Self Help Ideas – Not So New After All
You might be surprised to learn that most of the modern self help ideas that we practice today aren’t new ideas at all. Every modern book that you’ve read on self help, including The Secret, The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and so many others, came from ancient ideas.
Not only are many “modern” self help methods not so modern, but many ancient practices are experiencing a Renaissance in contemporary society, although often in a watered-down form. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. There’s nothing wrong with something being watered down if we can recognize the we’re only eating a bite of the meal and not the entire meal itself, as in the case of most yoga courses, qigong, and a few other things. Having been trained by a Qigong master and having spent years researching these and other traditions, I feel confident in making this claim.
Let’s look at some of the current trends in self-help:
- Yoga – This method of “self help” has been around for eons and originated in India https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga. There are many different types of Yoga practiced today that help people to care for mind, body, and spirit. Most people who practice Yoga do so in Yoga studios or gyms and primarily take a physical form of yoga that involves stretching and holding poses. Yoga has a long history as a transformative practice for the mind, body, and spirit. Practitioners throughout the ages have used the “technology” of yoga to achieve states of mental, physical and spiritual peace and well-being that most of us only feel envious about as we read about them in books.
Other cultures have long histories of using physical posture to induce and change mental states. This idea popular today and is used extensively in Neuro Linguistic Programming and by Tony Robbins.
A book which describes the revival of this method from its Shamanic origins where posture was used to induce trance states is Ecstatic Trance.
This has also been popularized and studied recently by Amy Cuddy in her book Presence, but really, isn’t the idea that posture and movement induce certain brain changes as old as human history itself? Oh, yeah. For another interesting take on Yoga, check out Trul Khor, the Tibetan Buddhist version
So, nothing new here. Just kidding, there’s plenty to discover on this topic which has a history as old as humankind.
2. Prayer – “Dear Lord, please help win the lottery!” – That’s what so many people pray, and while those prayers may not be answered, studies have shown that prayer changes brain chemistry and help people who pray to have more positive lives and feel happier. Prayer has been around since civilization started and likely before. By giving over problems to a higher power greater than ourselves, or just fully letting go, humans have found ways to become happier, healthier and more fulfilled. (“Ummm, God. I’d still like to win the lottery!”).
3. Meditation – Now here’s another interesting one – Most people in the west believe that meditation started in Asian countries. That’s certainly true of Mindfulness meditation which has received a great deal of well-deserved popularity recently. Again, however, wherever there have been human beings there has been evidence that we have engaged in various forms of meditative practices ranging from visualization to concentration and other forms of practice. Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, improve well-being and has a host of other benefits. Here’s a link to a good primer on Mindfulness meditation.
4. Positive Thinking – You might think of this as new-age, but nothing could be further from the truth. The idea of positive thinking started with the Greek philosopher Aristotle and probably before, but was clearly articulated by him. Today, positive thinking can be seen in books and programs like The Secret.
5. Stoicism & Acceptance – Some people believe that everything is derived from fate and that our lives are preordained. So, to be truly happy you should accept whatever happens in your life, and control your actions through self-discipline rather than try to control what happens to you. Stoicism is a related philosophy that flourished in the Greek and Roman world and is currently experiencing a revival. Ryan Holiday wrote a great book called The Obstacle is The Way, which is about Stoic philosophy. This book has become extremely popular with sports teams and CEO’s. Here’s a Wikipedia link to Stoicism
6. Self-Sufficiency – Epicurus taught that the best way to be happy is to try to experience a lack of pain by surrounding yourself with friends and family and experiencing pleasure as much as possible (but not in a hedonistic sort of way). Keep in mind that we are responsible for our happiness, not outside forces. Surrounding yourself with positive friends has clear benefits backed by Science.
7. The Golden Rule – Confucius is said to have come up with the idea of treating others as you would have them treat you. Today, this can be said to be the Dr. Phil-style idea: that you show people how to treat you by how you treat them and yourself. You set the standard and the idea of what can be done to you and around you.
8. Self-Actualization – The Greek philosopher Plato came up with the notion that you needed to study yourself deeply to understand and uncover the gifts that you have so that you can find your true purpose. You can find some of these ideas presented in the book The Purpose- Driven Life by Rick Warren and many other books out there on the same topic.
As you see, most of these self help methods were started long before we were born. They were just repackaged by various authors, doctors, and others as their own ideas. Some of these self-help masters are not so straightforward about where their ideas came from, while others quote directly from the ancient philosophers. Either way, the important thing is to absorb the wisdom of those who have gone before so that we can live healthier, happier, more fulfilled lives!
Here’s one exploration of ancient wisdom that uncovers the secrets from three lost masters who had the ultimate “Self Help Formula”…
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so comment and share!