Did you know that your mind has a search-for-G-d function? It’s called the “good inclination” and it’s your personal search engine that wants to find and “…rejoice with all of the good that the Almighty has given [us].” (Devorim 26:11). It’s only the evil inclination who wants us to forget the good that we’ve been given. Every joyous experience no matter how small that happened to us for a reason. The joy of weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations, births of children - were all meant to be reviewed numerous times whenever you need a boost of joy in your current situation. The positive affect associated with the memories gives you joy in the present.
Just as Hashem is beyond time, our souls are also not limited by time. If you close your eyes and remember riding your first tricycle, you are there. Our minds are always searching to find pleasantness in the world and in ourselves and to synthesize the two. We just need to get out of the way. When we remember all of the good points of our lives, we are attaching ourselves to G-d who is the Source of all joy. This keeps us healthy, both physically and spiritually. When I speak to people who are having trouble finding and being grateful for the present blessings in their lives, we go back to the past (which is much bigger than the present) and find tons of good stuff there that they forgot all about.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that we can learn to find the “hidden intelligence” which is G-d’s wisdom and light in literally everything around us---every aspect of life that we encounter all day long. It’s a 3-step process: 1. Focus on the thing itself (for example a clod of earth) 2. Bind yourself to the hidden intelligence in it (that within it is the capacity to sustain life) and 3. Experience the enlightenment (G-d’s light) that you receive whenever you do this.
Just as we can do this with things outside of ourselves we can do this with our thoughts and memories which are even more spiritual to begin with. Everything has “an outside” and an “inside.” Let’s go back now and see how things that you can recall have a beautiful “inside” that you may not have appreciated enough at the time.
1. Take a deep breath, relax and let G-d lead you on the journey to yourself (Lech Lecha). Just let G-d direct your mind to search for happy positive memories, empowered experiences, times when you felt very good about yourself. The search will take you to accomplishments, compliments, times when you felt loved and approved of; times when you were patient and tolerant of others; times when you actualized your special qualities and gifts; times when you successfully solved a “problem,” passed a test or overcame a challenge; times when you acted resourcefully whether it was in your past, your present or your anticipated future (remember: you are looking now with your spiritual “eyes” so there is no such thing as time).
2. Don’t pressure yourself. Do this patiently with your Faith. Just let G-d orchestrate the process for you. When something positive enters your mind, you can make some effort to stay focused on it and savor it but let G-d lead the search. When something positive comes into awareness (no matter how small) notice in what form it is coming: is it a positive emotion? Is it a visual image, or a sound, or the voice of a loved, trusted or respected person? What’s positive may be the cherished voice of a mentor, a coach, a teacher, a relative a clergyman; or, it may be your own voice giving you a message of encouragement and hope.
3. Just concentrate on anything that feels good to you and let its positive energy and positive meaning fill your consciousness more and more.
4. Alternatively you can ask your mind to search through the periods of your life: early childhood, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood, the middle years etc., and remember the warm, juicy, sweet, happy, joyous, confident, loving, exciting, accomplished, nostalgic, miraculous, and peaceful aspects of your life.
5. Write down all of the points of goodness that you remember.
6. Thank G-d and thank yourself for doing this exercise. Now say “please G-d, help me to integrate all these wonderful, positive, life-affirming messages into myself and into my everyday life; help me to stay connected to you from moment to moment by being more conscious of my breathing and breathing more fully. G-d of joy, help me to stay calmer, to feel more secure, to enjoy more positive joyful thoughts, more joyful and empowered feelings and more decisive and correct actions. Please G-d; help me to never doubt my inherent value, worth, and importance as a person. And G-d, please help me to never doubt that You have a perfect and unconditional love for me and that you want me to succeed.”
7. Finally, promise G-d and yourself that you will continue doing this exercise until it becomes second nature for you to connect to one or more of your points of goodness instantly whenever you want to or need to.
8. In between practice sessions, go through old photo albums, yearbooks, letters, family-videos - in search of positive emotions and memories. Speak to people who can give you positive perspectives on yourself.
9. Keep adding more positive things about yourself to your list whenever you think of something new.
10. Keep asking G-d to send you more and more reasons to judge yourself favorably by identifying more and more of your strengths and positive traits.