our relationships is our relationship with G‑d. While this is fundamental, it’s not always felt. To feel that G‑d is with us in our daily life takes effort and intention. There are different ways of achieving this, and we need to find what works for each of us. For some, doing mitzvot and performing acts of lovingkindness (emulating G‑d) creates this bond. For others, it is learning Torah or praying. There are people who need to spend time in quiet contemplation, talking to G‑d, while many find the beauty in nature a clear way to appreciate and connect to G‑dliness. Seeing the G‑dly soul in others is also a way to appreciate G‑d as each person manifests a unique aspect of Him.

See: G‑d and Us

These eight aspects have been separated in order to be explained and remembered, but there is overlap; they flow into one another. You can remember them by the mnemonic they follow: MAKES GReat Sense. These steps can be seen as tools that can be used when you feel low, empty or stressed. You can ask: “What am I missing right now? How can I re-center and restore equilibrium and wholeness?” Recognize your weak spots, but don’t avoid them. Although these are general principles, their manifestation will serve as an original tapestry of character traits and talents of every individual’s unique self.