Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii! I am here on vacation and wanted to share the cornerstone principle for well-being. This blog will describe in detail the best gift you can give yourself during this holiday season. Enjoy! In medical school, I was always creating mnemonics to help memorize important medical facts. Some of the most memorable mnemonics that medical students create have an overt sexual connotation. Sex and addictions seem to capture the human imagination. Today, I would like to offer a mnemonic device that is absolutely crucial for you to remember daily. In fact, I recommend you become addicted to practicing this habit daily. This concept has deep roots in evidence-based and science-based literature. Since I am a Family Physician, this is a clean mnemonic for you to practice daily:


Through self-compassion we engender wellness and contentment. When we have contentment, there is no external situation that could take that feeling away. The practice of contentment is experiencing happiness, ease, and peace from within. Do not allow any external circumstance to take this feeling away from you. By practicing self-compassion we develop the capacity to feel the joy and happiness that originates from within. Once we experience happiness from within, we are immune to criticism, blame, flattery, and shame. This is the power of self-compassion. Seeking happiness from outside of yourself leads to pain and suffering. Pain because the body gets damaged by years of neglect and abuse. Suffering because the mind is constantly chasing after more material objects and is on the hedonic treadmill. As Seneca once eloquently pointed out, “That man is poor, not he who has little, but he who hankers after more.” This is materialism. With materialism you are conditioned to seek happiness from material objects. But also, you seek happiness from less tangible things such as other people's opinion, internet, net worth, power, social rank, title, and diplomas. You are at the whim of the external world with all its ups and downs that come with chasing objects and things outside of you. It is a rollercoaster ride, a yo-yo effect, like the unpredictability of the stock market. You can never experience lasting joy and equanimity of mind. It is not conducive to inner peace and contentment. However, with the practice of self-compassion you are at peace, happy and completely fulfilled since this state and feeling is self-generated. A plethora of peer-reviewed research studies shows that self-compassion fosters wellbeing. I have created a mnemonic device whose acronym is self-compassion, each letter stands for something powerful that you can do everyday to remind you that self-care is instrumental:


S: ​Self-care seven days per week

Self-care should not be reserved only for vacations, weekend getaways, when you retire, when the kids grow up, when you make more money, when you have more time, etc. It should start today and be a daily practice. In fact, all the self-care practices discussed are free and will save you money. More important than financial savings, it will bring inner riches and well-being.

E: ​Energy conservation

Self-care is about balance and moderation. When training for a marathon one doesn’t run 26.2 miles every day during training. There are much shorter runs and there are days off for rest. The goal is to peak on race day. Similarly, life is like a long marathon. Our training should be steady and regular for success. If success in the end is a long life filled with rich experiences and joy, then we must conserve our energy. Many spend all of their energy on others and self-sabotage their own health. Others use up all their energy on omphaloskepsis practices and are narcissistic. There is a sweet spot in energy conservation. If we set aside some energy every day for self-renewal we become better vessels for helping others and completing the metaphorical marathon of life.

L: ​Love yourself

Love is a verb. To love yourself, you have to be proactive and take action! Schedule a daily exercise routine, regular massage therapy, tea/coffee dates with friends, and regular time off where you do nothing. Taking a day off and doing nothing is gentle loving gesture for yourself. Whereas working every day without time for rest will lead to chronic stress, disease and a premature death.

F: ​Forgive yourself and others

As humans we all make mistakes. Even computers make mistakes. The difference is that when humans make mistakes, we continually punish ourselves countless times over a previous error. When you forgive yourself and others for mistakes, you discover freedom. Holding onto a grudge, anger, and lack of forgiveness is bondage. A prison you carry with you wherever you go. Remember the saying, “When you forgive you set the prisoner free, then you realize the prisoner was you!”

C: ​Cannot please everyone

One of the most harmful behavioral patterns is the constantly saying yes to every request and sacrificing our own health. People who constantly say yes to friends, family, coworkers, supervisors, church members, volunteerism, etc. end up overextending themselves and suffering from burnout. There is no conservation of energy for self-care. One’s personal health is sabotaged, and this leads to a plethora of acute and chronic diseases.

O: ​Observe your thoughts

Observing your thoughts moment to moment in a nonjudgmental way is mindfulness. When we can observe our thoughts without reacting to them we discover that we are the masters of our destiny. If we are not mindful of our thoughts, we become a slave to the restless mind, emotions, and desires. Mindfully observing our thoughts creates space for self-care. If we react to our every thought we create disease. As Shakespeare succinctly says it, “Give thy thoughts no tongue.” Many of today’s politicians should heed this advice.

M: ​Meditate daily

A daily practice of formal meditation of about 15 minutes engenders health and is one of the highest forms of self-care. This practice allows for a spaciousness to choose your response in any situation. Meditation increases your willpower to be a conscious choice maker in orchestrating the life of your dreams. Many people are stuck in a vicious pattern of stimulus followed by an immediate reaction. This cycle engenders endless pain. Meditation transforms this cycle. The cycle becomes stimulus, followed by a space to choose the highest response. By mindfully choosing the highest response you enter a cycle in which you are a conscious choice maker. As a conscious choice maker you create the life of your dreams.

P: ​Practice every day and avoid perfectionism

The key to success in any meaningful endeavor is daily practice. Avoid perfectionism which creates unnecessary pressure and stress. Even great musicians and athletes practice regularly knowing there is always room for improvement. Remember the aphorism, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Try your best in self-care every day and that is good enough. Do not expect a perfect day of meditation, eating, exercising, weather, etc. Go with the flow of things in life and be flexible. This way, you will be more focused on the practice, the effort, the journey and not some shangrila perfect destination. Practice every day at trying your best and being good and you will succeed. Remember Cubs manager Joe Maddon famous double entendre, “Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.”

A: ​Associate with like-minded people

When we associate with like-minded people, we harness a special energy that allows for health and healing. Many cultures and religions have satsang or good association as a form of transforming our lives for a higher good. In this atmosphere, there is an energy that facilitates breaking bad habits and addictive behaviors. If we hang around drug addicts and chain smokers every day, then we will likely succumb to these addictions. If you want to live a clean life free of addictions choose your friends wisely. Think of the Japanese proverb, “When the character of a man is not clear, look at his friends.”

S: ​Self-criticism should be avoided

Stop harshly criticizing yourself. On this long journey of life, you will make mistakes. Accept your mistakes and learn from them. Most importantly, be kind and gentle with yourself and forgive. Research shows that harsh self-criticism leads to isolation which leads so self-absorption. Don’t isolate yourself from others until sometime in the future when you are perfect. Go out into the world and open yourself up to new experiences that allow you to grow. Don’t expect that self-absorption in five hours of daily meditation will make you a better person. Don’t be self-absorbed and think because you’re a raw food vegan you're better than everyone who is not. Self criticism, isolation, and self-absorption are pathways to sabotaging your health.

S: ​Sleep eight hours per day

You are a warrior. In daily life you have battles and challenges in the form of paying bills, work, disgruntled people, sick children, preparing meals, laundry, house projects, and countless deadlines. Your work day is hectic. However, the sleep warrior’s “day” begins when he lays down at night. We should begin our “day” by lying down at night at 9:00 or 10:00 o'clock and getting eight hours of sleep. When we get eight hours of sleep, we improve our immune system and cognition, have more energy, feel better, help prevent cancer, reduce stress, delay premature aging, facilitate self-care, etc. A good night's sleep is foundational to self-care.

I: ​Improvement

There is a famous Zen saying, “You are perfect as you are but there is room for improvement.” If we start each day with this frame of mind, we are accepting ourselves for what we are: human. As humans, we live with the paradox of a perfect soul inside an imperfect body. When we constantly seek self-improvement, we maintain a beginners mind. With a beginners mind one remains eager for learning, open to infinite possibilities, and open to improvement. Perhaps we cannot obtain some kind of mythical perfection. But we can always strive for improvement. When we strive for improvement, we enjoy the journey. The destination of great health will come once we focus on daily improvement and enjoying the journey.

O: ​One person always comes first: Yourself

Think of life as a journey with a thousand steps. The first step should be taking great care of yourself. Once we have taken care of ourselves, we have the energy and resources to care for others. Making self-care your first priority is not narcissism or weakness. On the contrary, it takes discipline and courage and is the most powerful first step one should take. Imagine if your mind and body are ravaged by disease from years of self-neglect and abuse with drugs, alcohol and junk food. How effective is such a person in helping others? Now imagine if through self-care you have fostered a strong and healthy mind and body. Which body temple do you want to have as a vehicle for helping others?

N: ​Nourish your body and mind daily

Every day, carve out time for exercise and for planning healthy meals. Every day create sacred time for reading uplifting inspirational literature that feeds the soul. With the proper diet and exercise plan you are nourishing your body. With daily time created for music, art, meditation, inspirational literature you are nourishing the mind and soul. When you practice self-compassion, you live a life in balance. With balance and moderation you engender a special energy that allows you to become a healthy vehicle for helping others. With self-compassion, we are better able to be of service to humanity.

There are Five Ancient Universal Principles that children live every day and allow every day to be filled with peace, joy, and contentment. I have created a mnemonic device that will help you remember the 5 Principles for inner and outer transformation: L.O.V.E.S. The Answer. These principles have been around for thousands of years and can be practiced with any religion.