Sounds impossible, right? Especially those times when you think to yourself, "really, what else can happen today?" But sometimes, most often, a small shift in thinking really can be that simple.
"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others" - Marcus Tullius Cicero
When you're feeling stressed, frustrated, dissatisfied, ask yourself this: am I thinking about what's wrong or about what's right? The answer to this question is important. And your happiness depends on it...
So much of our time is spent on finding fault -- with ourselves, our lives, with others -- while we criticize, stress, complain and judge. We want improvement -- better relationships, different jobs. but where does it get us? It pulls us down, it's frustrating and makes us unhappy.
Sometimes, well let's be honest, often times, social media isn't helpful. It highlights the good, and rarely the real. Instagram and Facebook make other peoples' lives seem better than ours, so we want more. How do we find happiness? Gratitude, the act of counting blessings, not troubles. Here's how it works:
Yesterday, I drove into Georgetown. I was late and the person in front of me was driving s-l-o-w. Construction was blocking one lane of traffic. I wanted more coffee, but with the tight schedule, I didn't think I'd have time. I looked down at the shattered screen of my iPhone, resting in the cup holder and was reminded of how upset I was with myself for dropping it on the concrete earlier in the week. "I need to get to Apple," I thought. "It's hard to read or see anything with the screen the way it is." I'm annoyed and irritated.
Here's the other side of the coin. With great effort and some hesitation I made a mental gratitude list.
I am thankful for…
-the car I'm driving for getting me to where I need to go
-you giving your time to read this
-having the means to replace the screen on my phone (thank you Apple insurance!)
-the friends and family who I adore and who love me back
-Pilates, where I'm currently headed, to move my body, one that is capable and healthy
-the delicious cup of coffee I had that morning
I notice I feel calmer and happier. I really do.
Of course, life can be more challenging than traffic and a cracked iPhone -- it's full of tough experiences that take us to scary places. Whatever it is you're struggling with, take a minute to turn your attention towards the small or big things that are good in your life. It may feel hard, but the rewards will be worth it.
You don't need anything other than willingness. In your head or on paper, make a list of things that you are grateful for in this moment. Try making a habit of it; early in the morning or at the end of each day, spend one minute doing this. If you teach your brain to think in this way, after awhile it will become natural.
Need further convincing of the benefits of gratitude? Research has shown that it can increase happiness by as much as 25%, improve sleep, deepen relationships, decrease materialism and increase optimism. That's a pretty great return on investment for what amounts to one minute a day.
Your turn. What are three things for which YOU are grateful this morning?