Spreading goodwill this holiday season

Learn what good will is and how to discipline yourself to be more compassionate to yourself and others.

The holidays are a few weeks away, and many people are busy with preparations, parties and programs to attend. You may be trying to find that perfect gift or thinking of what your New Year’s Resolution will be. Listening to holiday music makes me wonder if people even are mindful of the words being sung. Can there be joy, peace on earth and goodwill? What is good will really mean? Are we trying or giving up due to others ill will?

The definition of good will is having friendly, helpful or cooperative feelings or attitude. In the book Buddha’s Brain, authors Rick Hanson Ph.D. and Richard Mendius, MD, reflect on what it is and provide methods on how to cultivate positive emotions. They state that good will and ill will are about intentions. The will is for good or ill. These intentions are expressed through action and inaction, word and deed and, especially, thoughts.

18 methods for cultivating goodwill and abandoning ill will

  1. Cultivate positive emotions - really nourish and develop positive emotions such as happiness, contentment and peacefulness. Have an outlook for positive. Look for things to be happy about and take in the good as much as possible.

  2. Be aware of the priming - Be mindful of things like stress, pain, worry or hunger and thus prime you for ill will. Try to defuse this priming early on by eating dinner before talking, listen to music or read something positive or inspiring, or talk with a friend who can make you laugh.

  3. Practice non-contention – Don’t argue. Inside your own mind, try not to get swirled along by the mindset of others.

  4. Be careful about attributing intentions - most of the time we are just a bit player in other people’s dramas.

  5. Bring compassion to yourself - as soon as you feel mistreated, bring compassion to yourself

  6. Investigate the triggers - inspect underlying trigger of ill will. Do you have a sense of threat or alarm?

  7. Put things in perspective - the effects of most events fade in time

  8. Practice generosity - use things that aggravate you as a means to practice. Let people have what they took: their victory, their one-upping, their bit of money etc.

  9. Regard ill will as an affliction - think of your own ill will as an affliction onto yourself so you will be motivated to drop it or stop

  10. Study ill will - keep a journal and examine what you find in regards patterns found

  11. Settle into awareness - observe ill will but don’t identify with it. Watch it arise and then disappear

  12. Accept wound - life includes getting wounded. Accept it and let it flow through you

  13. Relax the sense of self - Experiment with letting go of the idea that there was an actual an “I” or “me” who was affronted or wounded

  14. Meet mistreatment with loving-kindness - which is the direct antidote to ill will

  15. Communicate - speak your truth and stick up for yourself with skillful assertiveness. Your ill will is telling something

  16. Have faith in justice - Others will pay their own price or like the saying “what comes around goes around” and remember, you do not have to be the justice system

  17. Don’t teach lessons in anger - realize some won’t get the lesson no matter how much you try

  18. Forgive - let go of the emotional charge around feeling wronged

Michigan State University Extension offers social-emotional health programming that can help develop good will. Their programming series called Stress Less with Mindfulness and RELAX: Alternatives to Anger are an example of a few. 2017 can be a more positive year if you want it to be. Spread good will both within and outwardly by participating in MSU Extension’s personal developing programming. Peruse their website to find events near you at www.msue.msu.edu

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