Bernie Siegel's Soul Prescriptions

Five ways to live a happier life.

From "365 Prescriptions for the Soul." Used with permission of New World Library

Prescription #1: Gratitude

A gentleman I was talking to on the phone related that his doctor and the EMR team had told him his heart stopped beating and he had died at least five times during surgery. He concluded our conversation by saying, “I used to have troubles, but now I have only blessings.” His outlook clearly had been turned around by this experience.

I meditate each day, and one portion of the meditation consists of my thinking about what I am grateful for. Most of us never stop to consider our blessings; rather, we spend the day only thinking about our problems. But since you have to be alive to have problems, be grateful for the opportunity to have them. Some people use their problems to get attention and are afraid to give them up and be blessed. I prefer to appreciate life and accept my problems as a part of my life.

When my body gets to the point where I can no longer function or feel gratitude, then I’ll leave it and become grateful again. But until then, I will appreciate what I have and not whine about what I don’t have. I will feel blessed by life and the opportunity to help others see that they are blessed too. Blessings come in many shapes and sizes. Be prepared, as my gentleman caller was.


Prescription #2: Hope
Hope restores us. What each of us hopes for will differ and change with time. I believe we need hope to go on living. Hope inspires us to reach for the future. It gives us something to look forward to and strive for on our path.

If we had no hope—for a cure, for winning the lottery, for falling in love, for the end of war, for being free of abuse, or for having food, warmth, clothing, and shelter—we would have no reason to go on. What you hope for doesn’t matter, but rather the essence of hope itself.

I see people who die a few minutes after a doctor tells them there is no hope of a cure. They give up and go. Others get angry and find joy in proving the doctor wrong. Something within them is challenged and hopeful. Hope is the divine motivator.

Prescription #3: Guidance
One day Marilyn, one of our support group members, sent me an email with the subject line “guidance.” In her email, she told me that the word “dance” being a part of the word guidance made her think about how dancing is like doing God’s will. Two people dancing are not struggling with each other; one leads and the other willingly follows. When the two become a team, their movements flow in harmony with each other. When she looked back at the word she saw the G as representing God and then U and I. So guidance is about God, you, and I dancing together.

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Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.
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