What Does it Look Like to Embrace Life? We’ll Give You 3 Hints...

Whatever uplifts you, whatever energizes you, whatever brings you joy—that work is helping you to embrace life.

Different people want different things, but I think we can all agree on one common desire: We all want to live life to the fullest.

So what does it look like to embrace life? Here are a few characteristics of a life well-lived:

You do work that energizes you

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, has done extensive research on what he calls “flow,” that state of mind you enter into when you are doing something challenging yet energizing, and time itself seems to stand still.

One of the benefits of being in a state of flow is that you are so consumed by the task at hand that you, at least temporarily, forget all your worries.

Now, this work doesn’t have to be your “day job.” You don’t even have to get paid to do it.

Maybe you go rock climbing at the local gym on weekends. Maybe you teach low-income children how to code in an after-school program. Or maybe you spend your Saturday mornings penning poems in your PJs.

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Whatever uplifts you, whatever energizes you, whatever brings you joy—that work is helping you to embrace life.

You spend time with people you love

In one of the longest studies of adult life ever conducted, Harvard researchers stumbled upon something unexpected.

“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, a director of the study.

In fact, those in the study who maintained close relationships lived longer, happier lives. Waldinger shared a summary of those findings in this TED Talk:

Caught up in the busyness of our lives, we so often push friends and family to the side.

But I think people who embrace life, also embrace the people who make life beautiful.

You cultivate gratitude

Think about someone you know who is truly grateful. Don’t they just radiate joy? Do you notice how others are drawn to them like magnets?

Some of the most grateful people I know are not necessarily the ones who’ve had the easiest lives. In fact, quite the opposite—they are often those who have experienced extreme setbacks, yet rose above them.

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I once met a woman from England who had spent four years working in Ghana. She told me that, at first, she had such a hard time adjusting to life there that she forced herself to play this little game: Every night, during the short walk from the dining hall to her apartment, she had to think of three things she was grateful for that day. One night, struggling to meet her three-item gratitude quota, one of the things she chose was simply that she had seen a firefly.

She may not have realized it at the time, but she was onto something. The findings from a 2003 study on a group of college students suggested that focusing on what we are grateful for increases happiness, and may even improve sleep.

In this study, students were placed in one of three different experimental conditions, and were asked to keep daily or weekly records. One group focused on blessings, another group focused on hassles, and yet another group focused on neutral life events. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”

Conclusion

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver

What does it look like to embrace life? These are just three hints. If you want to see the full picture, go out there and live yours.