Happiness is a choice. It is first a monumental choice in making the actual decision that you are going to live a happy life. Then, it is a series of small choices made every day in fulfillment of the first choice. We are a culmination of every choice we have ever made. And we are always, only, one choice away from change. Essential to being happy is the choice to incorporate gratitude into our daily living.
Living with gratitude involves a shift in perspective whereby you go from wanting more to appreciating what you have. What you have becomes enough. Instead of being in a continual state of dissatisfaction and constantly looking for the next best thing to satisfy you, you are seeking out and honing in on what is extraordinary right in front of your eyes. Imagine looking out through a lens that is always dirty and out of focus and suddenly the lens is crystal clear. Life becomes colorful and amazing.
When practiced regularly, you are giving yourself an endless, perpetual gift. Think about stepping outside on a summer day. Instead of thinking about how warm or humid it is or that your neighbor forgot to remove his trash bin, your mind seeks out all that is right with the world, gifting you with the opportunity to hear birds singing, feel a breeze on your skin or notice the flowers blooming. You are focusing on these things because your mind has been wired to seek them out. Imagine being locked away for many years and then stepping outside for the first time. Surely you would be in full on appreciation mode and EVERYTHING would be beautiful. The colors would be vivid, the sounds magical and the fresh air inviting. Now imagine a sense of heightened awareness and appreciation and every day is like this. It can be. You just need to shift your awareness.
Like with every change, it takes practice. Once you make the big decision that embracing gratitude is something you would like to do, every day you take steps and make choices to bring you there. Here are some suggestions that might help:
1. Keep a gratitude journal and every morning write down five things that you are grateful for. No matter what your circumstance in life, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for: your health, your pets, your family, friends, home, soft sheets, pillows, toothpaste, a smile, music, nature, air conditioning, a nutritious meal, a hot cup of coffee, a conversation, flowers, butterflies, waking up for another day, a massage, etc. etc. etc. Look for small things as well as the more significant ones. Once you practice and get into the habit, finding things to be grateful for will come easier.
2. Open the journal throughout the day and think about what you have written. Smile, breathe and appreciate. When you feel yourself becoming immersed in negativity, go back to your journal and shift your focus.
3. Give. Find an opportunity to help someone or volunteer. Even if you are only letting someone cut in front of you in traffic or holding the door open for someone, find some way to give every day. This helps us to get out of our head and expand. By giving of oneself we find healing and get back countless more in return. And it makes us feel good.
4. Express your gratitude. Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone did that instead of complaining? Tell people how awesome they are, how much you appreciate their love and friendship, or something nice they did or said. Send someone a text, note or letter expressing your appreciation. Give compliments. Articulate your love of art or music or how amazing nature is. Talking about it brings it out of your head, further reinforcing the feeling.
5. Learn to appreciate your challenges as opportunities for growth. They have come to teach you something, so instead of fighting back against them full force, lean into them and try to discover the lesson you need to learn. Remember if you fail the test and don’t learn what you need to learn, life will keep re-testing you until you do.
6. The very last thing when you close your eyes to sleep, think about your five things once again so they are your last thoughts of the day. Wake up and repeat.
Basically, you are training yourself to focus on the good in your life. You are rewiring your brain, one choice at a time. Eventually, gratitude will become second nature and you won’t need a journal. It will become ingrained in who you are. One day, you will step outside one summer day and notice the shift in your perception, realizing you are well on your way to finding your happy.