Lots of things happen in life that can throw us off our game – maybe it’s a disagreement with a significant other or parent, maybe you make a big mistake at work or maybe you spill coffee on a favorite shirt right before an important meeting. It’s easy to get upset when things don’t go the way we planned. It can ruin the rest of the day or the week. Does it have to really though? Life doesn’t have to take a dive when something unpleasant happens. We can maintain peace within even with chaos outside.
One way to be more impervious to what happens around us – to sway in the wind like a blade of grass rather than get knocked over like a paper cup – is to consciously shift oneself. Happiness is our natural state actually. Sometimes we wander off though and have to choose back in.
It can be very easy to focus on the negative even if all sorts of things are going great. Lots of people do it all the time. Have you ever had a day where 99% of it went well and one thing didn’t (like getting caught in the rain without an umbrella) and then you think about that one thing for the rest of the day? It’s easy to be like a dog with a bone with that one thing. And yet you’ll feel so much happier if you focus on the 99 other things. That’s within your control. That is an important choice you get to make throughout the day every day. Change your thoughts and change your life. How do you make that shift though?
One of the most powerful ways to shift one’s state of being is by choosing to be grateful. We have so much to be grateful for. Like if you don’t think it’s a big deal to have two arms and two legs, think about the alternative. And if you live in America and have a roof over your head, you’re way ahead of most of the world. There are so things we take for granted every day, like access to clean water or indoor plumbing. If you don’t have to poop outside, you are so ahead of the game.
Start focusing on the many things you have to be grateful for and see how things change – see how peace and happiness return.
Here are a few ways to practice the power of gratitude and feel happier:
- The “What Do I Like?” Game – This is a great quick shifter any time of day. Say you have an appointment and you’re greeted by a line that looks like it’ll never end. Instead of focusing on how this will throw off the rest of the day, look around and ask yourself, “What do I like?” It could be as simple as the color of the walls or the design on someone’s dress. Keep looking around and keep asking yourself, and it’s highly likely you’ll start to experience that grumpy feeling lighten. I’ve done this and found myself laughing a bit eventually, because it’s such a simple game and I start to see that I had gotten upset over something that’s really not that big of a deal when I’m surrounded by so much to be grateful for even if those things are very simple.
- The Gratitude List – At the end of each day, write down five things you’re grateful for. What I find is that once I start writing, I usually just fill the page, remember things I had forgotten and feel so much more peaceful and happy as I head off to sleep, which typically means I fall asleep more easily and sleep better too. If you really want to get into it, keep a gratitude journal just for this purpose. This simple, quick practice can make a world of difference in shifting one’s perspective.
- What I Love About Me – Sometimes we are our own worst critics and we remember the one mistake we made in a day and forget the many great things we accomplished, like just listening when a friend was upset or giving someone a surprise treat for no reason. When celebrating your life with a gratitude list, also consider writing down five things you love about yourself or that you accomplished that day. It’s not vain. It’s self-love and you deserve love just as much as anyone else.
- Volunteer – As we do the same things from day to day and socialize with the same group of people, it can be easy to forget that there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t have it as good as we do. Volunteering helps us keep life in perspective. Rocking a baby fighting for its life in intensive care. Serving food to someone who doesn’t have the means to get their own food. Painting the walls of a school for kids who are exposed to violence and drugs at home. All these things remind us just how much we have to be grateful for.
- Thank You Meditation – Just sit or walk and say, “thank you,” to yourself for a few or many minutes. See what happens.
Do Tell. What do you do to focus on what you have to be grateful for?